When she was much younger, Riley Clarke wanted to watch girly television shows such as “My Little Pony.” Nowadays it’s more like “Teen Mom” or “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”
But when you are fighting two competitive brothers, Mac and Wain, for control of the only television remote in the house – for a TV that’s rarely on anyway – getting to pick the show of her choice was about as rare as gold.
Or as rare as being a triplet.
“I never got to do girly things,” Riley said. “I was always outvoted – always.”
Instead, Riley learned to love superheroes, Seahawks games and battling for supremacy in whichever sport she and her brothers were playing together.
“We would always fight and compete for everything,” Riley said. “We were so rough with each other. They would treat me like another brother.”
“And I would always win,” Mac says.
“You would not always win!” Riley replied.
Now as 16-year-old sophomores at Emerald Ridge High School, each sibling has established his or her own niche in a particular sport – and greatly excelled in it, too.
Riley is the star point guard on the girls’ basketball team, and one of the leading scorers in the state, regardless of classification, at nearly 24 points a game.
Mac, short for MacArthur (the boys were named after World War II generals), is the most athletic of the three. He’ll say so, too. He is also the busiest, playing soccer for the Jaguars and the Seattle Sounders FC Under-16 academy team.
Wain, short for Wainwright, is the youngest sibling, arriving four minutes after Riley. He also packs the biggest frame. He played linebacker for the Jaguars last fall, is a current member of the boys’ basketball squad and participates in Olympic-style weightlifting.
“They’ve all specialized in their respective sports ... so they have gone their separate ways and done those things,” Emerald Ridge athletic director Del Dittus said. “Anytime you get that high caliber of an athlete on campus, that is welcomed. And for them to be great students and leaders, that is a plus. We like that.”
“Wain has always been the biggest and the strongest of the three of us,” Riley said. “Mac is the most will-to-win, competitive-drive one of the three of us. And I would just win anything involving a basketball.”
For Riley, that extends beyond the backyard. She has thrived on her toughness and ability to get into the lane for Emerald Ridge, and is one of the top underclassmen recruits in the state.
She has scored 30 or more points in four games this season, including a season-high 35 against Federal Way last month pitted against the Eagles’ Raven Benton, the league’s leading scorer.
“(My brothers) would hit me and really bang when we play,” Riley said. “I would cry all the time when I was younger, but it toughened me up. I can take anything now. Anything you could see in a girls’ game, I’m up for it. It doesn’t faze me.”
“That’s why she is so good,” Mac said. “She is so much tougher than a lot of girls. That allows her to get shots off and hit them.”
Another factor in the Clarke kids’ development is the creative, home-devised exercise and training program devised by their father, Shep. A former three-sport athlete at tiny St. George’s High School in Spokane, Shep and his wife, Gina, have insisted on regular sporting activity for Riley, Mac and Wain since they were young.
The triplets took gymnastics and swimming first, then added judo, basketball, soccer, track and T-ball.
To make the fitness fun, Shep came up with “pennies for push-ups,” and often gave the triplets comic books and other incentives for their hard work.
“I kept all my coins in little jars, and I found them just a couple months ago,” Mac said. “I brought them to the coin counter machine, thinking I would get like twenty bucks.
“I had like $600 worth of coins.”
Distractions have been kept to a minimum. The family purposely has one television, one computer and a hand-me-down Pontiac Vibe hatchback car for the siblings to share.
Shep and Gina chose the location of their Puyallup home because of its spacious backyard and a tennis court that has been transformed into a basketball court.
Nearby is the Competitive Edge training center, where the siblings have worked out since the second grade.
Shep believes the benefits of fitness and competition extend well beyond a playing surface. He and his wife want their triplets to gain self-confidence through sports , and the sense of accomplishment that comes from hard work.
“I feel like if it hadn’t been for my mom and dad, we wouldn’t be the people we are now,” Wain said.
“We really wanted them to do things we didn’t do and see as much of the world as they could,” said Gina, whose cousin is Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tommy Hanson. “We don’t have a lot of money, so we wanted to give them tools such as self-confidence and perseverance to be able to go out into the world and do that.
“We really didn’t see ‘basketball star’ or ‘Sounders (star)’. We just wanted to see them succeed and have the tools to do so.”