PEORIA – Downers Grove North senior Zack Smith might have considered it odd to be encouraged during a race by an opponent with whom he was running stride for stride.
Except that McHenry’s Jesse Reiser did something similar a year earlier at the same place.
With about three-quarters of a mile remaining in the boys Class 3A race at the IHSA Cross Country State Meet at Detweiller Park, Reiser urged Smith on with “Let’s get him.”
Although neither could catch O’Fallon’s Patrick Perrier, they got close. Then, they fought for second place, which Reiser took by one second over his racing friend. Perrier won in 14:21, with Reiser in 14:22 and Smith in 14:23.
“It was a great race overall, a great time battling Zack Smith and Patrick Perrier,” Reiser said. “Those guys are fun to race.”
Reiser edged Smith last year for seventh place in the Class 3A race. They became friends after that and talked during a visit to the University of Illinois on Oct. 19. Smith has committed to Illinois, Reiser, a junior, is just starting to make visits.
“We’re pretty good friends,” Smith said. “He said something today and I said, ‘Let’s go do it.’ He’s a great runner. I told him I really want him at U of I next year.”
Huntley’s Keagan Smith also took All-State honors in Class 3A with a 16th-place finish. In Class 2A, Crystal Lake Central’s Ryan Pitner took fifth and Woodstock’s Luke Beattie was 21st, both earning All-State status (top 25).
“It’s unbelievable,” said Reiser, who lost only twice all season. “It’s a blessing and an honor to take second. I had no idea at the beginning of the season because so many things can change. It’s kind of my way to pay back my coaches [Beth Czubik and assistant Jim Wheeler] for training me and helping me be the best I can.”
Pitner ran down Rock Island Alleman’s Zach Hird to grab fifth place with a furious kick in 14:59. Hird finished in 15:00. It was Pitner’s second All-State finish.
“Honestly, I didn’t think I was catching him until halfway through the straightaway,” said Pitner, whose team finished seventh. “It didn’t look like he had much left and I was gaining on him consistently, so I thought I better give it everything I got. It was the best race I’ve had, maybe not timewise or placewise, but effortwise. I don’t think I left anything out there.”
Keagan Smith, a sophomore, surpassed his goal of making All-State.
“Before today I thought if I had a great day I could break the top 25,” Smith said. “I was not thinking 16th place. I was hearing numbers thrown around during the race and eventually I heard 15th, so I wanted to stick with that. I told myself I had to get in there.”
Beattie, also a sophomore, heard the place numbers being yelled out by fans on the course.
“I came into the triangle [about halfway through] in 45th, so I knew I had it in me to be All-State,” Beattie said. “With one-half mile, it was 28th or so and I had a few people to catch.”