Kid Flash: Matti Erickson can’t be caught

The Nelson track and field athlete is a rising star here and abroad.

Matti Erickson

Matti Erickson

It was a game of capture the flag that gave the kid away.

Vic Manson, who at the time was principal of Hume School, had set it up as an activity for his Grade 3-4 class.

He always played for the girls’ team, but the game was ruined by a boy who was too fast for anyone to catch.

“I couldn’t catch the little [guy],” says Manson. “He was quick and agile. Not to say I’m fast, but I’m not slow. I could catch a Grade 3 [student], but not him.”

Manson, who had a degree in physical education, knew athletic ability when he saw it. He encouraged the boy to try track and field, which he did two years later at an event in Trail.. “He cleaned up,” says Manson.

That was three years ago, and Matti Erickson has been running circles around the competition ever since.

At just 13 years old, Matti is a rising track star. The medals he’s collected in 2016 alone would be too much for his diminutive neck to hold.

An incomplete list of highlights (there are in fact too many to mention) include: three golds at the Junior Development Track and Field Championships; four golds and a provincial record at the B.C. Elementary Championships; four trips to the top of the podium at the Alberta Provincial Indoor Track Championships; and first place at the Nike Invitational cross-country meet.

Even events he doesn’t win still show how promising an athlete Matti is.

Earlier this month Matti finished sixth at the B.C. High School Cross Country Championship — not bad considering his competition was 250 other runners who were mostly a year or two older than he is.

“That’s pretty decent,” he says with a smirk.

He also doesn’t think other runners were surprised to be beaten by a younger athlete.

“I’m pretty sure that quite a few people know who I am more or less. In the running community there’s always a couple people you want to make sure you know about going into a race.”

It’s perhaps not surprising that the Ericksons are a family of athletes. His older brother Jacob, 16, is a former runner, while his 10-year-old brother Mitchell competes with Matti on the Kootenay Chaos track and field team and also takes part in hockey and baseball.

Their parents, Glenn and Irene Strucel, also used to run. Glenn doesn’t run anymore, not with hip replacements on both sides. But he’s happy to live vicariously through his kid’s accomplishments.

“Call it regrets, whatever,” says Glenn. “I never was able to pursue my dreams so it’s coming out through these guys. We don’t push, we just say, ‘That’s available to you. We’ll get you there if you want to join.'”

And because the kids are game, the family spends a lot of time on the road. Glenn estimates they do one competition every two or three weeks between April and November — enough to keep Matti competitive but not enough to burn him out.

At home he runs six days a week, usually at Lakeside Park and without music so he can focus on his heart rate and how he feels. “It’s actually pretty boring just running hours on end by yourself,” says Matti. “But you’ve got to do it if you want to succeed.”

The hard work is paying off.

When he went to Portland for the Nike Invitational in October, Matti was essentially unknown south of the border. The event was a three-kilometre race with over 400 Grade 6 to 8 runners. He entered hoping to finish in the top 10, but with 300 metres left he overtook three runners to cross the line in first.

“[Matti’s] got a kick like an ostrich,” says Glenn. “So at 400 metres out, if he’s within striking distance it’s game over.”

The family doesn’t talk much about races after they happen. Matti hangs out with his friends, goes to school at Trafalgar, and takes part in other sports like volleyball. He’s exceptional at running, but takes care not to let his talent define him.

“There’s a lot of other things that I could do. Running’s just there. …,” says Matti, who adds all the winning helps keep him interested. “Just to try to stay on top, that’s a lot of fun. Training isn’t fun, but going to the meets and seeing everyone there and how big it is, that’s pretty humbling.”

The Ericksons know how special Matti is as an athlete. They know how far he could go if he keeps running. But Glenn and Irene also try to make sure their son slows down. He’s still a kid, after all.

“It’s hard to say what’s going to happen,” says Glenn. “Right now we make sure [Matti] vacuums the stairs, cleans the toilet, eats his peas. All the stuff kids are supposed to do.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is an independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s 1st vaccine-induced blood clot case detected in Interior Health

Interior Health also recorded 52 new cases of COVID-19

Public opposition to a planned road was expressed on posters on the hiking trails above the Nelson cemetery. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Logging company abandons road construction planned near Nelson hiking trails

RDCK, public, and transportation ministry opposed the road

A concept of the new Kaslo Bridge, which is expected to be complete by November. Illustration: Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
Kaslo Bridge to be replaced

Construction on the $6.19-million project begins this month

Stuart Ashley Jones, 56, was at Grand Forks provincial court for sentencing on May 5, 2021. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks man shot by police during massive flood sentenced to house arrest

Stuart Ashley Jones was shot by a Grand Forks Mountie after ramming two police cruisers in May 2018

The provincial government is funding upgrades to campgrounds in the Slocan Valley. File photo
Slocan Valley campgrounds to receive upgrades

New Denver, Slocan and Silverton have been granted $300,000

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Most Read