Dedicated and exceptional: Porterville’s Trevor Riley claimed four medals at Valley
To create a backdrop for a discussion on how talented an athlete is, or how meaningful a meet or game was, one first needs pressure and competition.
Pressure conveys what’s at stake while competition outlines the difficulty. And when it comes to Trevor Riley, he had both on hand to frame how special his breakout season was.
The Porterville High School junior qualified for four events in the CIF Central Section Championship meet, but was the only local swimmer to make it to the final rounds in all four.
En route to being named The Recorder’s 2018-19 Orange Belt Boys Swimmer of the Year, Riley medaled in all four -— two individual and two relay events — for the area’s best boys finish at Valley.
This season the Central Section combined the Div. I and II championship meets into one big event, making the road to Valley more difficult for some swimmers — but not Riley.
“He had like three automatic qualifications,” PHS head coach Lance Hyder said. “Out of four [Porterville] guys, the other guys only made it in one, he made three autos. … It’s quite an honor to be able to do that. Just for any of our guys to get autos for Valley was an honor.”
The difference between automatic qualification times in events Div. II swimmers from 2017 to 2018 was 0 to 8.74 seconds while the new qualification times varied from 1.06 to 16.76 seconds.
But the time changes weren’t a problem for Riley, who managed to also swim Valley consideration times in several other events. He simply used the change as fuel, saying, “I was just going to go my hardest on every one of my races. Just get what I can get.”
Another high point for Riley was that he hit his qualification times earlier in the season versus late when the focus turns completely to the postseason.
“It also freed me up to swim different strokes,” Riley said. “Like I wasn’t just trying to push and get automatic in my main strokes, so it freed me up to do other things.”
Riley competes in a broad range of events including the 50-yard freestyle, 100 free, 100 butterfly, 200 medley relay, 200 free relay and 400 free relay; but his favorite is the 50 because it has the most competition.
Competition is what Riley loves the most about swimming. And that competition isn't always about going against his opponents but rather against himself.
“It’s the challenge of just trying to get better,” he said. “It's not like a one-on-one thing ... It doesn't really matter what other people are getting, you just try to get your best [time].”
Riley helped lead Porterville to their seventh straight East Yosemite League title by placing first in the 50 free (22.44) and second in the 100 fly (54.81). He also helped the Panthers win the 200 free (1:31.49) and 400 free (3:23.95) relays.
At Valley, Riley’s time continued to drop and he hit personal best in both the 50 free and 100 fly. Taking .45 seconds off his 50 free, Riley placed second in Div. II with 21.96 while his 100 fly (53.76) dropped 1.05 seconds for fourth.
“For what it was, I think I did really good,” he said. “And being a junior, I think I’m right where I need to be for my times. I’m just really happy with myself.”
Before the day was over, Riley also anchored the Panthers’ 200 free (1:30.51) and 400 free (3:21.96) relay teams to third and fourth-place finishes, respectively, for two more medals.
“Towards the end, on those last two relays, it gets really tiring and I’m wiped out on that last relay. So it is pretty tough swimming all those events,” Riley said. “And at the meet, at Valley this year, it was tough.”
Riley admitted that sometimes he fears he’ll “choke” on one of his events when he’s competing in all four at a meet, saying that he even got disqualified once, but his coach has complete faith in him always coming through for the team.
“Trevor’s exceptional, so those kids that are in that category, they’re going to go four,” Hyder said. “Because even if they get a little bit tired, they’re still faster than everyone else …. Trevor gives it his best, even if he’s tired. Especially in the relays because he cares about his teammates. He’s a team player and he doesn’t quit.”
The pressure’s on when it comes to the relays because Riley knows the final result rests on his shoulders and he doesn’t want to disappoint his teammates, like freshman Diego Gutierrez, junior Isaac Gutierrez and junior Ryan Davis, who swam the relay at Valley with him.
“There’s a lot of pressure because you’re the last one and it’s kind of up to you to finish well,” he said. “So I feel a lot of pressure … I really enjoy it.”
Coming into this season, Riley focused on getting his 50 free time down and he was able to drop it from 23.07 to 21.96. He attributes that final time to a better turn and the increased competition at Valley.
But Hyder said it’s Riley’s dedication to doing the little things, like showing up to every morning and afternoon practice, that brings his success.
“He’s at every afternoon [practice],” Hyder said. “Our morning workouts, he’s at all those. He gets there early and helps pull tarps. So just again, it was just being dedicated, self-disciplined. And he has a good support system with his mom and dad. They support him and encourage him, and make sure he’s got what he needs to be where he needs to be.”
Hyder noted that Riley’s parents also record all of his events and he studies them to get better.
“He works hard,” Hyder said. “All those little things that it’s fun for kids to learn through sports — it’s not necessarily about the [wins] but when we start developing character and our work ethic and these manners, success follows that.”
A member of the boys water polo team, the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and a coach on the Porterville Hurricanes Swim Club — a team he joined when he started swimming in sixth grade — Riley has a lot going on.
But as hard working and busy as he is, he already has thoughts on what he’d like to accomplish next season.
“I’d like to kind of switch over from 100 fly to 100 free, and I’d like to drop just a little bit more time on my 50. And then on my 100 I’d like to drop time too.”