NORMAN, Okla. — Riley Masters admits he needs a vacation. Soon, he’ll head back to Maine for some rest and relaxation.
The Bangor runner capped a hectic and challenging season last Friday with an appearance at the North America-Central America-Caribbean (NACAC) U-23 Championships in Guanajuato, Mexico.
The 22-year-old Masters, who competes for the University of Oklahoma, arrived back in Norman on Tuesday afternoon with his sights set on a trip home.
“I’m going to treat myself to two weeks of just hanging out, being a couch potato,” said Masters, a former Bangor High School and University of Maine star.
“I’m going to head back to Maine and see my family, get a lot of nice mileage in — in Maine — and take a physical and mental break from the sport for a while.”
It has been a grueling spring and early summer for Masters, who has experienced some personal highs and his share of disappointments during the last two months.
He closed out the season by earning a bronze medal in his first international meet. He placed third in the 1,500-meter run at the NACAC event with a time of 3 minutes, 52.15 seconds.
Guanajuato is situated at 7,000 feet above sea level, which normally would be a concern for a runner. Masters, a bit drained from his experience at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., didn’t give the dynamic any credence.
“I didn’t invest a lot of concern with the altitude going into the race,” Masters said. “I wanted to run an honest race, and I guess I paid for that in the last 300 meters.”
Masters had discussed race strategy with his friend and roommate for the trip, Kyle Merber, who won in 3:51.61. Canadian Charles Philibert-Thiboutot was second in 3:52.00.
“This race was more icing on the cake, a way to celebrate a great season and wear the U.S. shirt for the first time,” Masters said. “I really wanted to make sure I got onto the medal podium.”
Masters also enjoyed his first international appearance because he was on a team made up of other college runners.
However, Masters admitted the Olympic Trials were difficult from a lot of perspectives.
“The trials took a lot out of me physically and emotionally,” he said.
He finished eighth in the first 1,500 heat on June 28. His time of 3:42.71 was solid, but his tactical approach did not pan out.
Masters, who missed out on a spot in the finals by 0.16 seconds, explained that competing in the first heat with the group he was placed in presented some challenges.
Once Masters’ heat was in the books, the runners in the next two heats knew the times they needed to beat to make the finals. Essentially, the fast early pace he set in his heat helped lead to his elimination.
“A lot of preparation goes into it, strategically,” he said. “We noticed a lot of the guys in the heat were ‘kickers,’ guys who tend to finish races very fast. I tried to press the pace hard to be able to come in on time. Unfortunately, it did not work out, but I learned a tremendous amount.”
That is the kind of experience Masters needs if he hopes to continue his quest for a future berth in the Olympics or the World Championships. He tried to put the trials in perspective that way.
“I think competing at that level will give me a lot more confidence going into my final year of [collegiate] eligibility,” Masters said. “I gained a lot of knowledge for future races.”
Masters remained in Eugene after the race and studied runners and race tactics.
He had some ups and downs in 2012. He ran a personal-record 3:37.19 during a USATF meet in May, but fell in the NCAA Regionals competing for OU and failed to qualify for the nationals.