The Wolfpacker

January 2018

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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JANUARY 2018 ■ 51 WHEREARETHEYNOW? BY MATT CARTER W hen Suzie Tuffey Riewald started running track at Ber- gan High in Peoria, Ill., her goal was to keep in shape for tennis. She was a good doubles player, partnering once with teammate Nora Kay to reach the state finals. Eventually Riewald began to realize that her goal in tennis was to make it to states. When she ran, her ambition was to win titles, and she proved to be a phenom in the long-distance track races in Illinois. As a sophomore, she won state titles in the 800- and 1,600-meter races at the Class A level. During her junior year, she set state records in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter distances. By the time she was a senior, she had become a coveted recruit on the track scene. "My senior year in high school, I was still really focused on tennis," she admitted. "That was my love." However, she recognized the dramatic difference in her success between the two sports. "I started enjoying the success more, and if I wanted it to continue, I couldn't play tennis after high school," Riewald noted. "I got bit by the running bug after that." She had options for colleges, but NC State track and cross country coach Rol- lie Geiger made an immediate impression on her that years later she believes was validated. "I just felt like that was a coach and a school where I would enjoy what I'm do- ing," she recalled. "I'm going to be trained well, and I felt like he was looking out for me as a person first and a runner second. It was after meeting him that I was hooked, and then I visited the university and really liked it. "It was appealing that if I was going to be running year round, it would be better to run in a little better weather than Illinois offered." What happened when Riewald arrived at NC State is nothing short of remarkable. She had never run cross country in high school, but reached an understanding with Geiger that she would try it in her freshman year at NC State. "The commitment was if I really didn't like cross country, then I didn't have to run it anymore," she remembered. Turned out she liked it. "At the first invitational I went to, I did really well and just enjoyed it," Riewald said. "I was thinking, 'Why have I not done this before?'" Riewald didn't just enjoy running cross country, she excelled at it, winning the 1985 NCAA Cross Country Champion- ships as a true freshman. A key to her success was a strong mental approach that was rooted in high school and would be her calling later in life. "I just approached it as any other meet," she said. "No one was any better than me. Let me go run my race and not get caught up on who I'm running against and what have they done. "There were no expectations on me, so I could run a little freer." A confident Riewald did not fully ap- preciate her feat at the moment. It settled in a little bit when she was doing interviews after the meet, forcing her out of what she called her bubble for the first time. "As the years have passed, I appreciate it and am more in awe than at the time," she added. With the help of Geiger, Riewald never felt added pressure after winning the na- tional championship. She believed if she kept up her training she would continue to be successful. That became a challenge, though, when injuries started piling up for her. She spent much of her redshirt sophomore year doing workouts in the water and would run once a week, if that. Yet she still found a way to finish third at the 1987 NCAA Champion- ships. It was an accomplishment on the level of winning the title in her eyes. "Besides myself and some of my team- mates and my coach, I don't think anyone appreciated what I had to put in to stay at a high level, and really not being able to run," she noted. "That was probably my most satisfying and gratifying race." The injuries began to convince Riewald that running was not going to be a career for her, and academics, always a strong suit for her, became even more important. "She was a great student," Geiger once told "She could have gone to any university in the country." Ever since high school, Riewald had an interest in sports psychology. In college and later graduate school, she began to pursue that field of work. "I would not have been the runner I was if I didn't apply and integrate mental skills into my training, albeit haphazardly," she said. "I believe that made a difference for me as an athlete. "I was intrigued by it, and I loved sports. I wanted a career in sports, so this was a great fit." Geiger helped her pursue her educational passion in a manner that reminded her of why she picked NC State in the first place. Riewald (left) won the cross country national title as a freshman in 1985. Here she is honored with teammate Janet Smith (middle) by head coach Rollie Geiger. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS Suzie Tuffey Riewald Cross Country/Track & Field (1985-89) Age: 50 Living: Colorado Springs, Colo. Occupation: Sports psychologist Did you know? Since the NCAA formed a national championship for women's cross country in 1981, Riewald is one of two national champions at NC State — joining Betty Springs, who captured titles in 1981 and 1983. Riewald ran track and field in high school origi- nally to keep in shape for tennis. She did not run cross country until arriving at NC State, and she beame a two-time All-American. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS

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