DENVER — Track and field star Maya Ries has worked really hard at jumping over hurdles, but the Denver East High School alum’s road to the MSU Denver campus was anything but straight.
Division I scholarship offers disappeared after Ries tore her ACL twice in high school. She couldn’t even join the Division II team at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs because of her grades.
She then found herself in two unhealthy relationships, one of them abusive, which lead to Ries losing 20 pounds because she didn’t want to eat. There aren’t many places darker than that.
Six years passed and then: "During COVID, I think I realized I wanted to go back to school but I didn’t just want to go back to school," Ries said. "I also wanted to run track and so that’s how I’m here today."
So how scary is that for someone who’s ran track her whole life, who’s on the cusp of going to a Division I school and then all the sudden you just let go of that passion?
"It was very difficult for me," she said. "The injuries affected me a lot more than I realized at the time. So I think it was a lot of pressure on me with my ACL and not being treated well at UCCS, that I thought I didn’t wanna run track anymore. Like I felt going to practice was a burden on me."
On top of that pressure, she was dealing with an abusive relationship.
"Getting out of it was very hard for me but I decided to love myself and move forward with my life and not be in a situation that could definitely endanger my life," she explained.
Ries ended the relationship and from there, she learned how to deal with her pain.
"Now it’s not as bad as in the past, but like when I have my days when I’m down, I’m really down but I know how to control that now other than just going back to my bad habits like not eating or feeling like defeating myself," Ries said.
And now as a star hurdler with the Roadrunners, there’s no better feeling.
"Being around my friends and meeting all these new people, it definitely makes the whole environment a lot better," she said. "And it made me go back to who I was before everything happened. I’m so happy for that. All of my friends here, I wouldn’t say they’re teammates, they’re like my friends."
Ries, who is just a sophomore, has already broken the school’s indoor hurdling record eight times and has run the 15th fastest times in program history. The accolades are great, but head track and field coach Janis Christopher goes back to the bonds she’s made in downtown Denver.
"I just love seeing her with her friends," Christopher said. "They’re silly. They laugh, smile, and play around a lot. I think Maya initially came across as a very serious person but one of the things that I really love about her is her smile and her laugh. It’s infectious. Everyone around her is smiling and laughing whenever she’s with them."
Ries says the word she would pick to describe where she was in that dark space to where she is now in this happy space is 'determined.'
"I was determined to get out of the space that I was in and I was determined to do better for myself and just have a better life for me overall," she explained. "Whether it would have been me not running track or something like that. But I was determined to be a better person for me."
A first-place finish, for one really determined hurdler.
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Sports