How Jacob Riley has Found his Place on Rowan Men’s Cross Country

Jacob Riley runs during a meet. Riley is entering his second season with Rowan men's cross country. - Photo / Rowan Athletics

Sophomore runner Jacob Riley had an unusual start to his collegiate career with his first cross country season being canceled due to COVID-19. 

“The first year was the Covid year, which I think was a big help for me actually,” Riley said. “I come from a high school that was a little bit lower mileage, so definitely the year without racing and building that up was really helpful.”

His head coach did not have the same attitude towards the lost year, as it caused him to wait a year to learn about his new runner and how he would train him for long distances. 

“It is really hard, especially for guys like him,” Head Coach Dustin Dimit said. “We were trying to decide how we wanted to train him because he was a good 800 runner in high school… He was one of those guys who was on the edge and we saw some things, so we thought he could be a good cross country runner but we wanted to see how he handled running the 8k, and we didn’t have it so it was kinda feeling that out the second year instead.”

Benefitting from that season off, Riley’s teammates and coaches are expecting him to take a bigger leap into a leadership role for the team and he is looking forward to that challenge. 

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Riley said. “I’m trying to work out harder, trying to keep my mind focused when I race, and focus on people to be there with me along the way.” 

Coach Dimit has big expectations for Riley this year and has loved what he has seen from him not only as a runner but as a leader as well. 

“We expect him to be in our top five all year,” Dimit said. “I definitely think he’s showing all the things we’d want to see in a captain in the future and has really stepped up and kind of leads a lot of the younger guys. He leads by example but is vocal as well and… he’s a great person not just a great leader and a good runner so it’s nice to have that.”

Riley has been supportive of his teammates, helping them reach their goals and ultimately trying to help the team reach their ultimate goal for the season. 

“When new guys come in with new goals and everything I try to be there for them to help them get to that level,” Riley said. “ I think we could make it to Nationals… That’s the big goal, we have a lot of guys who are stepping up right now and it’s looking pretty good.”

Riley does have goals for himself and uses former races as inspiration moving forward in the season. 

“Personally, I would like to see low 25’s to high 24’s at some point,” Riley said. “Seeing little improvements is huge in inspiration because when you see yourself getting better it’s like ‘Oh there’s some more room to grow,’ so I just want to find that and get that down.”

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