OSAGE | On Sunday, Nov. 12, Riley Witt, 13, an eighth-grader at St. Ansgar Middle School, placed first in the USATF Iowa Association Junior Olympic Championships, earning a trip to the National Cross Country Meet in Tallahassee, Florida on Saturday, Dec. 9.
Witt won the 4-kilometer race with a time of 14 minutes, 5 seconds.
Though home schooled, Witt is dual enrolled at St. Ansgar, which allow him to take part in baseball, basketball, track, cross country and football. While it was Witt’s first time competing in the 4K, he competed at the Middle School State Cross Country meet in Des Moines earlier in the year, where he placed second in a two-mile event.
“I enjoy running,” Witt said, “when I’m running, I think about how good it will feel when I finish a run or a race.”
Though he considers baseball to be his favorite sport, Witt plans to continue running in high school.
“My mom got me into running,” Witt said. “She started encouraging me when I was around 9, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I ran my first 5K right around then.”
Witt listens to music while training, though not while racing, choosing something fast and upbeat music for hard workouts, while for long-distance runs, he listens to country or something slower.
“The race I ran last week was to qualify me for nationals,” Witt said. “Obviously placing first means I qualified.”
Though Witt has been to Florida before with family, he’s never been to then to run, and is looking forward to the opportunity to go back to Orlando or Universal Studios, once the race is over.
Witt’s training schedule was designed, in part, by his cross country coach Dawn Schwarck, who coached him at the state meet. This past weekend, Witt was coached by his mother, Jill, who will also coach him in Florida.
“Sometimes I take one day off from training a week,” Witt said, “and sometimes not. Some days are moderate, and some days are a little harder.
"Running relieves stress, I guess. I think I might focus better afterwards, since running lets me get rid of a lot of energy, so I can focus on other stuff.”
Though nationals will be a new opportunity for him, Witt has no plans to make any major changes to his training practices. Self-motivated, Witt originally signed up for the 4K because of the success he’d had as part of the cross country team. While his mother runs with him some, his speed makes it difficult to keep up, so he does the bulk of his training alone.
“I like to keep the training the same,” Witt said. “But I will definitely go a little harder knowing I will have more competition. The weather will be warmer than I’m used to. I’m used to running in 32 degree weather here. I’m just used to cold. It will be a good time of year to go to Florida.”