Genoa’s Riffle on a roll after Race for the Cure win

J. Patrick Eaken

Justin Riffle, a four-time regional qualifier and Genoa’s last state qualifier in cross country, is running again and people are starting to notice.
They have to because Riffle, who graduated from Genoa High in 2000, is starting to win events again. He proved it when he won Toledo’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K on September 29, finishing in 16:17.
It is his third time running in the event, and this year he ran on behalf of a co-worker who is living with cancer. The first year he said he was doing it just for fun, last year he finished fourth at the Race for the Cure, but says he never thought he would win it this year. Since last summer, he’s been on a roll.
On June 22, Riffle, a Millbury resident, won the Lemon Trails 5K Race in Hilliard, Ohio, finishing in 17:04.5, over 38 seconds ahead of second place Ryan Arens and Brian Cook, who tied at 17:42.7. On July 9, he won the Columbus Charity Day 5K, finishing in 17:22.8 to beat second place Michael Cauley of Westerville (17:37.7).
In the downtown Toledo race, Riffle said he got tired the third mile of the approximately 3.1 mile race and he had another runner breathing down his neck.
        “The first mile there was a guy who went out really quick, and I think he was around 4:50, 4:55 the first mile,” Riffle said. “I figured if he was going to hold that pace there was no way I was going to beat him. Eventually I caught up with him around the mile and a half mark and passed him and tried not to look back and pushed forward. I knew coming up to the finish I was going to win. I just didn’t know how close he was behind me.”
        At the two Columbus races, there were 180 and 280 competitors that he beat. In Toledo, there were far more than that.
        “I think there are probably over a thousand — usually charity races like that draw big numbers because people want to give support to friends and family,” Riffle said. “I know when I looked at the results I think there were close to 700 that were registered, but I also know they did it differently where you had to pay extra if you wanted chip timing, and there were probably quite a few extra who didn’t pay that because they were jogging it or walking it. Runners and walkers combined there was easily 1,500 people, I would say.”
        Riffle suggests that everyone should participate, even if just walking, because it is “a great cause.” The race was held in downtown Toledo with activities in Hensville and the surrounding area. For him, the course was challenging.
        “It’s all downtown — starts by the baseball field (Fifth Third Field) near Summit and you run down Summit and head toward the Erie Market and then around to the High Level (Anthony Wayne Bridge) and back,” Riffle said.
        “It’s actually a decent course — the first two miles are really fast because it’s flat and then once you hit that third mile there are a few inclines and a lot of turns. I wasn’t expecting a really fast time, but that’s one of my fastest times in a while so I was pretty happy with it.”
        He was one of the last to register, too, making it just in time.
        “Actually it was close to a last minute decision,” Riffle said. “I wasn’t sure I was going to do it because I wanted to make sure I had a vacation day and I didn’t find out until Friday. I texted my cousin and my mom and let them know, ‘Hey, I’m going to be there.’ So I had a few friends and my parents were there.”
        Since high school, he went through a stretch where he did not train or run in events, but now he’s getting back into it.
        “After I graduated I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go to college, so I ended up coaching track for a few years at Genoa, and got away from it a little bit and then decided to get back into it,” Riffle said. “I actually got away from it because I moved to Columbus for a few years and then when I came back I just wanted to get back into running because I didn’t have much time to do that in Columbus. I’ve been training pretty hard and doing a lot of local races.
        “I’ve done multiple 5Ks, 10Ks, marathons, half marathons, and most recently I did a half marathon in Dublin, near Columbus, and finished fourth there. I did one in Perrysburg and won that and I was third at the Jeep Four-Miler.
        “The goal still is to try and run under 16 minutes, so I’ve got a 10K I’m going to do this weekend in preparation for (the Oktoberfest 10K in Minster, Ohio), which is in two weeks. If I can’t do it there, I think I’m going to hold off for Thanksgiving and do a Turkey Trot and try do it there. The 10K in Minster is pretty competitive,” Riffle said.
        Plus, he would like to get back into coaching distance running, preferably at Genoa. He is friends with current cross country coach Brett Strickland and track coach Luke Hodulik and believes some of the distance runners currently at Genoa have a chance of qualifying for state.
        “There has been a bit of a drought but there are some kids who are running right now who I think have a shot at going,” Riffle said.


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