Riley signs with WSSU

Apr. 02, 2013 @ 08:48 PM

Over her career at High Point Central, Alyiah Riley has dedicated herself and worked extremely hard to become one of the area’s top hurdlers.

While many of her peers spend their free time during the summer or over the weekends relaxing, she spends it on the track — often in the scorching heat — running endlessly to perfect her technique. 

“I really wanted to go off to college, get a full ride and go somewhere,” Riley says, “because actually I’m the second person to go off to college in my family. That was my goal.”

Riley, a national and three-time state qualifier in the hurdles, has accomplished that goal by signing with NCAA Division II Winston-Salem State to continue her track career at the next level.

“I’m just excited, really,” says Riley, the daughter of Angela and sister of Shana, Cierra and Dejournette. “I’m just ready to go off to college and see how college track is different from high school track. I’m just very proud of myself.”

But, for all she’s accomplished so far during her career (and perhaps more during her senior outdoor season), she came into Central with no track experience, not even running a little in middle school.

She started out by running the 100 and 200 sprints as a freshman, but she wanted to run hurdles as a sophomore, taking on the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles. It’s not a particularly easy switch, but she was eager.

“It wasn’t anything I really saw special in her. It was more something special she saw in herself,” Bison coach Wayne Jones says. “She actually just wanted to be good. Most kids don’t want to hurdle and I throw them into it. 

“But she actually came to me and said it was something she wanted to do. The first thing you have to be is willing, and she was willing to do something a lot of people don’t want to do.”

Riley threw herself completely into it. She had to learn the techniques and then perfect them. It would take her an entire year to ingrain certain mechanics into her running, building on them year after year to keep up her speed and clear the hurdles.

So, over the course of three years, she went from having zero track experience to being one of the top hurdlers in the state — a level only a few, regardless of their experience, accomplish.

“It’s surprising,” she says. “That’s what I’m really surprised about — it took me just three years to learn it. But, like Jones said, I ran during outdoor and indoor and even during the summertime. So, I was always practicing every day. 

“I love track, and I just pushed myself. I’m a worker.”

Over the winter, Riley, who also considered Western Carolina, East Carolina and North Carolina, was contacted by Winston-Salem State coach Inez Turner about joining her program. After a visit, Riley chose the Rams.

“I really like the academic program, and I really like the coach,” says Riley, who wants to study physical therapy. “And just in case I do get hurt, I can always count on school, as far as academics. And it’s a nice school environment.

“I’m just excited,” she says. “I can’t believe I made it this far.”