Empowering Athletes for a Life Without Limits

At first glance, Ria Gill might seem to fit the mold of a typical hard-working student-athlete. Studying kinesiology at the University of British Columbia (UBC), she juggles a packed schedule with running training, studying, and preparing for an eventual grad transfer. She's set impressive personal bests in the past year in the 5k and 10k, at 18:36 on the track and 39:15 on the road, respectively. Most recently, Ria dropped nearly a minute off her road 5k, running the Vancouver St. Patrick's Day 5k in 17:29.

Ria will have ample options to continue competing in graduate school, whether in Canada or joining the NCAA system. As she wraps up her fourth year and heads into her fifth and final go at UBC, she kindly took the time to reflect on her journey up to this point.

Ria turned to running, like many North Americans, as a way to maintain fitness during the early days of the pandemic. Although she had previously joined her high school track and field and cross country teams, she only ran once or twice a week, spending more time at hockey practices. With the stress of stay-at-home orders and limited options for gyms, however, she found herself enjoying running more and more. By 2022, she was actively participating in UBC's triathlon club, a decision partially driven by the school's lack of a running club option. The community drew her in and soon Ria was competing at all manner of events and distances.

In March 2022, she completed her first triathlon, following it up with her first marathon in May of the same year. She said, "Having a goal of the marathon, that seemed really out of reach at the time, kept me motivated." Running a swift debut time of 3:30, Ria found herself two seconds over the mark for hitting a Boston marathon qualifying time (BQ), which she called "a little heartbreaking." Ria then recognized that working on her foot speed could likely improve her overall running performances. Since her near miss at a BQ, she's gradually ratcheted down her times for all distances from the 3k up to the 10k.

After improving her road 5k to 19:34 and her track 5000m to 18:36 in the spring of 2023, Ria also accomplished her goal of going under 40 minutes on the well-known Vancouver Sun Run course. At this point, she created her Streamline Athletes profile, which she says has been very helpful at getting a better idea of options for the future. She said, "As I kept doing races, I kept adding my race results and started seeing some interest in being recruited to different schools."

Ria competing in the Vancouver Sun Run 10K
Ria competing in the (not so sunny) Vancouver Sun Run 10K

Ria has experimented with her training as well, at one point working with a running specific coach to maximize her abilities and dial in specific paces for easy runs and workouts. However, due to some injury issues, she returned to triathlon training, with the balance of biking and swimming helping her to stay healthy. Perhaps she's on to something here–Parker Valby, multiple-time NCAA champion and record-setter, is famous for her aggressive cross-training routine and relatively low mileage. Overall, Ria credits her rapid improvement to consistent overall aerobic training.

Ria keeps the variety going in competition as well as training: in September, she raced the grueling Gran Fondo bike race, a 122-kilometer route from Vancouver to Whistler. She also completed a duathlon in August, consisting of a 5k run, followed by a 40k bike and another 10k run, earning qualification to represent Team Canada this summer at the World Triathlon Age-Group Multisport Championships in Australia.

Ria Gill competing during the Vancouver Turkey Trot where she achieved a time of 37:38, placing her 5th all-time for the event.
Ria Gill competing during the Vancouver Turkey Trot where she achieved a time of 37:38, placing her 5th all-time for the event.

While she's seen success across multiple disciplines, Ria loves running the most and sees her triathlon training as a means to improving on the track and cross country course. This past fall, she joined another running group in Vancouver including more students around her age, a refreshing change both socially and athletically. For the first time, she began competing in cross country at the collegiate level as well, a discipline she's enjoyed. Impressively, she has run the 6k, 8k, and 10k cross country–if she chooses the NCAA route, she's gone the distance and much more!

For Ria, Streamline has helped her gain a better understanding of options available after she completes her undergraduate degree in kinesiology (with a minor in psychology). She hopes to translate this knowledge into one day becoming a sports psychologist to help fill gaps she's noticed at universities. She said, "There's a lot of support for the physical aspect, but not as much for the mental."

After this year, she plans to apply to psychology graduate programs with the intent of starting in the fall of 2025 and using her eligibility there. With a strong background in cross country, track, road running, and a passion for self-improvement, the future certainly looks promising.

Does Ria’s journey sound similar to yours?

Unlike the majority of collegiate student-athletes - in track and field, cross country, and other sports - Ria was not recruited out of high school. Instead, she prioritized her academics and took up running at a high level while attending university.

Not every journey to collegiate athletics is the same; some student-athletes are recruited directly out of their senior year in high school, others are walk-on undergraduate students, some attend community college (and compete in associations like the NJCAA) before transferring with improved grades and personal best athletic performances, and some - like Ria - even find opportunities to elevate their training and competition as graduate students.

If you’re in a unique position when it comes to carving your path in sport and academia and aren’t sure what your options are, Streamline Athletes offers one-on-one advising. You’ll meet with a track and field/cross country recruitment expert and receive a personalized recruitment plan that includes schools to contact that meet your academic, athletic, budgetary, and geographic goals for recruitment. Book your advisory session here!


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