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The Hansons-Brooks runner was confident going into the race.
Jacob Riley considers himself a cross country runner. While his season runs year-round and includes indoor and outdoor track and field, he’s at his best during the fall months. And few would argue.
Running as part of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, Riley is less than one week removed from the USA Track & Field National Club Cross Country Championships. A rain-soaked course met more than 1,200 competitors in Lexington, Ken. The muddy conditions turned the championships into what Riley called a “true cross country race,” which was close to ideal for the former Stanford Cardinal All-American.
Riley led a pack of more than 200 runners through the finish line to win the individual race and also help the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project to the team title.
“I shouldn’t say that it surprised me,” Riley of his win. “I was pretty confident that I could win it. Every single downhill I tried to open up the gap and I didn’t really want it to come down to a kick at the end. I have always thought of myself as a cross country runner.”
The win reached a goal for Riley and helped Hansons-Brooks to a goal of their own in winning the team title as the six team members finished in the top 30.
Riley said leading up to the race their group wasn’t given much consideration as a team that could win the team competition and they used it to their advantage.
“I knew going in we were definitely going to be among the favorites to be in contention,” Riley said. “Based on who I saw on the entries I knew I would be at the front competing for the win. I really wanted to compete well for the team. Talking to everyone we circled some races on the calendar and this was one.”
Riley teamed with Ethan Shaw, Mike Morgan, Brendan Gregg, Robert Scribner and Brendan Martin for Hansons-Brooks in Lexington. The group represents a true distance running community.
“In the past we haven’t had enough guys to field a full team,” Riley said. “But this year we have everyone that wants to do cross country. We have a group of eight or nine guys mostly about the same age. Right now almost all of us have been on the same schedule. One of the reasons I signed here is that it is so team oriented. Getting ready for this club cross country race everyone kept talking about it. That really has been great to have that atmosphere. We definitely came in with a purpose.”
Life as a distance runner is centered on setting and achieving goals and with a new year approaching he is focused on 2013. Winning the race helped Riley achieve one of his goals for the cross country season in advancing as a member of Team USA for the 2013 Great Edinburgh International Cross Country competition scheduled for January 5 in Scotland. Following a current week of active rest, Riley turns his focus to that meet and a solid performance at the USA Cross Country Championships February 2 in St. Louis with the goal of qualifying for the World Cross Country Championships.
He will then transition into a complete outdoor track and field season and concentration on the 10,000m in preparation for the U.S. Outdoor Championships and potentially the IAAF World Outdoor Championships.
Riley remains relatively new to the professional scene following a successful career for Stanford where he was a six-time NCAA All-American. Along with the goals he has set, the primary focus is continued improvement.
“I would really like to get my PRs (personal records) down,” he concluded. “Getting a big chunk under 28 (minutes in the 10,000m) would be great.”