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Taking On The Best Riverbank's Reyes Ready For Fresno
At first glance, the 17 minute, 28 second run by Riverbank High senior Alex Reyes doesn't seem overly impressive from this year's five kilometer Sac-Joaquin Section championships at Willow Hill in Folsom.

But under closer scrutiny, Reyes' sixth place overall finish and California Interscholastic Federation qualification was nothing short of heroic.

Reyes didn't find out until last week that he had spent over a month training and competing with a sinus infection.

It limited his normal practice routine and forced him to take deeper breaths and struggle past coughs and congestion in the biggest race of his career - where he still qualified for state.

"Part of the nature of these guys is they will push themselves to their limit, and that's just part of being a distance runner," Riverbank coach Bruce Edwards said. "For him to be able to qualify and not use the illness as an excuse is a credit to him.

"I think it's very impressive what Alex had accomplished in two years here."

Reyes will join the top five individuals from each section and runners from each qualifying team at Woodward Park in Fresno on Saturday.

He started a five-day medication plan to kick the infection on Thursday, and hopes the combination of rest, medicine and a basic knowledge of the course will propel him to a fast time among a field of California's top harriers.

"My priority is just getting healthy for now, but to (set a personal record) and get into the top 40 would be great," Reyes said. "I beat some of the guys that I lost to at Folsom when I wasn't sick, so if I can keep pace with them I should be up there."

Reyes is familiar with the course after traveling with teammates to watch last year's CIF championships at the same location. He knows the course to be mostly flat with one large hill and a loping short hill straightaway. According to Edwards, it's the type of course that should play in to Reyes' strengths.

"It should be a good course for him if he is feeling okay," Edwards said. "We are hoping for a personal best, and if he does that he should be a top-40 runner."

It's impressive that Reyes has picked up distance running so smoothly since his inauguration into the world of running as a sophomore sprinter on the track and field program. It was then that coaches took notice of his endurance and convinced him to join elite runner German Fernandez, who ultimately sped to an overall state championship title in 2007.

It's tough for any runner to follow in the footsteps of Fernandez, but Reyes has the potential to reach similar heights after just two seasons in the sport. He set the top marks of his career this year with a 16:40 at Legion Park in Modesto and a 16:47 at Frog Town in Angels Camp.

"Alex has talent and he has guts," Edwards said. "If he trains well he can run in college and be a successful college runner."

Edwards will bring Reyes' teammates along for the trip to Fresno, where his family and friends will also be waiting to cheer on the lone Bruin representative as he takes on the top Division IV runners in the state.

It's a nice support group for the second-year runner.

"A lot of seniors don't get the chance to say they made it to state for their school, so it's pretty exciting to be in this situation," Reyes said. "It really helps to have people at school encouraging me, and everyone has been really supportive."