Sports Person of the Week
Hickey Helps Grizzlies Break School Record in 4x8 Relay
Riley Hickey put together an exceptional freshman season with the Guilford girls’ outdoor track team this spring, contributing to a school-record performance in the 4x800 relay. (Photo courtesy of Riley Hickey)
The Guilford girls’ outdoor track team’s 4x800 relay enjoyed a record-setting season this year, and freshman Riley Hickey played a big role in that success. Riley and her teammates in the 4x8 went on an exciting postseason run that saw them break a school record that had stood since 2008.
Riley’s path to participating in track and field wasn’t so clear when the school year began. Riley grew up playing soccer and wanted to continue into high school. However, Riley also wanted to try another sport that would help improve her performance on the soccer field.
“I kind of just thought that track was going to help me become faster when I’m running in the [soccer] game. As it actually started to happen, I realized I’m better at this than I thought,” says Riley. “It developed into something that I was actually proud I was doing.”
Riley’s decision to give track a shot this spring proved beneficial to herself and the team. Riley immediately started competing in the 200, 400, and 4x400 relay events, along with the long jump. Later in the season, she began participating in the 4x800 relay.
Head Coach Jon Rivera knew that the Grizzlies were welcoming a talented athlete to the program when Riley first walked on the track.
“I knew from the very first speed workout we did there was something special there,” Rivera says. “Riley is quiet off the track, but on it, she has a very competitive nature. She has rose to the occasion in several high-pressure spots this year, including SCCs and the State Open.”
Riley’s acclimation to competing event to event, as opposed to a single soccer game, changed her perspective on how she pushes herself. In her first time running the 400, Riley experienced the difficulties that come with competing in an event filled with high intensity.
“When I got into the meet, towards the last 100 meters, my entire body was kind of like shutting down. The only thing I could feel was my heartbeat,” says Riley. “It was the first time I ran the 400, and it was the craziest thing I’ve ever felt. I’ve never pushed my body to that extent before.”
Riley adjusted to the atmosphere on the track and started to see her efforts pay off immensely. After entering her first season with modest expectations, Riley is finishing her freshman campaign as a record holder for the Grizzlies. On June 11, Riley’s 4x800 relay posted a fifth-place performance at the New England Championship with a time of 9:28.96, breaking the previous school record of 9:29.92 that had been held for 14 years. Riley joined forces with senior Julia Antony, sophomore Clara Gahm, and senior Olivia Skapczynski to set the record in the relay.
“It was crazy. It was super exciting. I didn’t even realize that it happened,” Riley says. “As soon as I finished the race, all I could feel was tired, and then I saw Julia. She came over and was hugging me. She was like, ‘Riley, Riley, we just beat the record!’ We were all really happy.”
Prior to New Englands, Riley competed on the Grizzlies’ 4x800 relay team that took third place at the Class MM State Championship. Riley and her 4x8 quartet finished sixth in the State Open the following week.
Riley was also a member of a 4x400 relay team that saw a plethora of success this year. Guilford’s 4x400 relay of freshman Daniella Selig, Antony, freshman Ella Heckler, and Riley finished in first place at both the SCC West Sectional Championship and the SCC Championship, after which they placed fourth in the Class MM State Championship.
Riley couldn’t feel happier about the way everything went during her debut season as a member of the Guilford track program.
“Crossing the finish line, that feeling is pretty incredible. The idea of getting there is really motivating,” says Riley. “The season overall is one of the most difficult things that I’ve done, so I’m really proud that I did that.”
Riley credits much of her success as a freshman to her mental preparation. Riley did a lot of extra training and workouts during the season, but she also made sure that she stayed focused and was checked in to the team. Riley’s overall wellbeing and continuous effort to improve drove her to success throughout the year.
“I feel like everything is a mental game, especially in the middle of races. Your body starts to give out, and then all you have left is your drive to finish the race,” Riley says. “That is what’s going to get you through it. It has nothing to do with your body anymore. It’s always mental.”
Riley far exceeded her expectations in her first year as a track and field athlete. Riley is excited to continue competing and potentially break some more records over the next few years. More than anything, Riley cherishes everything that the Guilford track program has offered her.
“I like it because beating a personal record is satisfying, but also just like with any sport, the team aspect and just being able to hang out with your friends is really awesome,” says Riley. “It kind of motivates me to do better.”