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Sports Spotlight: Riverside-Martin’s Bickerstaff breaking records, changing her life through distance running

Running helps local athlete overcome anxiety
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 6:31 PM EDT
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WILLIAMSTON, N.C. (WITN) - Riverside-Martin has one of the state’s strongest distance runners. She is getting faster and faster throughout her career. We feature Briley Bickerstaff in this week’s Pepsi Sports Spotlight.

“The energy I feel when I’m running,” says Riverside-Martin distance runner Briley Bickerstaff, “I feel at peace.”

Riverside’s Briley Bickerstaff’s growth as a runner...

“Sometimes I’ll do 8-10 miles a day, some days I’ll do three,” says Briley, “really it’s usually 30-50 miles per week.”

... Since joining the school’s first ever middle school program...

“Here recently over the past two years I have seen that competitive come out,” says Riverside-Martin head coach Mark Cagle, “where she wants to go after somebody... Finally saw that where she won the 2 mile at the state championships in track last year.”

It’s almost as impressive...

“It kind of changed the way I look at challenges in real life,” says Briley.

...as how becoming that champion runner has helped her grow as a person.

“I had really bad anxiety attacks. I mean they were hard to overcome and they almost stopped me from doing all the things I do today,” says Briley, “Once I really started getting into running. Instantly I was able to control that anxiety into pushing myself on the course and channeling it into energy.”

Energy which has driven Briley to not only a state track title but this week to break her own school cross country record.

“You know I feel very blessed,” says Briley, “I never saw myself in this type of position before. Didn’t ever think that I could get to here.”

She has challenged herself to break 18 minutes this season.

“She’s the hardest working athlete I have ever coached,” says Cagle, “She’s also the most coachable kid that I have ever had too.”

A feat which would allow their program’s unique tradition to continue...

“Cool idea to actually break a record,” says Cagle, “So I went to the thrift shop near where I live and I bought about 20 of them.”

...with likely a state championship level time.

“When we break a record, we take it and we find like a fence post or something,” says Briley, “It’s so cool because you know you are actually breaking a record.”

Briley is going to push herself throughout the season and hopes to continue running in college.

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