Panther signs with Bears

BENTON – Benton Panthers senior track & field athlete and school record-holder Zach Riley signed a letter of intent to run at the University of Central Arkansas (Conway) on Tuesday afternoon in front of students, friends and family at Benton Arena.

“It’s a big day for me,” Riley said. “I’m glad that I made it this far. It’s a big step in life.”

After getting close to breaking the school records of 10.7 in the 100-meter dash and 21.7 in the 200-meter dash at a meet in Lake Hamilton, Riley accomplished the feat this past Thursday at the Coca Cola Relays in Nashville, Ark. Riley ran a 10.63 in the 100 and a 21.6 in the 200.

“The record was like 25-years old,” Riley said. “I’ve always wanted to break it since the eighth grade ever since I saw it on the wall, the Hall-of-Fame Wall. I said ‘I’m going to break that record one day,’ and finally I broke it.”

Riley credits hard work for his success and though he holds the school record, he’s far from content as he plans to work harder to get his time in the 100 down to a 10.3 or 10.2 before his high school career comes to an end.

Benton track & field Coach Lewis Pryor said Riley has helped the Panthers become relevant again.

“I lot of things have put Benton track on the map, but I have to say Zach Riley is probably one of the biggest things in a long time,” Pryor said. “We have a new facility, but facilities don’t really make athletes and he’s been a pleasure to work with. He’s a good kid, works hard and has been blessed with a lot of ability.”

“He pretty much comes to work every day. I wish I could replace him, but I guess the best way to say it is I wish I could keep him. He’ll make your track team better just because of his attitude and his speed. I hate to see him go, but I really think the future is in front of him. I think his best days are yet to come.”

The University of Arkansas Razorbacks offered Riley a half scholarship, but he chose UCA for the full ride to bypass the student loans.

“I like the school,” Riley said. “They have a good physical therapy program and I’m going to major in physical therapy. I like their medical program. They have a good track team. I have a couple friends that run up there and they say they like it.”

Pryor has no doubt about Riley’s potential.

“He’s a blessed young man, and he’s going to mature physically and no doubt probably mentally too,” Pryor said. “Those two combinations with his talent, you may see him on TV one day, seriously. In my opinion, he has that kind of ability.”