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Published: Tuesday, 2/16/2010

St. John's standout sees future in track

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Cody Riffle entered his senior year at St. John's Jesuit facing two tough decisions.

The first choice Riffle confronted is one many high school seniors face: What college should he attend?

But the second question the Neapolis native needed to tackle was an unusual one: Should he play football or not?

You see, as a junior in 2008 Riffle was a key player for the Titans' defense, where he earned all-league and all-district honors as a linebacker. But Riffle also is one of the top track athletes in Ohio, having finished among the top Division I shot-put and discus throwers in the state last year.

"[Whether or not I should play football] was a really hard decision for me to make," Riffle said.

Last spring he nearly claimed a state title in the Division I track meet. In the discus, his throw of 191-1 - a school record toss - fell just one inch shy of the winning throw by Boardman's Corey Linsley.

"That was just ridiculous [to finish second by an inch] - it was a pain in my heart," Riffle said. "I'm confident that will not happen again. I'm very driven to beat the state record, and I think with my experience at the state meet it will help.

"But [finishing second] does eat away at you. I'm proud of my performance, but I wonder if I could have done more. That's just the perfectionist in me."

The senior admitted that his second-place effort in last year's state meet tipped his decision toward track.

"If I had finished first in the discus last year, I probably would have played football," Riffle admitted. "The question I faced was whether I wanted to see my true potential in track, or take time to play football, then recover.

"It wasn't a decision I reached quickly, that's for sure. But I realized that my passion for track was greater than for football."

Riffle, who finished third in the shot put in last year's state meet, saw his tough decision result in a happy ending recently as he signed a national letter of intent to join the University of Michigan's track team.

Looking back, Riffle can see both the pros and cons of his choice to stop playing football and focus on track.

"It was really hard to reach my decision - and it was really hard to tell [football] coach [Doug] Pearson," Riffle admitted. "I had spent 10 years playing football, so I had never thought of what it would be like without it.

"I found out I had more free time, and I got an opportunity to do some things I wouldn't have had a chance to do during football season. And I haven't stopped training since last year's state meet.

"People ask all the time if I regret the decision. I don't regret it; I feel I made a good decision."

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or (419) 724-6481.



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