By Joe Naiman
After four years on Ramona High School’s boys cross country team and three years on the Bulldogs track and field team, Forrest Riley will continue his running career at Chico State University.
Riley, who signed a letter of intent to run for the Wildcats in March, left Ramona for Chico this month.
“It’s a cool experience being able to get the scholarship and pursue running more,” he said. “It’s really exciting. I’m really happy to join the team.”
Riley was also considering Arizona State University and the University of Portland before deciding on Chico State. The fact that the Wildcats have qualified for the NCAA Division II national meet several years in a row was one attraction.
“Meeting the team and how close they all were with each other was another bonus,” he said.
“It was more of a team environment,” Riley added. “It wouldn’t have been the same at either of the other two.”
Riley will likely redshirt during his freshman year, which will allow him to run in meets as an unattached runner but not on behalf of the team. In addition to the level of competition being higher with college races, Division II cross country races are 8,000 meters and Riley did not run a high school contest longer than 5,000 meters.
“It’s going to be a rough adjustment,” he said. “The competition I feel is going to be a lot different from high school.”
Riley is also recovering from the effects of what was diagnosed as a Vitamin B deficiency. That caused him to be held out of some of Ramona’s track and field meets during the 2013 season. Riley won the 3,200-meter race at the Valley League meet as a senior, which turned out to be his final high school race as he scratched out of the CIF meet.
“It was a big setback in my training,” he said.
Riley expects a full recovery sometime between the middle of the upcoming cross country season and the beginning of the 2014 track and field season.
Riley’s final cross country race was the Nike Nationals in Portland. He finished second in the Valley League meet and second at the CIF San Diego Section meet before a third-place finish at state earned him an invitation to the Nike Nationals.
“Third in state was probably more of the highlight. Nationals was probably more of the reward,” he said when asked about the highlight of his high school career.
In track and field Riley was second in the Valley League meet 1,600-meter as a senior. He won the Palomar League meet 1,600-meter race as a junior but focused on the 3,200-meter race at the 2012 CIF section meet and finished fifth.
College track and field events which are not contested at the high school level include the 5,000-meter run, the 10,000-meter race, and the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
“I’ve been really interested in trying out the steeplechase,” said Riley, who may also run 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter races for Chico State.
Riley took up running as a sport in high school after previous Little League baseball and recreational league basketball activity. He played basketball from third through ninth grades, including a year on the Bulldogs freshman squad.
Riley tried out for Ramona’s cross country team as a freshman.
“It came a bit more naturally than anything else,” he said. “It surpassed basketball pretty fast.”
Riley played spring basketball as a freshman instead of running for the Bulldogs, but after his sophomore cross country season he dropped basketball to focus on running.
“It was a really rough decision,” he said. “It is still a sport that I enjoy.”
Riley has not yet declared a major at Chico State.