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Rivera commits to the University of Sioux Falls for track and cross country

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

Earlier last month, St. James senior cross country and track star Caleb Rivera signed on with the University of Sioux Falls to continue his run career.

This past year as a senior, Rivera finished the season undefeated through the Section 2A meet in Montgomery in October.

Rivera's personal record came the meet before at the Big South Conference in Redwood with a time of 16:16.

"It's just hard work," said Rivera. "In practice, or even outside of practice, you have to do the little things that make the difference, in the end, it paid off. Even these last couple of years. I saw potentially what could happen if anybody works hard."

The dominance displayed by Rivera in his senior year was just another step forward in his three-year cross country career.

"Caleb came out as a sophomore and worked his way up to being an alternate on our State team that year," said cross country coach Brad Stark via email. "Because of this, he worked hard the next summer and became our 1st or 2nd runner on an exceptional team that finished 3rd in the State meet during the 2019 season. He made a really good team great by bringing his game up to make sure he was a strong contributor to that squad. He continued working harder during the summer months and had an exceptional season in 2020."

In addition to his prowess on the track, Stark highlighted Rivera's leadership ability as a captain.

"He also proved to be a solid captain and leader to model what it takes to the younger runners," continued Stark. "Despite these achievements, Caleb consistently remains humble. He is the type of athlete who lets his actions do the talking. He never draws attention to himself. The well-being of the team always comes first. The coaching staff is confident that Caleb will become a great runner during his college days because he has only just begun to develop and train his body for the sport. We look forward to following his college performances."

Rivera becomes the most recent graduate of the St. James cross country program to go on to race in college. Rivera says former runners Troy Parulski, Lukas Pierson, and Mauricio Vite offered words of encouragement, as well as recruitment pitches to their fellow Saint.

"I'm blessed," said Rivera. The guys in St. James welcomed me in with open arms and I think  I made the most out of that opportunity with the time given. It feels pretty good to be one of our guys to run at the next level because we've had some great runners come out of here."

Rivera says that Sioux Falls first reached out to him last spring.

"They reached out to me and immediately I had a connection with their coach, Dan Peterson, he's a super nice guy. The school is Christian-oriented and faith-based and it really kind of pulled me in to lean that way."

Rivera said that the connection with Petersen was a huge draw and Petersen's pitch envisioned the St. James native as one of the top runners in the future. 

"He really made me see a bright future ahead with running and it gave me a lot of confidence."

Rivera visited the school in November, and shortly after, made his verbal commitment and signed his letter of intent a few weeks later. 

"We are looking forward to having Caleb on our cross country/track & field team at USF," said Petersen via email. "I have been following Caleb’s cross country career these past two years and he has impressed me with the improvement he has had. Being one of the team leaders at St. James, I know he will contribute to our program in a very positive way. St. James has a strong history in cross country and he will be a valuable addition to our men’s team."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rivera wasn't able to have the typical experience on recruiting visits. There was no overnight stay at Sioux Falls, and coaches weren't able to get off campus too much to visit interested athletes.

Rivera plans to study biology on a pre-med track.