Rieker Daniel accepts scholarship to run track at University of Oregon
Oregon City High School sprinter Rieker Daniel didn't commit to just any collegiate track program.
He signed a national letter of intent Wednesday to compete, at least initially on a partial scholarship, for one of the nation's powerhouses, the Oregon Ducks.
Daniel, Oregon City's school-record holder in the 100 and 200, put all the uncertainty that surrounded his college plans to rest Wednesday, indicating he will compete for coach Robert Johnson's Ducks during the 2017-18 school year.
"It's crazy," Daniel said. "You hear 'Oregon' and everybody knows the legacy that the school has in track and field, so to be a part of that is so awesome, I can hardly put it into words. I'm just so happy and excited to see what the future holds.
"To be honest, Oregon wasn't even on my radar. You think of Oregon track and it's just so far up the scale, it was almost hard for me to be excited about it, because I'd never even thought about it. Then to have it actually come about … it's kind of mind-blowing."
Daniel is the fifth Oregon City athlete in Adam Thygeson's 13 seasons as the Pioneers' boys' track and field coach to commit to a Pac-12 Conference school, following Oregon's Trevor Ferguson and Greg Skipper, Washington's Beau Brosseau, and Stanford's Andy Rondema.
"It's pretty cool that Rieker gets the opportunity to go to Oregon," Thygeson said. "The growth his has shown has been incredible. No one has worked harder than he has the last four years.
"The last couple of years, I've used him as an example for off-season training, because through his sophomore and juniors years, he was at all of our workouts, he did everything we asked of him, and he developed into an elite sprinter."
Daniel credits Ferguson, the former Class 6A triple jump state champion and now a volunteer assistant at Oregon, for getting the recruiting process started. Ferguson suggested to Johnson that the Ducks' head coach might want to keep an eye on Daniel during the May 19-20 OSAA Class 6A track and field state championships at Hayward Field in Eugene.
Daniel went out and won the 200, placed second in the 100, ran a leg on the third-place 4x100 relay, and ran a leg on the fourth-place 4x400 relay, helping lift the Pioneers to the boys' team title -- the first in school history.
"I didn't even know until after everything was over and then (Oregon City girls' coach) Kristin Mull came up to me and told me the Ducks wanted to talk to me," Daniel said.
At about the same time, Weber State joined the conversation and offered Daniel a full-ride scholarship to attend the Big Sky Conference school in Ogden, Utah.
Then Daniel visited Eugene last week and had a 45-minute meeting with Johnson.
"It's hard to turn down a full ride, but the opportunities that are available in Eugene are endless," Daniel said. "I thought I might have been even walking on at Oregon, and then they offered me a little bit and I was like, 'OK, I can't really turn it down."
Daniel is still undecided about a major, but is leaning towards something in the sports field, perhaps something involving sports psychology, physical therapy, sports marketing, or coaching.
"Just having this decision made is a big relief," he said. "All through high school, I had no idea about college. I didn't really figure this out until after I had already graduated, so it's nice to finally know where I'm going."
Daniel first put his name in the Oregon City track and field record book as a sophomore when he ran on the Pioneers' state championship 4x100 relay with Trevon Bradford, Jake Harthun and Jordon Phillips.
As a senior, he claimed the two school sprint records he coveted the most -- 100 and 200 -- at the Mt. Hood Conference district championships when he won the 100 in 10.71 seconds to break Justin Cornejo's 2013 record of 10.80, and he won the 200 in 21.73 to break Cornejo's 2012 record of 21.94.
Daniel then rewrote both school records twice each at the state meet, running a 10.67 in the 100 preliminaries and a 10.66 in the finals, while also running a 21.71 in the 200 preliminaries and a 21.49 in the finals.
Now, he's a Duck.
"It feels amazing," Rieker said. "Looking back, to go from freshman year when I ran 12.1 to senior year when everything went the way I wanted, and then to end with running for one of the country's best track programs … you can't really ask for anything better than that.
"I never dreamed of it. For it to be reality is mind-boggling."