Lincoln High senior Riley Specht recently signed her National Letter of Intent to continue her academic and runner career at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Conn.
Lions’ record-breaking middle distance runner signs NLI to Northeast Conference university
LINCOLN – One of the greatest middle distance runners in the history of the Lincoln High girls’ track and field team is continuing her running career at one of the top programs in the Northeast Conference.
Riley Specht, who earned All-State honors as a sophomore and holds school records in the indoor 600 and outdoor 400 meters, became the squad’s first runner in more than a decade to receive a Division I scholarship when she recently signed a National Letter of Intent to Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Conn.
Specht, who wanted to attend a college in either central or southern New England, also had D-I schools such as Hartford, UMass-Lowell, and URI, and D-II schools such as Southern Connecticut State, Stonehill, and Assumption, on her radar, but eventually made her commitment to CCSU in early November.
One of the reasons was the Blue Devils’ coaching staff and head coach Eric Blake, who has not only led CCSU to 11 conference cross country titles and seven track and field championships in his 12-year career, but is also an accomplished runner who has won the infamous Mount Washington Road Race four times.
“He kind of reminds me of (LHS assistant coach Liz (Carlson) Brennan),” Specht said last Saturday. “He’s someone who can work me up to where I need to be. And I also did a video chat with some of the girls on the team and they were also nice.”
When Specht, who plans to study elementary education at CCSU, stepped foot into Lincoln High as a freshman, she did so with an excellent resume in soccer, as she started her career in the Lincoln Youth Soccer Association and continued it at Lincoln Middle School and with the Bayside FC and R.I. Strikers youth programs.
But Specht also joined the LMS’s outdoor track and field program, “and I didn’t really know if I wanted to do it,” she added. “My mom was a really good runner, so she kind of talked me into it. I was always really fast on the soccer field, and my parents and friends thought I’d be good at it.”
It turned out Specht was indeed good at the sport, and when she joined the Lions’ indoor team as a 9th-grader, she made her presence felt by breaking the school record in the 600 and helping the 4×800 relay team shatter another record. She also took sixth place in the 600 at the state meet in a time of 1:41.99.
“After my freshman year, I think I grew more of a passion for (track and field),” added Specht, who also helped the 4×800 team set the outdoor school record three months later. “When I broke those records, it gave me more motivation to keep getting better.”
As a sophomore, Specht’s stock continued to rise. During the indoor season, she finished fourth in the 600 at the Medium Schools meet in 1:42.31 and 1,000 at the state meet in 3:10.7. The outdoor season saw her place third in the 800 at the state meet in 2:21.5 and fourth in that event at the Class B meet in 2:24.36.
During last winter’s indoor season, Specht dealt with a hip flexor issue, but that didn’t prevent her from taking All-Class and All-Division honors. At the Medium Schools championship meet, she took first place in the 1,000 in 3:15.46, and at the Headley Division meet, she placed third in 3:13.68.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the outdoor campaign, Specht continued her track workouts in private, “and it was hard to motivate myself because I had no teammates or coaches with me,” she added, “but I knew what I had to do and I got my work done.”
As for soccer, Specht played for the Lions her freshman year, but decided to run cross country as a 10th-grader. Even though she had an outstanding season and established herself as the Lions’ top runner, she missed playing soccer and returned to the pitch for her junior and senior seasons.
A forward, Specht scored 13 goals as a freshman to help the Lions reach the state quarterfinals, and she was just as brilliant this past fall in helping the Lions post a 4-2 record in their abbreviated D-II season.
These days, Specht has turned her attention to the upcoming indoor season at the Providence Career & Technical Academy field house, which will only contain two non-scoring dual meets near the end of this month, the Medium Schools meet on Feb. 6, and the state championship meet two weekends later.
“I’m honestly kind of nervous because I like to have a lot of meets,” she confessed. “Hopefully, I’ll have some good competition, but if I don’t, I’m going to have to push myself to get my times for the state and class (meets).”
While Specht has her sights set on repeat success at next month’s meets, she also has a chance to break two more school records this year, and both of them are held by Brennan, who graduated from Lincoln High in 2003 and received a D-I scholarship to Stony Brook University.
Brennan reported in an email that Specht, whose records in the indoor 600 is 1:41.64 and outdoor 400 is 1:00.51, “is about three or four seconds off the (indoor) 1,000 record, and she’s less than a second off the (outdoor) 800 record and probably would have broken it last year had we had an outdoor season.”
Specht, shown running cross country as a sophomore, is the LHS girls’ track and field program’s school-record holder in the indoor 600 and outdoor 400 meters, and she’s also a member of the indoor and outdoor 4×800 relay teams that also set school records.