About 20 minutes before Jordan Reilly was to compete in the biggest race of his life, he threw up.
The St. Helena senior thought maybe it was from nerves or something he had eaten in the hours leading up to the CIF State Cross Country Championships on Saturday that caused it, but wasn't entirely sure. But he was sure of one thing: he felt a whole lot better after he did.
Reilly quickly recovered to finish 58th out of 202 runners in the boys Division 5 race at Woodward Park in Fresno, running the 5K course in 17 minutes, 2.8 seconds. While his performance didn’t earn him a podium spot or a medal, Reilly felt accomplished just to have reached that point, the furthest he had gone in his prep career.
“It really meant a lot to me,” Reilly said on Monday. “I kind of wasn’t sure what to think. I had some difficulty processing it at first, then it was like, ‘Man, I made it.’ It was definitely a new experience, a great accomplishment for me. It felt really good.”
Reilly qualified for the state meet with teammate Harper McClain, who went on to win the girls Division 5 state title by 44.9 seconds. Reilly was the first St. Helena boy to qualify for the cross country state meet since Brian Cole in 2006, and this season was the first time that two Saints qualified for the meet.
As far as his race on Saturday, Reilly went in simply wanting to finish in the top 90, but got a bit lost in the mass of runners as the race progressed and turned his mind to just finishing as well as he could.
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“It was definitely one of the hardest races I’ve done just because it was so many people running at once and it was such a rush,” he said. “I definitely had to keep going even though I didn’t feel that great. I think my placing was alright.”
While it wasn’t his best 5K time ever he said “just getting there was the most important thing for me.”
Reilly punched his ticket to state with his eighth-place finish at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions on Nov. 23.
“That was a really big race for me,” he said. “My coaches had been telling me that I was able to qualify for state and I could it if I ran properly. I had a strategy for that race and it worked.”
His approach was to go at his own his pace and then “reel in the herd” with a strong finish. He crossed the finish line of the three-mile course at Hayward High School in 15:55.7, figuring he had probably qualified but not officially finding out until all the times had come in.
While Reilly’s prep career has now come to a close, he’s determined to continue running at the next level, likely at a junior college first in hopes of improving and someday transferring to a four-year university.