This spring’s track season marks the start and finish to the high school athletic career of Delano senior Cody Rieder. After years of turning down invitations to run for the Tigers, Rieder finally accepted. In one season, he is turning heads as he glides by, usually in the lead
DELANO — During early-season practices this spring, Delano senior Cody Rieder preferred to stay back on the outside perimeter of the group as his coaches gave instructions and tips on how to approach and run a race. Oh, Rieder was listening, that’s for sure. His personality, though, is one that prefers to avoid being near the center of attention, like near the front or in the middle of a small group, where eyes might notice him.
The irony of this shyness is that Rieder’s ability on the track this spring has warranted the complete opposite. Coaches and runners from Delano and opposing teams and the fans who have attended Delano’s meets can’t help but notice him and watch his every stride as he glides through the 3,200-meter run in an almost-effortless win.
Recently at the Wright County Conference East Championships at Tigers Stadium, Rieder merged out to the passing lane 300 meters into the race and easily passed the other 11 runners as if he was running on a moving walkway. One other runner kept up with Rieder on that pass and ran in his shadow for the next 2,400 meters, but that was all for show, as Rieder pulled away and pushed the rubberized track behind him until he crossed the finish line at 9:56.60.
Sixteen second later, that second place runner crossed the line, then collapsing to the track in agony. After finishing his run, Rieder showed no sign of discomfort, slowling pacing and chatting with the handful of family members who made up his personal fan club near the finish line.
Rieder’s time at the conference championships was a personal best. It ranked as the fourth fastest 3,200 meters time in Delano’s recent record books entering his run at Thursday’s Rockford Invitational.
The list Rieder put his name on as one of Delano’s top distance runners includes some of the school’s best overall athletes.
Adam Armbruster sits atop the 3,200 list with a 9:36.34 run in 2015. That same season, Tucker Sjomeling ran a 9:39.85. In third place is Ethan Armbruster, who ran a 9:47.13 in 2010. Also on the list is Rieder’s older brother, Logan. He sits eighth with the time of 10:07.07 in 2015.
Delano sports fans may remember these names because of how good they were on the track and also because they repeatedly read these names in this newspaper for multiple sports season for as many as six years during their respective tenures with the varsity teams.
These athletes were all accomplished, seasoned veterans when they set these marks on the track. They all had formal training from the Delano coaches in distance running for many years, both on the track and in cross country in the autumn months.
The remarkable aspect of Rieder’s success this spring is he had absolutely no formal training entering the season. After turning down invitations to run cross country and track for the Tigers since the 8th grade, Rieder finally accepted this spring, and joined the team as a completely raw runner.
“It’s pretty awesome. It’s been fun to coach him,” said Jackson Lindquist, who coaches Delano’s distance runners and serves as the head boys cross country coach in the fall. “With running, you think all you do is run, but to actually learn how to race is different. For him to figure it out in three months is pretty cool.”
Rieder has been better than his parents, Amy and Dave Rieder, advertised.
“Amy has been talking about Cody for some time, but that he was not really interested,” Lindquist explained. “When she said he is coming out and I saw Cody the first day, it was one of those things where I anticipated him being good, but his level of good is much more than I ever would have anticipated.”
“I think I just had a level of natural talent, and I didn’t stress about it too much,” is Rieder’s response to his instant success. “Going with the flow helped me improve and get better.”
Even Rieder, himself, didn’t think he would be this good.
“I was expecting to be out toward the front but not winning every two miles,” he said. “I had never really been timed that much. It is a surprise to me, too.”
The quiet-talking Rieder also discovered something most athletes possess in himself.
“I am more competitive than I thought I was,” he said. “I like winning.”
And Rieder’s teammates enjoy watching him win.
“Jack Balsiger is one of our top cross country runners, and Cody was crushing him in some workouts early on,” Lindquist explained. “I was like, ‘Whoa.’ And even Jack was thinking ‘alright.’ Being a good leader, Jack was super accepting of him, thinking this is awesome to have a guy like this on our team, as it will push me to be better.”
That acceptance of Rieder by his teammates had a huge impression on Rieder’s parents.
“I’m super happy for him,” said Amy Rieder, who ran cross country and track and the University of Minnesota, and is now an assistant on the track team and the girls cross country coach. “As a parent, the best thing was watching the other kids’ reactions and how excited they are for him. He hangs back, and they just bring him along.”
Lindquist points out that, although Rieder was a raw runner before becoming a Tiger, he was far from the typical casual runner one sees pounding the pavement around town. He was warned of this.
“Amy and her husband, Dave, said that, when he runs around town, he runs hard. That’s usually the difference,” Lindquist explained.
But still, Rieder had never run in a competitive race, not even a neighborhood 5K. A track meet is much different than a jog on Bridge Avenue.
“With the average runner or hobby-jogger, it’s hard to bring them to that next level and speed. I thought it was going to be tough with Cody, with him not knowing how to race, and how to run hard and push your body to the limits,” said Lindquist. “But, from what it sounds like, he would be running in the winter time in the fields in deep snow exhausting himself. Some of the things he did on his own; he must enjoy that pain. It is awesome to see, and it’s great for other kids to see.”
Picture Rocky Balboa running through the deep white landscape of Siberia in Rocky IV.
“I don’t think he had any idea of what he could do. And we didn’t either,” said Amy Rieder, who is an assistant with the track team. “He didn’t run every day, but he would go out when it was zero degrees and snowy, and run.”
Unlike Rocky, there wasn’t a hard-set reason for Rieder’s training.
“I wasn’t training for anything particular. I mixed it up with hills, too, so it wasn’t always the same pace,” he said.
That simple love of running is not taken for granted by Lindquist, who is an established distance runner himself.
