McHenry’s Jesse Reiser, Palatine’s Kelly O’Brien top the crop

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McHenry’s Jesse Reiser and Palatine’s Kelly O’Brien got do-overs on Saturday and didn’t waste the opportunity.

Reiser held off Yorkville’s Hoffert brothers to win the boys race at Saturday’s Palatine Invitational at Deer Grove East Forest Preserve in Palatine, while O’Brien used her knowledge of her home course to good advantage in surviving a strong challenge from New Trier’s Mimi Smith in the girls race.

Reiser covered the flat, three-mile course in 14 minutes, 38.7 seconds, with Jake Hoffert (14:40.1) second and Luke Hoffert (14:43.4) third.

“Last year I got outkicked by Alex [Bashqawi] from York,” said Reiser, who was second in this meet in 2013. “So I really wanted to run the first two miles conservative.

“I made a couple surges here and there just to keep them on their toes. At the two-mile, I made a little surge and they caught back up. About 800 meters to go, I went and they were on me the whole time.”

But there was no catching Reiser this year, which should have him in a better mindset going into October.

“It’s definitely a huge confidence booster,” Reiser said. “Last year, I took second and it really hurt my confidence a lot. I wanted to come in here thinking I could contend and win.”

Saint Louis University High won a tightly bunched team race, 172-177 over Loyola, which is ranked sixth in Class 3A by DyeStatIl.com. Also in the hunt were 3A No. 5 New Trier (182, third), Class 2A No. 1 Yorkville (188, fourth on the sixth-man tiebreaker), Kentucky power St. Xavier (188, fifth) and 3A No. 12 St. Ignatius (192, sixth).

Hersey’s David Rodriguez (14:49.8) and Palatine’s Graham Brown (14:54.6) rounded out the top five individuals. O’Brien ran 17:22.3 to take first in the girls race, just three-tenths of a second ahead of Smith with small-school standout Dana Galloway of Gardner-South Wilmington (17:26.4) in third.

There were some nervous moments for O’Brien, who was still trying to erase the memory of a fourth-place finish at the Hornet-Red Devil Invitational three weeks ago.

“I think I corrected what I did in Hinsdale by going with the girls, not letting them get far [ahead],” O’Brien said.

“The first part was like settling in. I wasn’t sure how the pace was going to go. … There [were] a lot of times I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. Wow, this is intense.’”

One of those times was down the stretch, when Smith shifted into overdrive.

“That finish was incredible,” O’Brien said. “Holy cow, I was not expecting her to come up.”

It didn’t hurt that O’Brien was able to make all the right moves out on the prairie at Deer Grove. “The turns, we know the different places [to gain an advantage] and some girls didn’t,” she said.

O’Brien’s individual win helped Class 3A No. 5 Palatine beat 2A top-ranked Yorkville 72-90 for the team title. Class 3A No. 4 New Trier (101) was next, followed by Centerville, Ohio (120) and Assumption, Kentucky (142).

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