Riley Peyachew was disappointed with his personal results at the provincial high school track and field championships on the weekend, but he has found a silver lining.
The 17-year-old Neelin Spartan went into provincials determined to win a medal, but came up just two-hundredths of a second shy of bronze in the varsity boys’ 400-metre race before coming up lame in the 200m final with a pulled hamstring. However, he returned home to Brandon and made sure track will be a major part of his future by announcing he has verbally committed to join the defending Canada West conference champion University of Regina Cougars track and field team in the fall and will sign his letter of intent this week.
"I felt really strong and confident and was really gunning for that podium finish and end my high school career on a high note, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to deliver the medal finish I had hoped for," he said. "It stings, but fortunately for me it’s nowhere near the end."
Joining the Cougars makes one of Peyachew’s lifelong dreams a reality. The 5-foot-10, 160-pound Brandonite was raised in a family of runners. His mom, Deanna, introduced him to track at an early age and the entire family was in Boston this spring when Deanna ran the full marathon while Riley, his brother and father took part in the five-kilometre race.
Although Peyachew also played football with the Spartans, his real passion was in track and field, and he was determined to compete at the CIS level.
However, he received a serious scare a year and a half ago. During a speed skating event in Calgary, Peyachew fell and crashed into the boards, breaking his ankle in the process. It took four months to heal and he spent another two rehabilitating it. Peyachew got healthy enough to compete in track in the spring, but admitted it was an off-year, which is why he was so focused on reaching the podium at high school provincials this season.
Peyachew felt he was talented enough to make a Canada West team and was debating between going to Regina or the University of Manitoba. What put the Cougars over the top was getting accepted into the U of R’s geography department.
"I’ve always been excited about geography and in the future I hope to specialize in the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) stream, which is a big reason why I chose Neelin high school as well, because they introduced GIS in my Grade 9 year," he said. "I started looking further out west originally for geography, but since Manitoba and Saskatchewan are so rich and diverse and whatnot, and it’s also close to home, it just seemed like the program to enrol in."
Peyachew feels confident joining the Cougars. He plans to compete in the 200m and 400m events and may consider long jump as a secondary event. He has been told by Cougars track and field coach Bruce McCannel that his times in the 200m (22.50 seconds in the provincial semifinals) and 400m (51.80 seconds in the provincial final) are midway between the Cougars’ training and competing times.
Peyachew believes he’ll just get better during this year. He will take some time off to let his hamstring heal before rejoining Winnipeg’s Optimist Athletics track and field club for the summer and eventually the Cougars in the fall.
"I’m really excited. I want school to be done so soon so I can go," he said.