Bulldog Teen Heading to Oregon for Nike Cross Country Nationals

Ramona High’s Forrest Riley is the only nonteam entrant from San Diego County to qualify for race.

To film buffs, Forrest is synonymous with a fictional cross country prodigy played by Tom Hanks. But here in Ramona, a speedy runner named Forrest is very real—and very fast.

Forrest Riley, 18, is a cross country champ at Ramona High School. The senior most recently placed fourth as an individual at the CIF state race, making him the only individual racer in San Diego County to qualify for the Nike Cross Nationals.

The Ramona High cross country team placed second overall, according to Director of Athetics Damon Baldwin.

"I'm the only single runner going from San Diego County," Riley told Patch. "Besides Carlsbad, who is going as a team."

Riley, who ran a 5K at the state finals in just 15:12—his best time to date—was one of only five teens to make the Nike Cross Nationals, where he will race another 5K on Saturday, Dec. 1, in Portland, OR.

The high school running champ said Nike will fly him up Thursday night and is mom will accompany him to cheer him on. As for preparing, the teen has been running and plans on "sticking to a routine."

"Normally, [my routine] is spaghetti dinner with the team," Riley said. "I'll have a big pasta dinner at nationals and then the day of the race is really small breakfast and a ton of water."

And though running comes as second nature now to Riley, he only started the sport four years ago when he was just a freshman at Ramona High.

"I was playing basketball for a lot of my life so I got into cross country for condition for basketball," he said. "And I moved here in 8th grade so it was also to make friends."

The 18-year-old said he's a little nervous for the Dec. 1 race in Portland, but he's hoping to beat his record of 15:12.

"Going into it, I just want to think about it as another race. It's a lot bigger than anything I've ever really gone into—especially in running," Riley said. "I think that I'll still be able to do really well there, but I'm not sure how the race is going to play out."

Riley said he plans to continue running in college, where his race length will increase to an 8K or 10K (6.2 miles), and he's hoping for a scholarship. He's busy filling out college applications, but doesn't know where he wants to go just yet.

For now, Riley will continue to run, train and do Ramona High proud at the Nike Cross Nationals this weekend—all for the love of the sport.

"When I played basketball, I did it because I love the sport," he said. "When I run, it just feels so much more natural. I can't explain it... it's a rush. I love it."


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