The cross-country season officially began about two months ago.
But for runners like Marcus Reilly, it’s just getting started.
Competing in his final season before heading off to Michigan in the fall to run for the Division 1 Wolverines, the Northbridge senior has high hopes for the fall campaign, which includes striking it rich at the Division 3B Championships on Nov. 11 and the Meet of Champions the following week. The postseason is also on his mind.
“I’d like to qualify for a national meet my last cross-country season,” he said. “Out of the two national meets, Nike (Cross Nationals) and Foot Locker (Nationals), it will probably be Foot Locker. At the end of the season, we’ll see how my fitness is.”
This past Monday, Reilly captured the individual title at the SWCL Championships where he clocked 15 minutes, 52 seconds in the five-kilometer course at Old Sturbridge Village. It was his first “all-out” effort of the season.
“I have been running dual meets, but up to this point, the races have been pretty easy,” he said. “I recently ran 12:39 for 4K on our Northbridge course. It wasn’t a full-out effort. It was a little bit of a tune-up for this race.”
Reilly came into the cross-country season after a very successful, and long, track season, one that extended until early August where he represented Team USA at the Pan Am U20 Championships in Puerto Rico (Aug. 4-6). He qualified for the meet with a fourth-place finish in the 1,500-meter run at the USATF U20 Championships a month earlier with a time of 3:51.10. He ran 3:53.86 at Pan Am to take fifth in his heat.
Reilly likes where he is right now. With his track season essentially ending just a month before the first official day of practice for cross country, he held back from racing hard at the start.
“Especially seeing how I had a longer track season,” he said. “I was a little tired after that. I don’t want to rush things too quick. Right after cross country I have indoor. I am kind of taking it slower. My training has been injury-free. Last year, something popped up early on. I’ve had pretty consistent training, about 50 miles a week. Nothing crazy, just getting a lot of strength work, tempos and thresholds.”
Reilly ran a best of 4:06.12 for the mile and 1:50.0 for the 800m last year, the former earning him bronze at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor Championship. He admits that the oval is his speciality, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t take the up-and-down terrain seriously.
While he does use it as a strong base for the track season, the mindset when the gun is fired remains the same, regardless of the surface under his racing shoes.
“Anytime I’m toeing the line and racing, I always have a competitive edge,” he said. “It’s not like during the cross-country season I am looking at it as, ‘How is this going to get me ready for indoors?’ I just want to win races and compete well and run fast. I know I am not as strong as other people in cross. I recognize that. Being able to use (the season) at the same time to build up for track is a plus and being able to train and compete is plus, for sure.”
In 2022, Reilly won the Division 3A Championship in mid November where he was more than a minute ahead of the second-place finisher with a time of 16:11.90 at West Bridgewater. He followed that effort by taking runner-up honors to Uxbridge’s Aidan Ross at the Meet of Champions. Ross, now a freshman at Wake Forest University, crossed the line in 15:05.45. Reiily clocked 15:40.37 for his placement.
Reilly is hoping to make it a clean sweep this fall with victories at both meets. Northbridge will be competing in Div. 3B this season where he’s a heavy favorite. At the MOC, he’ll face the likes of Greater Lowell Tech’s Devan Moreau and Parker Charter’s Henry Jacobsen. Moreau, who has a best of 15:04 from the Bob Glennon Twilight Invitational a few weeks ago, has been red-hot this fall. In addition to Twilight, he’s had victories at the Frank Kelley Invitational and Bay State Invitational, both races with times in the mid 15-minute range. Jacobsen ran a best of 15:33.37 at the Twilight Invite.
“For me, cross country is about winning and all that,” Reilly said. “I just want to be competitive with the best guys in the state and put in my best effort. Whatever that brings me, I think I’m going to be proud of the season I had. It will also be a good building block for the track season.”
If everything goes as planned with his trainings and racing, Reilly is also eyeing the Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego. This year the FL Northeast Regionals will be held right in his own backyard at Franklin Park in Boston. A top 10 finish there will punch his ticket out west.
Looking further ahead, once Reilly hits the track he wouldn’t mind making a little history by becoming a sub four-minute miler. As a sophomore, Reilly clocked his all-time best of 3:45.30 for the 1,500m at meet No. 3 of the Battle Roads Track Club Twilight Series. He also ran 3:48.32 en route to his 4:06 at NBNO in June.
“I think that would be a reasonable goal for me to break four minutes,” he said.”I have run 3:45 (for 1,500m). I think if I just put in a really good cross-country season and have a great indoor season, hopefully by outdoor I’ll be in shape to do it. I am not going to go around and try and get that time across the country. I want to be prepared for college and don’t want to be racing too much before it. If the time comes, and I think I can break four (minutes), I’d love to do that. It’s not a thing where I need to break four (minutes). I just want to get faster. I think 3:45 is pretty close to there. If it comes, it comes.”