Riley Roberts has 19 first-place finishes as a junior track runner at Agua Fria High School last spring. She is a member of the Owls’ star-studded 4x100-meter relay team. The team captured the Division II state title and the school's record with a time of 48:19.
Her rock-solid junior year grabbed the attention of college coaches spanning the nation. In contact with a handful of schools, she ultimately committed to Division I Weber State University in November.
She hardly blinks at last year’s success now, only because she’s mindful of how much room there is to grow.
“I want to be fast going into college,” she said.
Roberts was wowed by the Weber State offer for several reasons. On an official visit in October, she saw firsthand how a track program can unite as a family. She liked what they were preaching – being a student first, healthy second and an athlete third.
“The team instantly made me feel like a part of their family on my first visit there,” she said. “The coach was super sweet. She showed me around the campus, which was beautiful.”
Roberts, an Arizona native, liked the “different scenery” the mountainous, snowy state of Utah offers.
“I’m excited to experience all of the different seasons.”
Her official visit gave her a chance to reflect on the sacrifices she made to get there.
“I used to wake up early in the morning to go practice instead of sleeping in before school. I would practice, go to school and after school, I’d have practice again,” she said.
“I wasn’t able to do the dance team like I was my sophomore year, because I just wanted to focus on running fast to get more coaches’ attention my junior year.”
Colleges’ pursuit of Roberts kicked into another gear following last year’s track season, as spring turned to summer. She talked to several schools – one in Oregon, another in Texas – before signing with Weber State, whom she has talked to since August.
“[Being recruited] definitely gives me a lot of confidence,” she said. “At first, going into my junior year, I was kind of scared I was going to sign late and I wasn’t going to have any coaches reach out to me early.
"But when the coaches did start reaching out to me early, it kind of gave me a relief, like, ‘I’ll be OK. I won’t have to stress about this later in the year.’”
Finally committed, now comes the final act of her senior year.
“I want to be on the podium this year for my own individuals. I do want to make podium for my relays, but I also want to make it in my individuals and place.
"And like I said, hit faster times. I’m just trying to push harder and come out faster.”
She has implemented strength-training into her off-season workout plan, including CrossFit.
More motivation came from a conversation with her future college coach.
“[The Weber State coach] told me she was looking for more sprinters because their best sprinter was actually graduating this year. She’s looking for more 100m, 200m runners to replace her,” she said.
“It motivates me. It makes me want to push harder.”