McHenry junior Jesse Reiser takes pride in knowing about every aspect of running.
That can lie in the details of a workout or in studying his competition for an upcoming race.
“He’s always congratulating others and he knows how they did the previous week,” Warriors cross country coach Beth Czubik said. “He’s always very respectful of his competition.”
That includes during races.
As Reiser and Downers Grove North’s Zack Smith chased O’Fallon’s Patrick Perrier in the Class 3A Cross Country State Meet on Nov. 9, Reiser encouraged Smith, with whom he had become friends, saying, “Let’s get him.”
Perrier held them off for first place, but Reiser was second by only one second, with Smith one second behind him. Reiser, who proved himself a consummate competitor and a great sport, is the Northwest Herald Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, selected by the sports staff with input from local coaches.
Reiser’s only two losses of the season were by a total of three seconds. His state runner-up finish was the highest in McHenry boys’ history.
“It was a very humbling experience,” said Reiser, who finished seventh as a sophomore. “I’m honored to have my coaches (Czubik and assistant Jim Wheeler), who helped me through the whole season, and I’m very pleased with the outcome. Illinois’ a very tough distance state, it’s hard to go undefeated through the whole season, but I have next year.”
Most of Reiser’s meets were not close, so maybe he just enjoyed the competition when he invited Smith to chase Perrier. Reiser says he got the idea from former Belvidere North runner Tyler Yunk, who now runs at Kansas, in track last spring.
While Yunk and Reiser battled in the 3,200 meters in the Class 3A Huntley Track and Field Sectional, Yunk urged Reiser along.
“I said, ‘How can you guys run and talk at the same time?’ ” Czubik said. “Everyone is so supportive of each other in running, they all understand what you put your body through, months and months at a time.”
Reiser’s only other loss than the state final came in the Palatine Invitational, where York’s Alex Bashqawi edged him out by 1.8 seconds. It was a learning experience Reiser applied the rest of the season about holding back just a bit.
Reiser recently took second in the Nike Cross Country Midwest Regional in Terre Haute, Ind., to qualify for the Nike National Championships on Dec. 7 in Portland, Ore. He will compete in the Foot Locker Midwest Regional Meet on Saturday at Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha, Wis., where a top-10 finish will send him to the national championships Dec. 14 in San Diego.
Reiser got to meet Jacobs graduate Evan Jager in Terre Haute and will see him again in Portland, where Jager lives and runs professionally for Nike. After his running season is finished, Reiser can direct his attention toward schools. He has visited Illinois and plans on visiting Ohio State this winter.
“He had a phenomenal season,” Czubik said. “He’s very competitive and went out each race and said, ‘This is what I want to do,’ and he did it. I’m very pleased and excited about how he finished at state. And he was very proud.”