Josh Riley has no worries.
As Sumner High’s fleet-footed track star went about his agility workouts for the hurdles last week, a routine Riley’s become familiar with over his prolific career in the event, nothing seems to worry the senior.
As he goes through the drill — one foot, one leg over the side of the hurdle at a time — all but a momentary distraction, Riley begins to lose himself in the repetitiveness of the drill.
I’ve always put a lot of expectations on myself. From the beginning of my time with Sumner track, I wanted to be one of the best to come out of Sumner track.
Nothing seems to phase this humble star despite the intense pressure Riley is under as he enters his fourth and final season with Sumner track and field.
From the very beginning, it’s been about becoming one of the best — if not the best — track and field athlete to come out of Sumner High School, something many athletes seek but so rarely come close to grasping.
But Riley is a rare talent.
“It feels like any other year coming into the season. I really don’t feel any pressure despite it being my last (season),” said Riley, who signed on with University of Montana track and field.
Although Riley may never admit it out loud, his aspirations of breaking records and becoming the standard bearer speak for themselves.
An athlete like Riley doesn’t come around all that often.
Maurice Dudley, Sumner boys track coach
“I’ve always put a lot of expectations on myself,” he said. “From the beginning of my time with Sumner track, I wanted to be one of the best athletes to come out of Sumner track. And no one can argue (against) that when you’re name’s up there attached to one of the school’s records.”
Already owning the program’s high jump record at 6 feet, 8 1/4 inches, Riley finished second in the event at the 3A state meet last year to two-time state high jump champion Tyson Penn of Bellevue.
“I never really talked to him (Penn) before state last year, but it was nice getting to know him. Every time I made a good jump, he’d congratulate me, and I would do the same for him,” Riley said of his one-on-one showdown at Mount Tahoma Stadium with Penn, who signed with Oregon State.
“When you face someone with his ability, you want to match them. Especially in that situation we were in,” Riley added.
High expectations and even greater aspirations have always hung over Riley’s head, so one record was never going to do. Not for someone who is a natural hurdler that glides over each jump on the fly with ease.
It’s just putting one foot in front of the other and taking it one race at a time.
The goal this final season — the goal for Riley’s career — has always been snatching both the 110-meter high hurdles and 300 hurdles records while knocking his own high jump record down.
“Those two (hurdles) have always been there, and of course, resetting my own personal best in the high jump is important,” Riley said.
JJ Jackson set both records in the 110 (14.2 seconds) and 300 hurdles (38.5) for Sumner in 2006. Riley’s personal bests stand fractions of seconds off Jackson’s times. Riley set his best last year with his 110 time at 14.94 seconds, while his 300 time is closest at 38.74.
“An athlete like Riley doesn’t come around all that often. Someone who works like Riley doesn’t come around that often,” Sumner boys track coach Maurice Dudley said. “He’s a rare talent as he’s skilled in so many different areas ... it’s unbelievable watching him at practice or at meets.”
A natural decathlete, Riley added to his goals this season by returning the long jump, while also trying to continue anchoring the 4x100 relay team.
“All of us came back with the goal to finish that one. We were close last year,” Riley said of how and he and the team nearly eclipsed the nearly 40-year old record of 43.5 seconds, set in 1978.
Last year’s 4x100 team of Connor Wedington, Michael Russell, Kolby Nikolaisen and Riley finished with the second all-time time record of 43.51 seconds, which the team set in a fifth-place finish in the event last spring.
Even with high hopes for his final season with Sumner, Riley isn’t worried. His life has been lived for days like these, racing down the track to compete against the history books. With only a handful of meets in the coming months, time isn’t on the Spartan star’s side.
But Riley isn’t concerned.
In his mind, there’s plenty of time left. There’s plenty of opportunities for him to accomplish it all.
“It’s just putting one foot in front of the other and taking it one race at a time. That’s how I look at it,” Riley said.
And when the dust settles, Riley intends to out-jump the competition, both past and present, even if it’s one step at a time.