Reilly fourth in USATF cross country regionals |

Reilly fourth in USATF cross country regionals

Tribune staff report

Eighth-graders in the Tahoe basin and Carson Valley, as well as Lake Tahoe Marathon 5K runners, already know Patrick Reilly isn’t a typical 13-year-old runner.

After his fourth-place regional performance last month in Fresno, the nation is about to find out about the talented South Tahoe Middle School eighth-grader.

Reilly overcame a slow start at the USATF Region XIV cross country championships to take fourth in the youth boys’ division (ages 13 and 14) at Woodward Park. His time for the 4-kilometer run was 15 minutes, 1 second.

“It was a lot slower than I normally start. I passed five runners the last 800 meters,” said Reilly, who didn’t lose a race during his middle school season and also was the youngest winner of the Lake Tahoe Marathon 5K in October.

Reilly nearly surged into third place but was forced to slow down when Matt Shee hemmed him in at the finishing chute. He made up a huge deficit in the final 400 meters to make for an exciting finish.

“He ran like a champ,” said John Rice, coach of Godspeed Wings, which includes Reilly.

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Reilly’s performance helped the Godspeed Wings qualify for the Dec. 13 national championships in Albuquerque. Teammates Chase Grant and Brendan Rice – both from South Lake Tahoe – also will be making the trip to a region known for its adobe architecture. Grant was 28th in 16:49 and Rice 36th in 18:14.

South Lake Tahoe’s Connor Yingling, running unattached, also qualified for the nationals for the first time by finishing 13th in the bantam boys’ class (ages 10 and under) Sunday. Yingling ran the 3K in 13:18, improving his time by more than a minute after taking seventh the week before at the Pacific Association meet at San Rafael Park.

Only the top 20 individuals and three teams advanced to nationals.

John Rice showed some hustle himself, putting the Wings together several weeks ago, only a couple hours before the regional-qualifying meet in Reno. The boys had gone to the meet thinking they were going to merge with the Silver State Striders and Sierra Flyers. But with uncertainty surrounding the number of runners the team needed, Rice decided to put the Wings together just before the race to ensure they would have a chance to move onto regionals.

To meet team regulations, Rice dashed around town, getting a team logo run off on a copy machine and purchasing T-shirts at Kmart. The logos were pinned to T-shirts for that meet and the boys clinched a spot in regionals after recruiting two unattached runners from Redding.

At regionals, the Wings had snappy new running gear and ran like it. They tied for second, knocking the Striders out of the national meet.

“It’s all about the kids,” Rice said. “It’s a great experience to be there with the nation’s best. What more could a kid want to be in than a theater like that?”

Three other local runners nearly qualified for nationals. Justin Dalton came in 23rd in the bantam boys’ class in 14:03, only 14 seconds from a trip to Albuquerque; Jordan Yingling was 25th in the midget boys division (12:50), 18 seconds from a qualifying time; and Jordan Dalton was 30th in the youth girls’ class (17:53), 48 seconds from advancing.

Justin Dalton was 1:39 faster than the previous meet, while Jordan Yingling clipped 57 seconds from his time.

Reilly will be making his second straight appearance at nationals, hoping to improve on his 104th-place showing last year.

“I feel pretty good about my chances because now I can start training a lot more,” said Reilly, who is also playing for the middle school’s basketball team.

The top 25 runners in each division earn All-American status. Reilly isn’t saying if that’s his ambition.

“That’s a tough goal,” he admitted.