Riley Masters took last spring off.
After a grueling indoor track season that included a trip to the nationals, the Bangor native and University of Maine distance running star decided he needed a “mental break from running” and didn’t run for the outdoor track team.
And it appears he made the right decision.
A rejuvenated Masters finished second in the New England Cross Country championships earlier this month and is preparing to defend his America East title in Albany on Saturday.
He has won two meets and finished second in the other two so far this fall.
“The way running works, it can get very overwhelming,” said the 21-year-old former Bangor High School phenom. “(Taking the spring off) helped me a lot this fall. I’m a lot more motivated.”
When Masters returned to training after his hiatus, he focused on improving his endurance.
“I’ve always had some natural speed toward the end of a race,” explained Masters. “I really needed to work on my endurance and build up my strength so I could maintain a quicker pace through the middle of the race.”
“The key is being able to hang in there at the beginning of the race instead of falling off early and having to make it up at the end. Sometimes, there’s too much to make up at the end,” he added.
“My endurance has picked up quite a bit.”
He said he has been doing “quite a bit more volume (distance)” during his workouts to build up his stamina.
“My volume has increased 40 percent from last year,” he said. “I haven’t been as focused on the short, quicker stuff.”
He said training has gone pretty well and that he is satisfied with his progression, although he would have liked to have won the New England championship race.
His goal this year is to qualify for the cross country nationals.
That will require him to finish in the top four in the Northeast Regionals in Buffalo, N.Y., if his Black Bear team doesn’t qualify. The Buffalo regional will be held two weeks after the America East championships.
“It would truly be more satisfying if the team won the championship and qualified rather than just having an individual qualify,” said Masters, who added that the team is “very focused” and could upset favorite Boston University.
He said Corey Conner was an inspiration in his desire to qualify for the cross country nationals.
“I watched Corey qualify (for the women’s nationals) the past two years and it was something I’d like to achieve. It has always been a goal of mine,” said Masters, who became ill during the regional meet a year ago and failed to qualify.
Masters said he won’t run indoor track this winter so he can “focus on training for the Olympic trials” next June in Eugene, Ore.
“I’ll run some indoor races, but I won’t be affiliated with the team,” explained Masters. “There are a lot of invitational meets in the Boston area. Hopefully, I can post some quality times in those meets. I need to focus on myself and get my name out there as well as the university’s on the national stage. My big goal is the USA Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in early March.”
“I’d like to do well there to tune up for the trials,” said Masters, who runs the mile and 3,000 meters indoors and the 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters outdoors.
He was ninth in the NCAA Championships’ indoor mile last year.
“I’d like to have my points benefit the team, but in the long run, taking the (indoor) season off will help the team and the university out,” said Masters, who will return for the outdoor season. “I benefited from sitting out the last outdoor season. I was well-rested and rejuvenated (for the cross country season).”