Friday, Dec 13, 2013
Riley Soars to Olympic Trials
HERRIN -- Zack Riley has always been up for a challenge.
This weekend he'll face the biggest one of his life, the 2012 Olympic Trials. The Herrin native will compete for one of three high jump spots on Team USA. The only thing separating him from a trip to London is a bar standing more than seven feet tall.
"You just want to be able to think that you're going to be able to get over it no matter how high it is," Riley said.
Riley qualified for the Trials by winning last year's Junior College National Championship with a jump of 7-feet-5 inches, his personal best.
"That was definitely a surprise," Riley said about his jump. "I really came into that meet wanting to go 7'3 because before that, I had jumped that in practice.
"So I wasn't really expecting anything like that."
Riley has spent the last year training with Herrin coach Eric Smith and SIU Hall of Fame high jumper Cameron Wright.
"Eric's done the work, they've done the training," Wright said. "All I'm trying to do is take a look at the technique, take a look at what he's doing and seeing if there's anything there that's limiting him."
Wright represented the United States at the '96 Olympic games in Atlanta. Riley says it's nice having someone around who knows what it's like.
"It just gives me so much confidence whenever I'm working with him," he said. "I mean he's been there, he's done all of it."
At only 5-feet-11 inches tall, Riley has no trouble clearing a bar more than foot taller than he is. He says the biggest battle is often mental.
"You can be in the best shape but if you go out there and you're not positive and confident about it then there is no point in even trying to jump," Riley added.
"There's no question if he's got his mind right and he has a good day, he can shock the world."
So how high can Riley go?
"I don't really think I should put a limit on anything," the Kansas State recruit said. "I mean there's no telling how high somebody can jump or what somebody can accomplish."
For now , a jump high enough to land him on Team USA is all he's looking for.
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