Reading And Stewart Shine At Footlocker Nationals

Niwot's Ares Reading capped his high school cross country career with a 19th place finish at Footlocker Nationals.

You wake up in Phoenix, Ariz., Kenosha, Wis., Portland, Ore., San Diego, Cali. Pacific, mountain, central. Lose an hour, gain an hour... 

It's been a busy month for Niwot's Ares Reading and Cherry Creek's Riley Stewart.

The two completed the rigorous schedule of enduring two qualifying races - NXR - Southwest one week, Footlocker Midwest the next, then competing in two national meets - NXN (the week following Footlocker Midwest), then Footlocker Nationals. 

The senior and the freshman were the lone two runners from the Centennial state to compete in the 40th edition of the Foot Locker National Championships in sunny San Diego, Cali. Saturday.

"It's been really tough mentally," Reading admitted. "I just tried to focus on recovery and stick to a familiar training plan."

Reading capped a stellar season and high school cross country career with a 19th place finish, running 16:00. 

A Homecoming For Reading

The race was somewhat of a homecoming for Reading, who competed for Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego his freshmen and sophomore years before moving to Niwot. 

"It was very special to cap my season here," Reading explained. "I had friends and family all come out to watch."

Among the many impressive features of his season was his 14:52 personal best from Desert Twilight, particularly when you take into consideration that his best time entering the season was 15:46 (Additionally, Reading ran 15:48 at Desert Twilight as a junior), and he went from 11th in the state his junior year, to the runner-spot this year. His improvement from his junior year to his senior year was mind-boggling. 

"I definitely shocked myself this season," Reading shared. "I surpassed all my times goals halfway through the season, it's been a wild ride."

While Reading was running the final race of his final season as a high school cross country runner, Stewart was running the the final race of her freshman season.

Cherry Creek freshman Riley Stewart capped her first high school season with a 21st place finish at Footlocker Nationals.

A Rising Star

Temperatures flared into the mid 70s by the race start of the girl's race, though that didn't slow down Stewart any. The Cherry Creek freshman was just one of three freshmen to qualify for Footlocker Nationals, and she finished finished 21st overall in 18:14.

Stewart's rise to the national stage was quick, and came with appeared ease. The freshman entered the season with modest PRs of 5:02 in the 1,500, 11:09 in the 3,000, and a 14:16 in the 4,000, but capped her season well beyond what she imagined. 

"It's wasn't really the goal (to qualify for NXN and Footlocker Nationals)," Riley admitted. "I was just trying to see how fast I could run. It was shocking to qualify for both."

Unlocking Her Potential

It's been a long, long season for the freshman, though perhaps one of the more impressive feats, among her many, was the fact that she broke 19 minutes in all 12 races this season. Stewart's consistency proved to be nearly unrivaled in Colorado. Her slowest 5k was her first, which was an 18:54 win at the Cherry Creek Steve Lohman Invitational, and her fastest was a jaw-dropping 17:18 PR at NXR - Southwest.

"I try to run as hard as I can," Stewart shared. "And just have fun it."

While the method has proved to work for Stewart, she's quick to admit there's still a lot to learn.

"In these big races getting out fast is very important," she said. "You have to run your own race. At the end of the season, I feel that I'm just now unlocking my potential."