Riak Reese making the most of his second chance


Kent State sprinter Riak Reese poses for a photo in the Field House on March 3, 2018.

Laurene Darby

Riak Reese knew he was destined to run track.

In 2013, Reese was ranked No. 1 in the state in the indoor 60-meter dash, as well as in the 200-meter dash, and was named “The next Gahanna speedster,” by MileSplit his senior year of high school.

Reese played as a shooting guard for the basketball team at Gahanna Lincoln High School during his freshman and sophomore years. Before finding his passion for track, he admits his goal was to carry on playing basketball and said he wanted to “go to the league.”

After his second year of high school, Reese decided to focus on something he was good at.

“I was always too fast to play other sports,” Reese said. Running track, as opposed to other sports, gave him the freedom to run as fast as he wanted.

“I always have problems controlling my speed,” Reese said. “Once I got out here, I didn’t have to control it anymore.”

In 2014, Reese won his first Mid-American Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship for Kent State in the 60-meter dash and placed second in the 200-meter dash. Due to his grades, Reese was deemed academically ineligible to run in the MAC outdoor championships.

“They didn’t even let me get off the bus,” Reese said. “They basically said I have to go home and figure some stuff out, and at that point, there was no intention to come back or anything,“

After he left Kent State, Reese took a year and a half off before deciding to come back and get his degree.

“I was at home thinking about where I wanted to take my life,” Reese said. “I had to make the decision of, ‘Am I just going to sit around and wait on things to happen or make things happen?’ So I decided to make things happen.”

Reese attended a community college for a semester to get credits and then had plans to go to Ohio State, but didn’t meet its requirements academically.

“My parents didn’t really push me to go anywhere,” Reese said. “They just wanted me somewhere I could run.”

Reese then started the reinstatement process with Kent State. At that moment, his focus was just getting back in school. Upon his acceptance, he met with the coaches, and they began the process of helping him become eligible to run again.

Returning to active competition for Kent State’s 2018 indoor season, Reese has made First Team All-MAC in the 60-meter dash and the 200-meter dash. Reese has also gained honors for the MAC Championship’s Most Outstanding Track Performer and acquired the MAC Championship’s MVP award. Upon being named the MVP, he concedes that he “wasn’t really shocked but didn’t expect to get it.”

Reese didn’t qualify for the NCAA meet, but that won’t stop what he wants to accomplish, nor what his coaches have in store for him.

“We did expect him to go,” said Kent State assistant coach Michael Schober. “He’s one of the top sprinters in the country. However, looking at what the end goal is, it’s not a huge bump in the road. We are really looking forward to the outdoor season, moving into conference and then the regional meet, national meet, then hopefully making a USA team.”

Reese will be competing in the outdoor season for track and field and will take his place on the track in Florida for the first meet of the season.

“He’s got bigger pictures and goals than just winning conference,” Schober said. “He’s a kid that was ranked in the world last year in the 60(-meter dash). He didn’t really get to let his wings fly indoors, so hopefully outdoor season will be different.”

Reese is on track to graduate this summer and has big plans for himself once he graduates.  Reese has hopes of competing professionally for a few years after graduation and then wants to move somewhere he can train year round in the warm weather in a place like Texas, because “a lot of the top guys in the professional scene train down there.”

“I just want to be an inspiration to those who come after me, so they can look up to me,” Reese said, “not only in terms of what I do on the track but also how I live outside of it.”

Laurene Darby is a sports reporter. Contact her at [email protected].