Patrick Reilly's last competitive cross country race this Saturday, Nov. 18, will likely also be his most memorable run.
It'll come on college's grandest stage and will put a perfect cap on a four-year career that has seen him accomplish a feat that few before him within the program have ever achieved.
When Reilly, a 2014 graduate of Dallastown, steps on the cross country course at the University of Louisville, he'll be competing for the NCAA Division I national championship. He'll do so representing the Mountain Hawks as just the fourth male runner to reach the national championships in program history and the first since 2014.
"It's more than I definitely could've ever asked for," Reilly said about qualifying for the national championships. "Coming into the season, I thought that I maybe had an outside chance, but for it to come true, it's crazy."
Barely sneaking through: In the regional event held last Friday, Nov. 10, Reilly had a home course advantage.
With the Mid-Atlantic Regional being held at Lehigh University, Reilly knew all the intricacies of the course he was running. He said it helped to have fans and teammates from the track and field team there to help cheer on him and his other cross country teammates.
That support boosted him to a fifth-place finish out of 180 runners, with a time of 30 minutes, 39.4 seconds on the 10K course, a personal best. Reilly was the last person from the region to qualify for the national championships due to a complex system used to determine national qualifiers.
With teams also trying to qualify for the team national championships, the top two teams advanced. After that, the top four individual finishers not from a team that qualified for the team national championships advanced to the individual race. By virtue of Princeton taking first in the team competition and one of its runners finishing fourth overall, Reilly's fifth-place result was good enough to send him through. As a team, Lehigh finished ninth overall.
"Being one of the top four, not on a team (that qualifies), you have to at least finish in the top-10 in the region and it's a very competitive region," Reilly said. "So, you have to be on your game that day and have the best race of the season on that day and that's something that's very hard to do at this level."
Strong prep career: During his time at Dallastown, Reilly was one of the more accomplished runners to come from the area.
As a senior during the 2013 fall season, he won the York-Adams League meet and also the District 3 3-A individual competition with a time of 16:00. He also finished 11th in the state in the 3,200-meter run during the track season and was valedictorian for his class.
College career: Reilly has sustained both his academic and athletic excellence since going off to college.
In cross country, he's steadily improved his results over his four years, culminating in his qualifying for the national championships this weekend. Over the course of a week, Reilly said he runs up to 80 miles to train.
In the classroom, Reilly has maintained a 4.0 GPA, according to his father, Chris, making him an academic All-American. He's majoring in political science and plans on returning to Lehigh next year to earn his master's degree, before attending law school.
This Saturday's race won't be Reilly's final competitive run for Lehigh. He'll still compete in 10K runs during the indoor track season and spring outdoor season.
But, this weekend will cap his cross country career. While he will be competing against the nation's top runners, Reilly isn't going in with any major goals.
He's simply just happy to still be racing.
"I don't have any lofty expectations, or anything like that," Reilly said. "I'm just very happy to be there and get to represent my team on that level."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org