With two major meets still to come, it’s already been a wildly successful high school season for Central Cyclones runner Akuol Riak.
Step on the track, put in the effort, cross the line in first place, rinse, repeat, over and over again.
The Moose Jaw track and field city championship on Wednesday, May 18 was no exception, as the senior girls standout would pick up wins in all three of her races, crossing the line in 27.36 seconds to win the 200 metres, 1:02.40 to take top spot in the 400 metres and 2:27.81 for the win in the 800 metres.
If everything goes according to plan, it’ll be more top finishes at South Central District meet on May 25 and then the SHSAA provincials the June 3 weekend in Regina.
But for now, just being out there and competing again in major track and field meets is a pure bonus for the Cyclones Grade 12.
“It’s really awesome to come back and see this energy and even all these athletes.” Riak said shortly after her win in the 400 metres on Wednesday afternoon. “I’ve missed it, I never realized how much I missed it until I got here. It’s been great.”
Riak was hampered by a knee injury suffered during basketball season heading into the track campaign, and as a result, found herself playing catch-up in the early season mini-meets. Since then, though, it’s been all systems go.
“It was just slowly getting back into things at the start, but I think I’m getting back to my stride,” Riak said. “It’s a lot better now and even just being out here and being able to run is a blessing.”
Riak hasn’t really let up in the time since she broke onto the local track scene as a Grade 9 two years ago -- even with the pandemic, she was able to get training in with the Moose Jaw Rotary Track Club, and when things returned to semi-normalcy as restrictions were eased it didn’t take long for Riak to regain her winning ways.
That all led to a massive accomplishment last fall, as Riak signed on to join the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds track team and will be part of their 2022-23 indoor and outdoor squads when things get going next season.
“I am beyond excited,” Riak said. “I knew when I picked the school it was going to be the place for me, I knew that I wanted a place that felt like a home, not just an institution or a school, so I’m excited to see what I can do over there.”
UBC isn’t just your run-of-the-mill track school, either -- runners there aren’t just used to winning, they’re used to bringing home NAIA championships each and every year and are well on their way to doing so again in 2022 after recently claiming the Cascade Conference title.
“I think that’s going to be nice,” she said of the winning pedigree. “There will be a lot more external pressure, but I think that’s just going to fuel me and drive me to win even more… It’s going to be great to have other people at that level, I’ve always wanted that harder competition because it pushes me to do better, so as much as it is a little intimidating, it’ll be perfectly healthy for me.”
Other than that, it’ll be a matter of keeping up with what’s worked so far.
“Just train as hard as I can for indoor and outdoor track and hopefully with the effort I put in, the outcomes will relate to that,” Riak said.