Pullman resident recruits locals for a team race

Middle school coach looks for participants in Run of Trio race in Slovenia this Spring.


Pullman resident and middle school coach Mateja Loncar talks about the community-driven dynamic of groups sports and what motivated her to organize a team race in Slovenia.

SAM HEIKELL, Evergreen reporter

Mateja Loncar, a substitute teacher and volleyball coach at Lincoln Middle School, is organizing a trip to expose people in Pullman to a unique race in her home country of Slovenia.

The Run of Trios takes place this spring in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, and the race follows a path that’s laid out around the city. The race’s purpose is to remember and celebrate the liberation of the country at the end of World War II, Loncar said.

“The first edition of the race was held very soon after World War II, and I think that’s what makes the race so important,” Loncar’s husband, Simon Licen said.
Roughly 1,850 teams, composed of three members, compete in the race every year. It is a race that starts and finishes in the old city center, and takes runners around some scenic neighborhoods and the outskirts of the city. There are two running paths; one is 7.1 miles and the other 20.2 miles, as each team takes their last runner’s time.

Right now, Loncar is still in the recruiting stages of the trip, trying to get people from around the area to come out and participate in the event, an event that she estimates will cost a little less than $2,000.

“I think this is a good experience for the runners,” Loncar said. “They will be part of the history, they will be able to meet locals and connect with them, which I think can be a good experience. Running is just a part of this trip.”

Loncar and Licen moved to Pullman four years ago, after Licen started working in the sport management program at WSU. Living back in Slovenia over the summer, they frequently have friends and colleagues visit them, as they like to show them their home country.

“Everyone likes to share his or her country and this event is even more important because it’s the 62nd edition, so it has tradition,” Loncar said. “Lots of people will be there, they can meet locals and it’s important to me as well.”

Growing up, Loncar developed a passion for sports at a young age, playing basketball and handball, among others.

“Growing up, I did whatever my older brother did, including sports,” Loncar said. “So that is where I started to play.”

She has made herself a career in sports, from organizing city-wide varsity competitions in Slovenia, which attracted nearly 30,000 participants from 17 sports, to coaching youth volleyball, basketball and track in Pullman.

“I am a P.E. teacher, I have a Ph.D in kinesiology, so I like to say that sports are not a part of my life, it is my life,” Loncar said.
People are free to email Loncar at [email protected] for more information.