After Marquette Catholic freshman Riley Vickrey finished running in the Class 1A girls’ state cross country meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria on Nov. 5, she got a round of applause from her teammates and family members when she came back to her tent.
“I’m so thankful that people came out here to support me,” Vickrey said. “My cross country team has supported me throughout the whole thing. They’ve been there for me, no matter what. I’m really thankful for them.”
The trip to the state meet was part of an outstanding freshman season for Vickrey. She won the Alton Invitational, placed second in the small-school division of the Madison County championship meet, finished first in the freshman division of the East Alton-Wood River Invitational, came in eighth in the Class 1A Freeburg Regional and placed fourth in the Class 1A Metro East Lutheran Sectional to clinch a state berth.
The solid season earned Vickrey this year’s AdVantage News Girls’ Cross Country Runner of the Year.
Vickrey placed 89th out of 214 runners with a 19:37 at the state meet.
“It was definitely sad because it (the state meet) was such a great experience,” she said. “On my way home, I felt overwhelmed with joy because I was so happy. I was happy with the way I performed, but it was sad leaving.”
Vickrey, who lives in Florissant, Mo., played soccer for numerous years. She had never competed in cross country until this year.
“We had so much fun watching her run,” said Jackie Vickrey, Riley’s mother. “This has been a big year. This has been amazing. It’s been so fun. We’re so proud of her. How she handled herself and all of it makes me super proud.”
Vickrey said she was influenced by former Marquette cross country runner Natalie Halliday to join the team when the two met at the Marquette Catholic 5K run earlier this year.
“Even though she recommended me, she ran with me over the summer,” she said. “We’re still talking. She always encourages me and she’s always telling me good luck. She always congratulates me for everything. She’s amazing.”
Vickrey’s first cross country meet — the MELHS Kickoff Meet on Aug. 27 at SIUE — was a successful one. She placed 27th out of 323 runners with a 22:36 and earned a medal. She was the only Marquette runner who competed in the varsity race.
“I was extremely nervous because it was my first cross country race and there were so many girls in that race,” she said. “They were a lot of girls. I did feel intimidated because this was my first race and there were so many girls that were good. When I ran it, all of those nerves were let loose when I started running.”
The Marquette freshman said the performance at the MELHS Kickoff Meet gave her some motivation for the rest of the season.
“It’s intimidating going into your first cross country meet when there are so many girls,” she said. “But when I saw that I could be up with the top girls, I thought maybe I will do pretty good.”
Vickrey returned to SIUE two months later to compete in sectionals.
“I love that course,” she said. “It’s definitely my favorite because I like that it’s a full 5K. Not a lot of runners like them, but I love the hills.”
Vickrey said she’s already excited about her sophomore season.
“I’m so looking forward to it,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what else I can do.”