Edison High boys’ track and field coach Derek Harrison first saw Ryan Rivituso as an eighth-grader.
The Chargers were hosting a middle school track meet. Rivituso, a kid from Sowers Middle School, was winning everything he entered.
Harrison walked over and asked Rivituso what his plans were for the fall. The promising young runner answered that he would play football.
“Then I said, ‘What about the spring?’ He said, ‘I’m going to play baseball,’ ” Harrison recalled. “I said, ‘OK,’ so he just kind of went off of my radar.”
The following year, Harrison did not approach Rivituso, but he still remained in plain sight. He went to the freshman football games, and there was Rivituso, standing out because of his speed.
Rivituso saw limited action on the varsity football team as a sophomore. He made two catches, both of which went for long touchdowns against San Juan Hills.
In a regular-season game against the Stallions on Sept. 7, he had a 49-yard touchdown in a 33-14 win for the Chargers. When the teams met again in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs, Rivituso pulled in a 29-yard touchdown in a 22-15 loss on Nov. 2.
The assumption was that Rivituso would head back out to the baseball diamond in the spring. Harrison was surprised when he received a call from Rivituso’s father, Anthony, saying that his son wanted to run track.
Track had won out with Rivituso, who felt that the sport was a better complement to his interest in football. Furthermore, he would be reunited with good friends Jack de Bos and Jeff Hass.
“The two sophomores that are running with me on the relay team, we also ran track together in middle school,” Rivituso said. “We were all on the same relay team all throughout middle school.
“We all hoped to run together in high school again, but I took one year off to play baseball, and they were still running track. We all wanted to run together this year.”
Harrison believes that continuity is a key for any successful relay team. The Chargers hope to have that for years to come with three sophomores on both of their relay teams.
While he brings his athletes along slowly, Harrison finally had the opportunity to see Rivituso’s potential put on display in the Surf League finals on April 26 at Los Alamitos High.
Rivituso won the 200 meters (22.20 seconds) and the 400 (49.06). The Chargers’ 400 relay team of Cameron Williams, Rivituso, Hass and de Bos finished first (42.98). So did the quartet of Connor Schwarz, Hass, de Bos and Rivituso in the 1,600 relay (3:25.25).
“It’s hard when the times aren’t always there, but I know that Coach Harrison knows what he is talking about,” Rivituso said of Harrison’s methodical approach to training. “So far this season, everything he’s said has been spot on. My times have been improving a lot now toward the end of the season. I’m feeling really good about these next few races. I think I feel like I’m at my best right now. I believe in his philosophies.
“I just listen to him and do what he says, and it’s all paying off.”
Going into the CIF Southern Section preliminaries, Rivituso stated that his goal was to lower his times. In particular, he wanted to run a sub-49-second time in the 400 before the season was over.
In the Division 2 preliminaries at Moorpark High on Saturday, Rivituso did just that, qualifying first in the 400 with a time of 48.86 seconds. He will be one of the favorites in the Division 2 finals race at El Camino College on May 11.
In addition, he lowered in his lifetime-best time in the 200 to 22.12 seconds (tailwind of 2.7 meters per second), placing fifth overall.
Rivituso dropped his 400 time by more than a second at league finals. It followed his win in the frosh-soph meet of the Orange County Championships (50.10) on April 13.
The season is not over, but Harrison was asked to project what his first-year sprinter might be able to do in the 400 if he sticks with it.
“His growth this year was astronomical,” Harrison said. “When you’re running fast, then you still improve a whole second in one week, that’s very, very impressive. I think with the strength training, getting obviously a lot stronger, I could see him in the low 47s or the high 46s, but that’s if there are no issues with injuries or anything like that.”
Although he did not run for Edison until his sophomore year, Rivituso got an early introduction to the sport. Both of his parents competed in track and field in high school, and at the age of 12, he was entered into his first track meet.
He ran the 40-meter dash, the 55, the 300, the 800 and the 1,600 in an all-comers meet at Mission Viejo High. The competitive Rivituso says that it was that day that he fell in love with the sport.
“It was the first meet that I ever ran, and it was a pretty long day,” Rivituso said. “More events than I run now. I had a lot of fun doing it, and that was when I knew I loved running track and just wanted to keep doing it.”
Born: Jan. 3, 2003
Hometown: Huntington Beach
Height: 6 feet 1
Weight: 160 pounds
Sport: Track and field
Coach: Derek Harrison
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite movie: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”
Favorite athletic moment: At the age of 12, he competed in track for the first time in the Mission Viejo High School All-Comers Meet. He won his section in the 40-meter dash, the 55 and the 300. He also competed in the 800 and the 1,600.
Week in review: The sophomore sprinter won four events in the Surf League finals on April 26. Individually, he won the 200 (22.20) and the 400 (49.06). He also ran on the Chargers’ victorious 400 and 1,600 relay teams.
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