A Point Breeze track star qualified for the finals of a hygienically-named competition.
Maliyah Matthews approaches most endeavors as an introvert, but when she steps on a track, all shyness dissipates and the 10-year-old runs with such gusto that she had better become prepared to be a frequent interviewee.
The speedster took more paces toward a blazing future as a 39th Colgate Women’s Games participant at Brooklyn’s Pratt Athletic Recreation Center Saturday. Finishing fourth in her 400-meter semifinal, she qualified for Feb. 23’s finals, where she will look to bolster her family’s impressive track record.
“I’m happy about what I did because running is my best talent,” she said Sunday from her home at 20th and Titan streets.
The latter part of that statement could serve as a theme for her relatives. Her father, Alex Davis, competed for St. John Neumann High School, formerly 2600 Moore St., now Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St.; aunt Wendy Davis represented Smith Academics Plus, 1900 Wharton St., at the 1985 Penn Relays; and cousins Alexis Walker, 9, a resident of the 2000 block of Mountain Street, and Amira Davis, 15, who lives with Maliyah and attends Mastery Charter School’s Thomas Campus, 927 Johnston St., have begun to best fellow young athletes. For Maliyah, genes served as motivation but not as much as boredom.
“I had nothing to do after school and thought running would be fun,” the third-grader at Southwest Philly’s S. Weir Mitchell School said. “I keep doing it because I’m good at it, and I like beating people.”
She has honed her competitive instincts as a member of the Mount Airy-based Ivy Hill Track Club, where she has learned a variety of disciplines. The squad consistently sends its charges to renowned competitions, so Mailyah and her clan elected to let her legs test their might in qualifying meets for the Colgate Games, the nation’s largest amateur track series open to females from elementary school through college. She accumulated the fourth-highest points tally through a December event and two January occasions at Pratt and eagerly returned to the facility to strive for laurels.
“I didn’t feel too much pressure,” Maliyah said as she reflected on her mid-morning task. “I just go when I have to go and try to win.”
Competing in the Elementary A Division as one of three Pennsylvanians facing four New York inhabitants, she hoped to play the spoiler and shock the locals with a win. Even knowing she needed only to avoid coming in last to continue her march could not stop her from looking to show that her intense practice schedule, with which she has a love-hate relationship, is working. The determined figure turned in a time of one minute and 17 seconds, just two seconds off her personal best, yet could not conquer the favorites. Despite the defeat, she received kudos in the form of a medal for participation and, more importantly, proof of how she can grow as a runner.
“Conditioning will take Maliyah through,” her patriarch said of what the chief chore of the next two weeks will be. “We will work on building her stamina because mentally, she’s already there.”
His daughter has developed her cognitive receptivity by being a clear example of the adage that winning breeds confidence. Her winter has proven instructional and could end up being highly decorative with the Colgate finals and other competitions, but Maliyah sees last summer as a mammoth motivator.
“It helped me to fill this box,” she said as she inspected some of her medals. “I feel happy because I have them.”
Having already claimed a gold medal in the 200 meters and a silver in the 55 meters at a USA Track & Field event at Widener University, she returned to the Chester campus for a June district qualifying meet for the Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships. Her run yielded her best time but just missed being good enough to secure her presence in Baltimore. Shaking off that disappointment, she captured golds in the 200 and 400 at August’s Keystone State Games, reveling with her supporters at Camp Hill’s Cedar Cliff High School.
“I don’t really have any track heroes, just my family, I guess,” Maliyah said as her kin discussed how far her ambition might take her.
With only two days left to prepare for a United Age Group Track Coaches Association Widener-situated event that will serve as a warm-up for her return to the Empire State, she knows she must continue to approach each contest with ease, no matter the severity. As the Colgate Games have produced more than 20 Olympians and hundreds of age or grade division national champions, she also realizes that sticking with the competition and the preparatory grind could bring her two huge titles.
“I want to be a world and Olympic champion,” she said excitedly. “Running teaches me to believe in myself, so I think I can be both.”
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.