Jesse Reiser experienced moments of self-doubt leading up to the biggest race of his life.
The McHenry junior realized he was probably at the top of everyone else’s list as the runner to beat in the Class 3A 3,200 meters at the boys track and field state meet, but Reiser took nothing for granted.
“I trained to be able to win, but I didn’t think all the way through I was actually going to [win],” Reiser said. “It was pretty surreal.”
That little bit of question helped spur Reiser on to the first boys state track championship in school history, as he finished the 3,200 in 9:03.60, comfortably ahead of O’Fallon’s Patrick Perrier (9:07.10). Reiser returned to take seventh place in the 1,600 (4:13.05) and win another medal.
For his distance dominance, both locally and on the state level, Reiser is the Northwest Herald Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year, selected by the sports staff with input from local coaches. Reiser’s outstanding season left no doubt.
Warriors coach Dennis Hutchinson considers Reiser a pleasure to be around in every way.
“If you never watched him run, you wouldn’t know [he’s a champion],” Hutchinson said. “He doesn’t even act like it. He doesn’t seek out attention. He’s the first one to practice, last one to leave. He’s a definite leader by example for sure. It’s always good to have that on a team.”
Reiser finished second in the Class 3A Cross Country State Meet, one second behind Perrier, then ran another month at Nike and Foot Locker regional and national races. Early in the season, he was invited to the Arcadia (California) Invitational, a prestigious meet which draws many of the nation’s top runners, and ran his career-best 8:54.31 in the 3,200.
On his way to the state title, Reiser set McHenry County Meet records in the 3,200 (9:08.49) and 1,600 (4:14.92), then also broke the Fox Valley Conference Meet record in the 3,200 (9:02.41) and came up four-tenths short of the 1,600 record with a 4:18.84.
“It was definitely a memorable season,” Reiser said. “Being the first boys state champion in McHenry history is a pretty incredible feeling.”
Reiser and Perrier hung in the top group, patiently, as other runners took turns leading in the Class 3A 3,200. On the final lap, Perrier took off and Reiser went with him. Reiser passed Perrier with 250 and was not challenged after that.
“I was thinking about when Patrick was going to go,” Reiser said. “It was pretty much all guts from there. I wanted to give it all for my school and be able to win a state championship.”
Reiser wanted to double in the 1,600, but Perrier won that title and Reiser was seventh.
Reiser is not running any big meets this summer, choosing instead to concentrate on training. He also has NCAA Division I coaches preparing for home visits in July as the recruitment process intensifies.
“I definitely want to go out with the best season I’ve had yet,” Reiser said of his senior year. “I always want to improve. We have big team goals. I definitely want to run in some national meets again and be a contender for a state title.”
Hutchinson feels those are all realistic goals.
“I was telling [distance] coach [Jim] Wheeler, he’s the kind of kid you get to coach once in a lifetime,” Hutchinson said. “What’s he capable of? I don’t even know.”