By Rick Morwick
Julia Riley is a gifted sprinter and talented high jumper who seldom competes in those events for the Center Grove High School girls track and field time.
That’s because the senior standout is an even better hurdler and long jumper who is among the state’s best in those events.
Oh, and she’s also a key member of a school-record relay.
“One of her primary strengths is her versatility. She can do almost anything on the track,” Trojans coach Wes Dodson said. “In fact, she’s one of our best high jumpers as well, even though she rarely does the event.
“She also is very cool under pressure.”
She is also a major reason why the Trojans have lofty expectations for the 2019 campaign.
A four-year varsity standout, Riley is a three-time state meet qualifier who has helped lead the Trojans to sectional championships each of the past three seasons. She expects to add a fourth and return to the state meet in her signature events: the 100-meter hurdles, long jump and 400 relay.
“I think we will do really good as a team this year,” said Riley, who also has high personal goals, such as placing at state in her individual events.
Last year, she did not earn a podium finish in the 100 hurdles or long jump but did win a medal as a member of the Trojans’ 400 relay, which placed sixth. The top nine in each individual event and relay earn medals.
“I want to get over 18 feet in the long jump and under 15 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles. I will continue training hard and working on my technique, which is so important in both events,” Riley said. “I think I’ve made the most improvement on my speed going through hurdles.”
Yet, that’s not the only area where Riley has improved.
“Julia has improved in her leadership,” Dodson said. “She is a year older, and even if she isn’t a vocal leader, she works hard in practice and knows the expectations.”
In total, the Trojans have won four straight sectional championships and are bidding for a fifth this season. That and they are working toward a strong team showing at the state meet, where Riley is expected to lead the way in May.
“She has been huge for our program,” Dodson said. “She qualified for the state meet in three events last year. She has been a huge part of us winning the county and sectional her entire career of high school. The outlook for Julia this year is not only to qualify for the state meet like last year, but to individually get a medal in the three events.”
A former gymnast who gave up that sport after 10 years to focus on track, Riley plans to attend college but isn’t sure if she will continue track after high school. But for the moment, her attention isn’t on college.
Rather, it’s on her final high school season.
“I haven’t decided whether I will continue with track in college,” said Riley, who plans to pursue a health-related major. “Right now, I’m focused on doing my best in the upcoming track season.”
THE RILEY FILE
NAME: Julia Riley
SPORT: Track and Field
EXPERIENCE: Four-year varsity
BEST EVENTS: Long jump, hurdles and 400-meter relay
HOBBIES/INTERESTS: Painting and drawing
FAVORITE TV SHOW: Friends
FAVORITE MOVIE: Elf
COLLEGE PLANS: Still mulling options but plans to pursue a health-related major
PARENTS: Andrew and Catherine Riley