Breaking Records: Riley Hunt’s Journey to Hurdling History

It was the first outdoor track meet of the season at the Arizona Spring Break Fiesta Meet. Hurdler Riley Hunt wore BYU on his chest for the first time. He got in the blocks ready to start his race and looked up to analyze each and every hurdle. Nothing was on his mind, all his senses lost as he waited for the sound of the gun. BANG! Hunt sprinted and his surroundings instantly blurred. It was all muscle memory to him by then. He heard clashes from his opponents knocking the hurdles. With each hurdle, he attempted to go faster and faster. Sprint, jump, sprint, jump, sprint, jump! He sped up his pace and pushed his body to the brink until he crossed that finish line snatching first place in Tucson. He looked at the clock 14:00  “You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Hunt. Disappointed, he looked again, and it corrected to 13:94. A personal record for Hunt as well as number five in the record books in BYU history. 

“[The] race at Arizona was probably [my proudest moment as an athlete] because it’s the fastest I’ve ever gone, and my dad was there so he was able to watch. . . I was very proud of that race,” said Hunt. 

Riley Hunt is not your typical BYU track athlete. What makes Hunt unique is he is a transfer student from Cal. “I do think being a transfer is a big thing like there’s not too many here compared to some of the other schools I’ve been to,” said Hunt. “Cal and BYU are very opposite which is one of the reasons I want to transfer. . . [I] really wanted to see something new, something different, and I thought BYU is the perfect place to kind of see the opposite of you know where I was.” 

Hunt was one of two athletes at Cal who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

“There were a few of us so I got the nickname ‘Mormon Missile.’ Which I actually kind of kind of liked because I was happy they were accepting of me,” said Hunt. 

Riley Hunt is a ball of energy, and his BYU teammates sing nothing but praises. 

“I’m really glad Riley decided to transfer over this year. He has really helped me out a lot with my hurdle form and knowledge. He’s one of if not the closest person to me on the team. I really consider him to be like a brother to me,” said fellow BYU hurdler Logan Hubler.

Hunt grew up in Los Angeles California and followed his dad’s footsteps. “He’s the reason I did most of my sports,” said Hunt “When I joined track, I specifically did hurdles because he did hurdles. I went to the same high school as him. . . [and] I really tried to follow him in the sports direction.” 

So why Hurdling? The answer is simple, he loves it. To Hunt, it’s like poetry. 

“[When] going over the hurdles you have to be powerful and aggressive, but at the same time you have to be very fluid and kind of like ballerina—very in tune with your movements to get over it efficiently and well,” said Hunt.

For the 110 hurdles, the top tier of athletes complete it in under 14 seconds. Last season at Cal, Hunt went 14.01. In the first meet of this season, he broke that barrier and got fifth in BYU’s school history so early in the season against Utah State, Washington State, Arizona, Northern Arizona, Grand Canyon, Pima Community College, and Mesa Community College. 

“[My teammates] were all super excited and super supportive,” said Hunt. “The two days after[ward] when I finally got home it hit me. . . I got pretty emotional about it. It was really special.”                                             

Hunt loves his time at BYU and has high expectations for himself and his career. 

“This season I would like to break the school record. You know fifth in meet one I’m only .15 off from the school record, so that’s not much. Hopefully, we can get there soon and carry that into trying to get to nationals and doing well for the team at conference at our first year in the Big 12,” said Hunt. 

Track for Hunt is as important to him as a compass for a sailor. It brings him joy and helps him harness his competitive side. 

“Hurdles are my happy place,” said Hunt with the largest grin. I just get the biggest smile on my face because I just it’s just so fun to me. Just the sport of track and specifically hurtling is just magical to me. So, I can’t give it up.”

Photo Courtesy: BYU Photo

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