Aptos High has witnessed its share of remarkable athletes compete in numerous sports throughout the years.
But it’s been a while since the Mariners have seen a three-sport athlete such as Hunter Matys, who recently graduated and excelled in all three sports he took part in.
Matys was the starting quarterback for Aptos, which went on to win a Central Coast Section Division III football title.
Matys then went on to start for the basketball team, where his defense-first approach helped lead the Mariners to an appearance in the CCS D-III finals against Monterey High.
Finally, Matys set four school records for the track and field team and earned a trip to the California Interscholastic Federation State finals where he earned a medal by placing sixth in the long jump.
Those were just some of the handful of accomplishments that made him this year’s Register-Pajaronian Male Athlete of the Year.
“All my hard work and time just paid off,” Matys said.
Matys said he wanted to make sure every second counted during his senior year, especially knowing it would be his final run wearing a Mariners’ uniform.
But his pursuit of being the ultimate athlete dates way back. Matys said he’s always been a competitor since the days of playing basketball at Aptos Junior High.
“When I was in second grade I was always trying to play basketball with the eighth graders,” he said. “That’s just my mindset. I just wanna win and play with the best and be the best possible athlete I could be.”
FOOTBALL >> Matys led the Mariners on a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter against Sacred Heart Prep to help them capture a CCS Division III title.
Matys was also responsible for making an interception at the end of the game to seal the deal for Aptos.
Prior to the start of the season, Matys said the team, including himself, didn’t think they’d make it as far as they did, especially because the Mariners lacked some size in the trenches.
“We weren’t that big, we were just fast,” he said. “I think as the season progressed we started to realize our potential and once we started realizing it, every game was one less game we got to play.”
The Mariners also got a chance to play in the NorCal 4-AA playoffs to become the first school in Santa Cruz County to compete in the state playoffs.
Matys said getting the chance to play with the other 12 seniors, which have been his teammates since freshman year, and putting in all the hard work was worth it in the end.
“That’s what made it one of the most memorable seasons,” he said.
Aptos High football coach Randy Blankenship said the award was well deserved for Matys and is happy for him.
Blankenship said Matys and his all-star teammate, Marcos Reyes, excelled in each sport they competed in.
“(Matys) had a helluva senior year,” Blankenship said. “Him and Marcos (Reyes), there hasn’t been two athletes that good at Aptos since I’ve been there.”
Blankenship recalls a time during a football fundraiser when Matys was still in eighth grade. He told the youngster he had potential to be a quarterback because of the way he led his team in a game of dodgeball.
Blankenship said Matys told him he was just interested in basketball at the time. But after giving it some thought, he finally showed up to football camp and the rest was history.
“He left quite a legacy,” Blankenship said.
Matys also made sure to keep up with his classwork, especially during the football season.
Matys said he spent two hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon honing his football skills, yet, he still found time to finish homework.
“It was tough but that’s what you sign up for when you sign up for sports,” Matys said.
Matys is set to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to major in computer science and compete for the track and field team, while Reyes will play football at Chapman University in Southern California.
“Both of those schools are going to be really happy when those guys come on campus because they’re great young men and they’re going to help their sports programs, for sure,” Blankenship said.
BASKETBALL >> Matys said what he enjoyed the most during the basketball season was being able to build camaraderie with his teammates, especially the juniors.
“You have to be able to be comfortable with everybody on the team,” he said. “By the end of the season we were having so much fun.”
The Mariners made it to the NorCal D-IV state playoffs but came up short against Piedmont High in the opening round.
But it didn’t matter because Matys said he still had a great time, especially being able to play alongside with Max Pepperdine, Logan Feldbrugge, Anthony Sanchez and Silvano Lopez.
The same group of players had been playing together for the past six years.
“Just to be able to experience it with them in our final year of high school was a blast,” Matys said.
Matys was named to the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League First Team.
Aptos basketball coach Brian Bowyer said Matys was a major piece to both the basketball and football teams.
“The effort that (Matys) has put in to get himself to that position has just been amazing throughout the last four years,” Bowyer said.
Bowyer said just looking at what Matys accomplished individually and what he meant to the teams, he’s not surprised his former all-defensive player was named athlete of the year.
“To me he was the obvious pick,” Bowyer said. “I didn’t see anybody accomplish what he’s accomplished this year. It’s just been an unbelievable year for Hunter (Matys).”
Bowyer said those who get to know Matys will see how much hard work he puts into each sport.
“It never ended for him and I don’t know how his body was able to withstand that for four years,” Bowyer said. “But it’s just what he was able to do and it paid off for him.”
Bowyer said he would challenge Matys by putting him to guard against the best opposing player on the court.
“(Matys) would take that personally to stop that particular person,” Bowyer said. “If his offense came, his offense came, but he knew his job was to stop a particular person.”
Bowyer said the one thing that stood out about Matys was his hatred for losing.
“When we lost he normally wasn’t happy about it, at all,” Bowyer said. “And I think that extra fire in him pushed him over the edge in all sports as far as him getting even better.”
Bowyer said it’s no mystery that Matys stands out as one of the most talented athletes in the area but he believes the reason for winning the award was his work ethic.
“The intensity he played with and his hard work, everything kind of molded into who he was as a player,” Bowyer said. “It wasn’t just the athleticism, it was all of the above for Hunter (Matys).”
TRACK AND FIELD >> Matys began his track and field career prior to entering his sophomore year. He said the real purpose of joining the team was to keep him busy.
But after his junior season, Matys said he knew he had the potential to break some school records and be a special athlete.
“I put in so much time working with my coaches,” he said. “In the end I had great, outstanding (senior) season.”
Matys set the school record in the long jump at 23-feet, 3.75-inches at the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League Finals.
Matys also set the record in the 100 meters in 10.73 seconds, 200 (22.00) and the 4x100 relay race (43.53).
“It means everything because it says that I’m part of Aptos history and some of those records had been standing there for a while,” he said. “Just knowing that my name is going to be up there for probably a while is just special.”
Aptos track and field coach Zach Hewett said he’s pleased to see Matys is being recognized for his accomplishments.
“(Matys) is an incredible competitor and a gifted athlete,” Hewett said. “But he took those gifts and really pushed himself to maximize what he’s capable of.”
During the tack and field season, Hewett said he could almost predict when Matys was ready to set a personal record or run one of his better races.
Hewett said his record-breaking runner and jumper was always going to rise to the level of the occasion, including when he made the game-winning interception during the CCS D-III football championship.
“Big time players make big time plays in big time moments,” Hewett said. “By in large, that was Hunter’s M.O. throughout his whole career.”
Hewett said as of lately it’s been an era of specialization, which means most student-athletes will focus on just a single sport. But he was glad to see Matys was able to shine in more than one sports program.
“To have a kid show that you can be a multi sport athlete and being objectively terrific at everything is really special,” Hewett said.