“It’s been pretty cool for the other kids on the team to see his commitment to just running,” said Lindquist, who finished 75th overall at the 2018 Boston Marathon. “He hasn’t been a part of the team all these years, but to see someone who is this dedicated to running is awesome to see.”
Rocky Balboa knocked out the machine that was Ivan Drago in that movie, and Rieder has been dusting opposing runners this spring.
In 11 total races this season, Rieder has eight wins. Entering Thursday’s meet at Rockford, he had swept all five 3,200 races and won three of the four 1,600-meter races in which he had run.
The glitch in Rieder’s 1,600 meters log was a fourth-place finish in a WCC Triangular April 29 in Litchfield.
Rieder ran the 800 meters twice. He finished second in Litchfield and ninth April 18 at the Annandale Invitational.
These statistics all come from a runner nobody, not even his own coaches and teammates, knew what to expect of.
“Wow, it’s incredible,” Delano junior sprinter Tate Pappas said at a recent practice of Rieder’s season. Pappas, himself, is in his first season of track. He, too, is demanding attention for his speed bursts in the sprints.
The eye-opener for his fellow Tigers was Rieder’s win in his first 3,200-meter race, at the season-opening Belle Plaine Invitational April 5.
Rieder’s time at Belle Plaine was 10:11. Lindquist remembers the race.
“It was fun at that first meet in Belle Plaine. I had a feeling from our workouts that he might be special, but we had to see what happened in a race,” the coach said. “At that first meet, he just went, right from the gun. He didn’t hesitate at all. I ran to the opposite side of the track and was like ‘Whoa, whoa, relax a bit. It’s a long race; two miles.’ He kept pushing it and never looked back. He ran an incredible time, and it was cool to see all the other kids on the team were shocked. They were very excited for him, and that was a cool think. Instantly it was a Delano top-10 time.”
The most coaching Lindquist has had to do with Rieder has to do with the mental aspect of competing.
“He had a couple meets after that first meet where it took him some time to get his confidence back. He started to set that expectations too high in his head, thinking maybe I’m better than I thought. He started overthinking his racing,” the coach said. “We got him settled back down, and he has figured out what to do and how to race.”
Having Lindquist as a mentor is a big deal for Rieder.
“He has a lot of advice and always knows what I should do with recovery,” Rieder said. “He knows how to best manage your time and pace for certain races.”
All the success Rieder has had and his posse of neighbors has enjoyed this season leads to the question: Why didn’t he join a team earlier?
Ironically for a story on track, Rieder’s hesitation had to do with time.
Specifically, the time commitment required when on a team.
“I thought I wouldn’t like the commitment. I couldn’t see myself committing to practice every day,” Rieder said. “But I’m finding out it helps me a lot.”
Amy and Dave Rieder, who would run with their two boys at the park, often asked Cody if he was interested but never pushed their son when it came to joining a team.
“We could tell he had natural ability, and we encouraged him to try cross country and track. He wanted to run but he wanted to do it on his own schedule,” said Amy Rieder. “Both Dave and I had great experiences being on teams. We pushed that he might want to try it.”
So, what finally convinced Rieder to join the track team? Again, it was an issue with time.
The issue being he was running out of time as a Delano High School student.
“I wanted to do something that would help me end high school right. I wanted to do something different so I would remember it forever,” he said.
Rieder does wish he would have joined a team many years ago, when those invitations first started arriving.
“I especially wish I would have run cross country this past fall,” he said. “I wonder how much better I might be if I had (run on a team) all throughout high school.”
Rieder’s high school career at Delano is a short and sweet one, but his competitive running may just be starting. He is heading to college at Augsburg next fall, and plans to walk on the Auggies’ cross country and track teams.
Lindquist backs that notion.
“As a former student athlete, I’m starting to encourage him and I think he is starting to think about running in college,” said Lindquist. “For a kid who didn’t run his entire career until his last possible season, it’s a pretty special opportunity.
“After a couple of seasons running in college, I will be very excited to see what that kid can do.”
The opening-race win at Belle Plaine in early April was the perfect start to a jaw-dropping one and only season for Rieder. A perfect ending might be a run around Klas Field at Hamline University June 7-8 at the Class AA state meet.
“That would be awesome,” Rieder said.
Rieder has some work to do if he wants to run at state, though, as it will be tough to simply get on the medal stand at the Section 2AA Championships next week at Gustavus. The meet is Wednesday, May 29, and Friday, May 31.
“There are definitely people who are faster than me, so I don’t know if I can manage that, but we will see,” he said.
Rieder will run the 3,200 meters at the section meet Wednesday, and the 1,600 meters Friday. A top-two finish comes with a trip to state.
Both of Section 2AA’s state-qualifying runners from a season ago are back.
The defending section champion is Buffalo senior Isaac Basten. His winning time last season was 9:30.95. Basten finished ninth at state with a 9:25.06. Chanhassen junior Nicholas Scheller took the other state spot from the section. He was second to Basten with the time of 9:33.92. Scheller finished fifth at state with the time of 9:13.78.
Scheller is the defending section champion in the 1,600 meters. His time was 4:25.91. Scheller finished seventh at state with the time of 4:17.92.
Lindquist set a time goal for Rieder. It mirrors his own high school time of 9:48, set as a junior at Esko High School.
“Cody is sniffing that area, and I truly think he will be there at sections. I told him his goal should be around 9:45,” said Lindquist.
Wayzata’s Khalid Hussein won the 3,200 and 1,600 state championships a season ago. His 3,200 time was 9:07.88. His 1,600 time was 4:13.30. Hussein has since graduated.
The last Delano distance runner to run at state was Armbruster in 2015. He finished 13th with the time of 9:41.48 in the 3,200 that season. In 2014, Armbruster ran a 1:58.00 in the 800, but did not qualify for the finals.