Jason Rioux comes from an athletic family.
When he was in Grade 9, his brother Kevin was setting personal bests and winning all sorts of top-three finishes in track and field’s long, triple and high jump. Some of his other brothers played hockey, but Jason preferred to stay on solid ground and focus on a sport that’s a little more vertical.
“Me and my brother Kevin were more into basketball at a younger age, so that’s what started us off, was basketball,” Jason said in late May.
He credits his coaches Kevin Sawka and Mel and Ryan Bishop for instilling in him great fundamentals and a tireless work-ethic.
From there, the Rupert athlete has branched out into track and field and rugby as spring sports.
His signature strength is his speed. When he starts running it’s not often opponents catch him, especially on the rugby pitch. He’s scored more than a few tries just by outrunning his competition. On the track, his bursts of speed give him a great shot at winning the dashes.
“I like to do the track events because I like pushing myself. It’s more competing with myself than with others,” Jason said. “I don’t care if I win or lose in a track meet as long as I beat myself, that’s a good day,” said the 17-year-old.
He’s been doing a lot more winning than losing.
Jason won two different events at the northwest zones, hosted in May at Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS), where he attends classes as a Grade 12 student.
He took first in long and triple jump, placed second in high jump and took third in the 100m dash. As a result, he’s off to provincials in Langley this Thursday to represent Prince Rupert.
The jump events were what brother Kevin excelled at as well, and he’s got a friendly rivalry going to try and best his older sibling.
“They compete in the same events and just the other day, Jason said ‘Uh, what was Kevin’s PB (personal best) in this one?” said track head coach Dighton Haynes.
“Both of them are very good athletes and very focused. If anything, right now I’m seeing more focus from Jason … He is jumping about as well as he ever has.”
Not only is Jason headed to Langley, but the athlete is also heading to the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto with fellow Rupert athlete Robert Warren from July 16-23.
“Mr. Haynes said we could qualify because our scores last year were at the top-10 from last year’s indigenous games.
In rugby, Jason is often the fly-half, a prominent back player who handles the ball and needs to be quick on his feet. Sometimes he plays scrum-half or centre, but the theme isn’t always the physicality of the sport. It’s what is between the ears that counts.
“You could be going against a more skilled team, but at the end of the day it’s all about who’s more mentally prepared to go,” Jason said.
“It’s a tough sport, so sometimes it’s not about whoever’s the better player, it’s about if you hit someone harder then they hit you, then they don’t want to hit you anymore. You can win the game like that. At the fly half position I need to be quite calm, but there are times when the game’s getting intense where you have to be in the zone to get into it.”
Jason’s rugby bench boss Andy Enns is most impressed with his fancy footwork in tight spaces and his consistent effort each and every practice or game day.
“Jason has really stepped up his game this year in his playmaking ability. He has always been very fast, but this season he’s added kicking to his arsenal of weapons,” Enns said.
“His footwork has developed to where he can instantly change directions and make insane cuts to leave the defence grasping at thin air. In transition, his tackling is solid and effective and he is very resilient, rarely complaining of injury … He regularly makes rugby practice, always pushing his teammates to work harder as he himself works to better his skills.”
Most of all, Jason just enjoys his time on the field with players of all sorts of backgrounds.
“Rugby is a sport for everyone. There are big guys and skinny guys, so I like how everyone can be in it,” he said.