South Dakota @ NCAA's: Riley Coates Q&A

MileSplit South Dakota Q&A With former Rapid City Stevens distance runner and current Air Force Falcon standout, Riley Coates.

Photo by Tomas Ovale

Coates individually qualified for the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championships by clocking a 30:30.93 to grab the fourth automatic individual qualifying spot at the Mountain Regional Cross Country Championships last Friday.

A senior, this will be Coates’ second appearance at the NCAA National Meet.


Describe the NCAA Cross Country Meet.  It's a huge and fast spectacle- what is it like to race in this?

 It’s an awesome experience. There’s a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding the race, which sometimes makes it difficult to treat it as just another race, but if you can just enjoy the weekend and events prior to the race without letting the hype get into your head, it can be a very positive and fun experience.

As this is your second appearance at the NCAA Championships- what lessons have you learned and how will you approach this race?

Last year I was dealing with some allergy issues that really hampered my Cross Country season and as a result I had a poor showing at the NCAA Championships.

The experience really taught me a lot though. Despite the fact that the meet is extremely hyped up, I learned that it’s really important to treat it just like any other race.

The weather is typically poor on that weekend as well and it’s important to remember, as common sense as the idea is, that everyone is dealing with the same conditions. Let it be an advantage for you if others around you view the weather as a negative; this makes it a positive for you!

What's one thing you'll do differently this time around? 

This year, my start will be a little bit faster allowing me to get into better position early. Last year as a team, we started near the back and despite my health issues, I know that it lost me quite a few places by the end of the race.

It’s important to remember though, especially if the course is as muddy- as it usually is, that a lot of guys are going to come back that went out too hard.

Last year, our team was in dead last through 3k, but because of our early patience we were able to pass eleven teams over the second 5k.

It’s a tricky balance but I’m confident that I can get into a position early that will allow me to be successful over the second half of the race.


As a 4:23/9:40 guy out of high school, you’ve made tremendous improvements at the college level and are now running in your second NCAA Cross Country National Championship race.

Photo: Stevens teammates Austin Wright (left) and Riley Coates (right) by Kristina Barker, Rapid City Journal

What advice do you have for high school athletes?

I know in high school a lot of athletes never reach their full potential because they are not willing to do the work to get themselves to where they want to be.

I’ve also seen a lot of athletes that perform way better than I ever would have guessed solely because they dedicated themselves to the sport and made huge jumps in their fitness as a result.

If you are going to do something, why not do it right?

Even after high school, if an athlete is considering running in college, there is no way an athlete has reached their athletic ceiling yet at 18 years old. Give it a shot, you’ll be amazed at some of the people that you can outrun when you are in college that you never would have imagined being better than in high school.

If you are willing to do the work and live the oftentimes tedious lifestyle of a collegiate runner, the results can be incredible.