Reilly leads Tahoe runners at junior nationals | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Reilly leads Tahoe runners at junior nationals

Tahoe Daily Tribune Staff Reports

By Steve Yingling

Tribune sports editor

BERNALILLO, N.M. – Hills were lacking, but there was a familiar amount of oxygen available to South Lake Tahoe’s five representatives in the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympics Cross Country Championships on Saturday.

Competing against 298 runners in his youth boys’ age group at the Lovelace Soccer Complex, located a mile above sea level near Albuquerque, South Tahoe Middle School eighth-grader Patrick Reilly led the Tahoe contingent by placing 88th.

“I ran OK,” said Reilly, who was 104th last year in the midget division. “Nationals is hard to run because there are so many people that you just don’t know when to go (for it).”

With the entire field spread out evenly at the starting line, the opening of the 4-kilometer race was an all-out sprint as runners jockeyed for position before the course drastically narrowed on the grass course.

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“It was a rush … like a stampede, it was amazing,” said first-time participant Chase Grant, an eighth-grader at STMS. “I’m not a very good hill runner and this course is pretty flat, so I liked that.”

Brendan Rice, also an eighth-grader at STMS, was making his second national appearance, but the crowded start is not something he’ll ever get used to.

“You see that you’re in front of your little pack and then you see the rest of the people coming, you group up and then you’re slammed. It throws off your pace a little bit, but then you just have to play catch-up a little bit,” Rice said.

Runners had few opportunities to pass after converging at the first turn. The remaining 2 miles required competitors to negotiate a variety of turns and dips before sprinting slightly uphill toward the finish line.

“Right when you tried to pass, everyone would cut you off or elbow you, but it still was a good race,” said Reilly, who finished fourth in the Region XIV meet in November.

Connor Yingling, running unattached, nearly cracked the top 100 in his first taste of the national meet. The Meyers Elementary School fifth-grader placed 105th out of 229 runners in the bantam boys’ division.

“I wanted to finish in the top 100 in the country,” Yingling said.

Yingling started quickly and sprinted to the finish, passing several runners, but the 10-year-old found the middle of the course difficult to make any kind of move. He finished the 3K race in 13:56.30. Shaine Kirtright of the Mercury Track Club won the race in 11:21.40.

Reilly (16:10:10), Brian Walker (212th, 17:28.10), Grant (269th, 18:17.80) and Rice (289th, 19:41.60) helped the Godspeed Wings finish 20th in the youth boys’ team standings.

“All of the kids represented us well,” John Rice. “They’re here with the best in the world and it doesn’t get any better than this while it’s snowing in Tahoe.”

Matthew Frerker of Issaquah Park was the winner of the youth boys’ division at 14:15.00.

Coach Rice said nationals are a eye-opening experience for many runners.

“There are some good runners out there. You start thinking as a kid, hey, no one can beat me, I’m always in the front of the pack,” coach Rice said.

A half hour after the conclusion of his race, Reilly was already thinking about next year.

“I want to get another shot at it if I can,” Reilly said.