Ryan Speer’s older sister Kaitlyn, whose passion is music and playing the flute, suggested he give cross country a try as a way to make friends when he enrolled at North Raleigh Christian Academy as a freshman in the fall of 2011.
“Until then I had played a lot of basketball and baseball,” Speer said. “I knew I was fast, but I had never run cross country or track.”
Two years later, Speer is a junior with state-leading marks in the boys’ high school 800 meters and 1,600. He won the Taco Bell Classic 800 on April 12 in Columbia, S.C., with a time of 1 minute, 53.33 seconds; and won the 1,600 in the Bojangles Apex Lions Relays on Saturday with a 4:15.06.
“It didn’t take long to realize the young man had potential,” North Raleigh Christian coach Alan Young said. “Then he began to blossom as a sophomore.”
And now, at 6-foot and 150 pounds, it’s apparent his ceiling remains high. As a sophomore his talent carried him to the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A title in the 1,600. He finished second in the 800. As a junior, he understands he needs more than talent to compete with athletes throughout the state.
“That’s been the new part for me,” Speer said. “The first two years everything just happened. But now I realize it takes eating the right things and staying on strategy. It takes a lot more than talent.”
Speer’s Apex Relays result built upon the experience he gained a week earlier. At the Taco Bell Classic, he planned a first lap of 53 or 54 seconds. He thought the lead pack was running a good pace, but the runners finished the first lap in 57 seconds. . That forced him to run a 56-second final lap for his state-leading time of 1:53.33, which is a shade off of his personal record 1:53.31 set last year.
“I came out on top and the race gave me a lot of confidence,” Speer said. “But I think I could have run a 1:51 if I would have stuck to the plan and come through the first lap at 54. I know I can run faster.”
He ran the splits he had planned at the Apex Relays and dropped four seconds from his previous best.
His maturation includes a stronger kick than a year ago. He recently ran a 49.9 hand-timed 400 meters.
“I’m excited about the season,” Speer said. “I’m trying to keep up my training and remain confident. It’s exciting, but I also know I have to keep working hard if I’m going to be successful.”