Aragon junior Blaine Reynolds made enormous strides this season.

As a sophomore in 2018, Reynolds enjoyed a noteworthy though unremarkable varsity cross-country debut. Of the Peninsula Athletic League’s three regular-season meet, he enjoyed his best finish of any individual race all year, taking third place.

This season was a different story, however, as all Reynolds did was — How does the song go? — win, win, win, no matter what.

“This particular year was a major jump for him,” Aragon head coach Frank Hunt said.

A junior with the Aragon boys’ cross-country team, Reynolds improved his pace by 13 seconds per mile from 5 minutes, 29 seconds to an average of 5:16. The spike, he said, was largely a result of running competitively year-round for the first time in his life.

Reynolds also enjoyed a major jump competitively. After a sophomore season in which he took fourth place at the Peninsula Athletic League cross-country championships, he emerged Nov. 9 as the 2019 PAL boys’ champion, racing to a dramatic finish at the Crystal Springs Cross-Country Course for a time of 15:39, picking off Carlmont sophomore Aidan Dimick at the finish line by one second.

“Winning the PAL championship and the close finish was definitely the highlight,” Reynolds said.

Now, on the heels of capping one of the best seasons in the history of Aragon cross-country, Reynolds has been named the Daily Journal Boys’ Cross-Country Runner of the Year.

What a dominant year it was. Of the PAL’s three regular-season races, Reynolds won two of them, including a primer for his rivalry with Dimick. When the two went head-to-head at PAL No. 1 on Sept. 17, Reynolds topped Dimick by a fraction of a second.

Then came the PAL championships when Reynolds proved to be quite the comeback kid.

“I really do like running away from the competition but that doesn’t happen very often because there’s always someone there who competes,” Reynolds said. “But I do like winning close finishes because I’m very competitive and I like being able to run with whoever I can through the last stages of the race.”

Reynolds is accustomed to running out front. He could only recall one other high school race he overcame the leader down the stretch, and that came last track-and-field season in the 3,200 meter race in a dual meet with Sequoia. He ran down the win through the last 200 meters in that race.

Finishing is what Reynolds does best, according to Hunt. And while he trailed Dimick for a majority of the PAL championship race — not to be confused with drafting his opponent, as he actually had to make up quite a bit of ground during the last mile — Reynolds caught his Carlmont rival at the finish line and out-legged him by a step.

“And that’s probably one of his best traits is just his finish,” Hunt said. “And there’s no better race to show that than when he won by a step at the PAL championships.”

With his long, relaxed strides, Reynolds has run into rare company in the scope of Aragon history. The junior’s ninth-place finish in the Central Coast Section Division II championship qualified him for the CIF state meet for the second straight year. He now has a chance to become just the third boys’ runner in program history to do so, joining Rory Beyer (class of 2014) and Ryan McAuliffe (class of 2017) who did so four times.

The nuts and bolts of Reynolds’ junior season had all the makings of a breakout postseason. He ran of six different courses during the year. He recorded personal records on five of them: Golden Gate Park, Half Moon Bay, Woodward Park in Fresno, Bedwell Park in Mountain View and, finally Crystal Springs, where he competed four times and bested his PR in three of those races.

“Every course he’s run so far, he’s PR’d on,” Hunt said.

That includes Woodward Park at the CIF Division II state championship meet, where he placed 62nd with a time of 16:02.4. Among CCS runners, though, he had the fifth best time in the heat.

“I was pleased with my performance,” Reynolds said. “I did much better than I did last year and I felt like I ran a good race.”

A baseball enthusiast growing up, Reynolds started running cross-country competitively in sixth-grade at Borel Middle School. When he arrived at Aragon, he started taking running more seriously. It wasn’t until this past summer he began running on the summer club circuit with the iGreyhounds out of Menlo Park.

That, Hunt said, has made all the difference in Reynolds’ progress.

“Again, if he does the work in the summer for cross-country, there’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to improve again,” Hunt said. “I think the best is yet to come, no doubt.”

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