The shy voice on the other end of the telephone didn’t sound like it could be the same girl who blazed to three school records in her first full-event track meet.
But Ainsworth freshman Rylee Rice isn’t your typical runner, either.
She competes in an unusual combination of events — the 100 hurdles, the 300 hurdles and the 1,600 meters. She’s adding the 800 to her repertoire on Thursday at the O’Neill Invitational.
She loves to run, but competing in meets? Not so much.
“It makes you really nervous and puts pressure on you,” she said. “I just get nervous about how I’m going to do, and if I’m going to reach the goals for that day.”
Rice easily surpassed her goals in her debut at the Sandhills Invitational.
She ran the 1,600 in 5:14.31, the 100 hurdles in 15.45 and the 300 hurdles in 47.08. Those times weren’t just the best in Ainsworth history and at the meet. She leads Class C in all three and soared to second place in the 1,600 and 300 hurdles on the all-class chart. She’s sixth in the 100 hurdles.
Coach Bryan Doke says she’s just an all-around amazing athlete, one who breezed to a Class D cross country title in the fall and started at guard on the basketball team.
“I don’t think there’s much we could throw at her she couldn’t do,” he said.
Rice isn’t sure where the ability comes from. She just knows she started running in sixth grade and hasn’t stopped. Doke and his staff watched as she came up through the ranks, winning state junior high titles last spring in the 100 hurdles, 800 and 1,600.
It’s not an easy combination to prepare for, Doke said.
He’ll huddle with distance coach Kara Welch, cross country coach Jared Hansmeyer and hurdles coach Larry Doke, his uncle, to formulate a plan for the week. They’ll touch base every day.
The challenge is building speed for the hurdles and endurance for the longer distances.
Rice might start practice with the same hurdles work as her teammates but with a modified distance drill afterward.
“The training, there is no guideline for that unless you’re looking at a decathlete,” Bryan Doke said.
Rice may be shy and reserved, but she sets high goals for herself, no matter the activity.
In basketball, she aimed for six to eight points every game. If she didn’t get that high, she worked harder for the next time.
It’s just been that way ever since she realized grades matter.
“I set goals for a lot of things. Like in school before a test, I set a goal grade I want to get,” she said. “Just doing the same doesn’t get you any better.”
Doke doesn’t want to put too much pressure on his young star after so few meets, but he said if things go well, she has the potential to be a Division I athlete.
That’s nice to consider, but Rice has more pressing concerns.
She likes to run and she likes the team, because she’s included in everything. She likes the challenge of the hurdles.
It’s just those darn meets.
At the Sandhills Invite, Rice wasn’t celebrating after the first of what could be many big wins.
She just wanted to get it over with. Maybe that’s why she went so fast.
“Oh, gosh, I’m so happy I’m done,” she said.