July 31, 2005
By Shalae Schulte
Though the 2004-05 season was over for many Southern Illinois track and field athletes in May or June, freshman thrower Brittany Riley continued to train throughout the summer in Carbondale with throws coach John Smith.
Riley was preparing for the biggest meet of her career thus far, at only 19 years old.
Riley, who began throwing the hammer for the first time in her career last October, has broken the SIU record in just her first year as a Saluki, twice.
The first time was at the USA Track and Field Junior Championships in June when she won the hammer throw by 15 feet to advance to the Pan American Junior Championships. The second time was Sunday afternoon in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, when she won the silver medal in the hammer.
Riley threw 195-11, almost four feet above her previous school record of 192-1, and over the previous meet record of 192-3. Aras Tondike Santovenia from Cuba threw 212-7 to take the gold and the official record of the meet.
The Flossmoor, Ill. native finished second in the world against women ages 14-19 and still insists she's disappointed in her performance.
"I was really trying to break the Junior American record of 201 feet," Riley said. "That was my biggest goal of this meet. It's a little disappointing because I didn't get it...I guess it was good that I broke my personal record, but I really wanted the American record."
When asked if she was nervous competing against the world's best, she had some encouragement. Saluki throws coach John Smith was right behind her, the appointed throws coach of the Team USA women.
"Right before I came to the track I got nervous," Riley said. "But when I got there, I wasn't really that nervous. I just looked at it as another meet on a much larger scale. It helped a lot that Coach Smith was with me, he's coached me all the way."
"I couldn't ask for anything better out of Brittany," Smith said. "She changed her throwing style for the first time and I was very pleased with the results. It was an outstanding way to end an outstanding freshman year."
As a freshman, Riley earned All-Missouri Valley Conference honors in both the indoor weight throw and the hammer. She also qualified for the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships in the latter.
"I feel great that I made it this far as a freshman," Riley added. "I still have three more years and a lot of room to improve."
Riley will bring home one of 57 medals won at the Pan American Junior Championships by Team USA and one of 13 medals won by the throwers. Team USA finished first in the medal standings, the most won since the 1999 games.
"This is great for Brittany," Smith said, "because now she knows she belongs. Her and Achi (Amarachi Ukabam) are going to be a real 1-2 punch now. I see a lot of good things from her in the future."