2022 Daily Chronicle Cross Country Runner of the Year: DeKalb’s Riley Newport

DeKalb's Riley Newport is off to a good start in the boys race Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, during the Sycamore Cross Country Invitational at Kishwaukee College in Malta. Newport went on to win the race.

DeKALB – His final state race didn’t go the way he wanted, but Riley Newport still said he’s happy with the historic career he put together running cross country for DeKalb.

Entering this year’s Class 3A state meet, Newport hadn’t finished worse than third in any race since his sophomore year and helped the Barbs make some history last year.

He ended up seventh at state this year after leading in the back half for a stretch and for his accomplishments this season has been named the 2022 Daily Chronicle Cross Country Runner of the Year, his third straight year winning the award.

“It was a good season,” Newport said. “I had a bunch of strong races. I was a little disappointed with how it ended. I would have liked to finish a little higher at the state meet, but that’s kind of how it goes.”

Newport finished first in eight of the 10 races he competed in this year, posting a best time of 14:36. On the muddy course in Peoria last month, Newport clocked a 15:05.11 to take seventh.

Newport said it was a learning experience.

“Sometimes it’s not going to be your day,” Newport said. “Guys you’re going to beat nine times out of 10, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. You have to have a lot of respect for everybody who ran that day. I’m happy with it but hungry for this track season and hungry for more.”

Last year, the Barbs qualified as a team for the state meet for the first time since 1977, and Newport showed off on the big stage, clocking a school-record 14:15 to finish third. Only three runners finished ahead of him all season.

That set the expectations sky high for his 2022 season.

“He was disappointed with his state meet performance, but it was kind of all or nothing the position he was in,” coach Mike Wolf said. “It’s either win it, or anything else he wasn’t going to be happy about it. ... We were proud of him because he went for the win. He put himself in the lead at the end of the race and just came up a little short.”

Wolf said Newport was a good captain. After he won the sectional at Lake Park, his first question was whether the team would be heading back to state for the second year in a row. They were 17 points shy of a repeat, although Jacob Barraza qualified individually as well.

“That was the first question when he saw me: ‘How good was the team?’ " Wolf said. “He’s a captain, he really works well with the other kids. He won sectionals, and the first question was about his teammates. That’s just the norm for him. That’s not a unique thing for him.”

Barraza ended up 27th in the state after finishing second behind Newport at Lake Park. Newport said he liked seeing the way Barraza has developed over the past two years.

“It was definitely kind of cool to see him progress,” Newport said. “Every race, I couldn’t believe. I was like, ‘Wow.’ I was impressed by the sophomore. And often times I would forget he was a sophomore. The things he’s doing – I was never second at a sectional as a sophomore. The way he progresses is pretty awesome, and it’s going to be exciting to see what he does.”

Wolf said Newport and Barraza had a strong relationship.

“It was really like a big brother-little brother kind of scene,” Wolf said. “Whether here in practice or at meets, Riley would look out for him. But they would kind of push each other’s buttons too at times. They would challenge each other. It was fun to be around. They’re both good kids, positive kids. Riley recognizes that Jacob has a bright future, he’s got a lot of talent, and he’s excited for him.”

Newport has one track season left with Barbs, and Wolf said he’s expecting big things from him again this year. The coach said Newport’s legacy is leaving as one of the fastest runners the school has seen.

Newport said he was happy with his final go-around, even if state ended up below his expectations.

“It was really muddy,” Newport said. “It could have been anybody’s race. It’s just how the chips fell. That’s cross country. But it was still a fun season. You can’t be mad with seventh in the state.”

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