Sequim’s Riley Pyeatt races in the preliminaries of the 200 meters at the Class 2A state track and field championships in Tacoma in May 2019. Pyeatt placed fifth in the 400-meter race. Sequim Gazette file photo by Michael Dashiell

Sequim’s Riley Pyeatt races in the preliminaries of the 200 meters at the Class 2A state track and field championships in Tacoma in May 2019. Pyeatt placed fifth in the 400-meter race. Sequim Gazette file photo by Michael Dashiell

Pyeatt in the midst of a metamorphosis

With her focus centered on running at the collegiate level, Sequim junior Riley Pyeatt has stuck to a workout and training regimen consistently since March while also furthering her faith, climbing area peaks and bonding with her tight-knit family.

“Right when track and field was stopped, my coach gave me a lifting plan, and I’ve been lifting weights since March,” Pyeatt said. “Olympic lifting helps me with my block starts and burst. When I could go to the track, I would do interval runs, and my mom (Tracie) would be there to time me.”

Pyeatt entered last spring on a high note after winning the Olympic League Cross Country Championships, the Westside Classic District Championship and placing sixth at state as a sophomore in the fall of 2019.

She already set two all-time Sequim track and field records in the 200 and 400 meters and finished fifth in the 400 at the state track meet as a freshman in the spring of 2019. She also plays basketball for the Wolves, a speedy pest at guard for Sequim.

Her 400 time as a freshman eclipsed the best high school time her mom, a state 400 champ in Montana, ever produced, a goal of the younger Pyeatt.

“She’s a really big influence,” Pyeatt said of her mom. “In middle school, I didn’t plan to do cross country at all because I wasn’t as interested in running long distance versus running sprints, but she convinced me. And I was so determined to beat her times when I got to high school. She told me her fastest (400) ever was a 58, and I beat that freshman year.”

With high-performing genes, Pyeatt said she has always had a “high, competitive drive.”

“My dad (Doug) also pushes me, and Jesus, my faith is important to me,” Pyeatt said. “I try to pray before every meet. With quarantine and all, there have been times when my motivation has slipped, but I feel my faith has become really strong and helps me get through those rougher times.”

B.J. Schade, an assistant coach for the Wolves cross country and track teams and a former Sequim and Washington state track and field athlete, remembers the first time he saw Pyeatt race in middle school.

“Riley broke out so far ahead of the others that I was waiting for the crash,” Schade said. “The 400 can be cruel to those who start too quickly. The lactic acid builds up (in muscles), and they almost walk to the finish line. Usually at 300 meters, a middle school runner is thinking, ‘What have I done? I’ve made a mistake.’ And that didn’t happen to Riley. She kept pace and won the race by 50 or 60 meters. You don’t see a seventh-grader do that too often.”

A small group of Sequim cross country and track runners received an exemption to practice into January through the efforts of Wolves athletic director Dave Ditlefsen.

“It’s tough for an athlete that age to go this long, all spring, summer and fall with no competition, so having that group has been fantastic,” Schade said. “We keep them a lane or two apart, but there’s been some competition.

“And Riley has kept her attitude up; that’s been great. She got into an open race in Seattle and won it, and hopefully, she will get that competition in the spring. Whatever championship she gets to participate in, she’ll be ready for.”

She’ll likely be running different lengths when competitive track returns in full.

“Riley is kind of finding herself as a distance runner and making that metamorphosis,” Schade said. “At the college level, she’s really going to be an 800-meter or 1,500-meter runner. When you come out with a sprinters’ attitude like Riley has, I think you have an advantage there.”

Sequim’s Riley Pyeatt, center, breaks from the starting line at the state 2A cross country meet in Pasco in November 2019. After finishing 13th as a freshman in 2018, Pyeatt placed sixth at last year’s state final. Photo courtesy of Tracie Pyeatt

Sequim’s Riley Pyeatt, center, breaks from the starting line at the state 2A cross country meet in Pasco in November 2019. After finishing 13th as a freshman in 2018, Pyeatt placed sixth at last year’s state final. Photo courtesy of Tracie Pyeatt

Pyeatt’s athletic goal is earning a spot on an NCAA Division I program.

“That’s what I really plan on doing is competing in track and field and cross country for a D1 school,” she said. “Now that I have gotten older, I realized I should step it up to the 800.”

Pyeatt enjoys hiking and said she had just climbed most of the way up Mount Townsend on Tuesday before snowy conditions intervened. Time with her older and younger siblings also has helped Pyeatt’s mental health during the pandemic.

A 4.0 student, Pyeatt is navigating difficult advanced placement courses during her junior year and admits online learning has been no picnic.

“It’s a pretty big struggle, especially since it is junior year, and I have all my AP classes,” Pyeatt said. “I’m doing the best I can, but I want to go back to school so bad.”

COVID-19 era snapshot

Some COVID-19 time-capsule questions and answers from Sequim junior Riley Pyeatt:

The song you listened to the most during this period was …

“My favorite genre is country and song is ‘House That Built Me’ by Miranda Lambert. We used to live in Montana for most of my whole life, and that song reminds me of the house we had in Montana and our horses.”

Your favorite TV show to stream during quarantine was …

“‘Tiger King.’ That one was so funny. So crazy that that even happened. It’s so random.”

Is there a viral video or a YouTuber that you keep coming back to?

“There’s this YouTube Channel called Sam and Colby; they explore cool places, haunted places.”

Is there anything you are interested in now that you think will be really embarrassing to show your kids or grandkids in 20-30 years?

“I can go through a whole bag of Hershey’s Kisses in like two days.”

Did you learn any new skills or sharpen any old ones?

“My Spanish is a skill that I’ve sharpened.”

What are some things you have done to help feel connected with others?

“On Christmas, we Facetimed all my family in Montana. And hanging out with friends and seeing my teammates now because we get to compete with each other and form a stronger bond. During this time, my siblings and I were always close, but this has made us even closer.”

Biggest lesson learned during the pandemic?

“That it’s OK to have bad days. Before COVID hit, everything was normal, and now that COVID hit, there are going to be those days when you just don’t feel your best and that you can have an off day.”

What changes have you seen in your community because of this?

“I’ve seen a lot of people become very scared. I feel like our community has gotten stronger and more supportive, but there’s still this division that people are experiencing.”

When this is over, or at least properly contained, what activity are you most looking forward to doing?

“I’m looking forward to going somewhere and not wearing a mask. And looking forward to going back to school and just having things looking brighter.”

What’s your biggest goals for life going forward?

“I want to compete D1 for track and field and cross country. I want to climb Mount Olympus, the highest peak in the Olympics. And when I get older, I want to live in Montana.”

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