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.”
“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.”