Sports High School Sports Awards: Attention to detail, challenges power exceptional Michigan cross country performer Riley Hough
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Hartland High School (MI) cross country standout Riley Hough capped his senior season by capturing a second consecutive individual Michigan High School Athletic Association Division cross country crown. To that end, he is the first runner to record a sub-15 minute time twice at Michigan International Speedway - the state championships venue.
"He does all of the little things to stay healthy and be successful," Hartland High School Cross Country Head Coach Matthew Gutteridge said. "And he's a great listener. We've been fortunate in that his dad has also been a coach in the program, and between the two of us, we work well together and communicate well. He (Hough) has never questioned why we're doing things, always works hard and trusts the process. You put all of that together, with his talent, and he's elite."
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The Michigan State University-bound Hough, a nominee for, is big on preparation and pursuing challenges.
"I empty my head and focus on what is going to happen," he said with regard to his pre-race approach. "I work to execute a plan during the race, focusing on nothing but the race. And I love being able to test myself. I like to push myself to the limit - determine if there is something I can improve on and work to get to that point."
Gutteridge said there are a variety of life lessons to be garnered from competing in cross country, noting Hough joins his teammates in application.
"Beyond persevering through adversity, it's such a patient process and you don't see the end result until late October, November," Gutteridge said. "Just to learn, grow within a team and be mentally tough through minor injuries or setbacks - that's just a few of the takeaways. And Riley is right there with the rest the squad with the support."
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Hough, who won the Eastbay Cross Country Championships in San Diego in December and also earned Michigan Gatorade Boy Cross Country Player of the Year honors, encourages Eagles underclassmen to remain steady while competing in the sport.
"Consistency is big - especially for distance running," he said. "You have to stay consistent with your training, racing and everything else you do with running. You are going to have some rough times, but you can't let that impact you. You can't give up over something small, because you will have bad days. That's only one day out of countless times you will be doing this. I'm always chill. At the end of the day, I race to race and feel like I'm ready for anything."
Up next for Hough is the scholastic and athletic challenge that awaits in East Lansing, Michigan, home of the Spartans.
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"I'm a MSU fan - my whole family is," he said. "So I was already drawn to the school. I kept an open mind to make sure other schools were in there. I also had to figure out the school that had what I wanted academically, as well as athletically. I wanted a place that could push me with both."
Gutteridge said it is gratifying to watch his student-athletes successfully navigate the growth and development process.
"It's seeing the kids three, four, five or six years later, and they've started life and hearing them talk about what a great time they had running cross country - that's rewarding," he said. "It's knowing we taught them how to work as a team. To watch them grow into adults that are contributing members to our society really is awesome."
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