Niwot senior cross country runner Ares Reading has had a stretch of about six weeks that prep athletes in his sport can sometimes only dream of.
After finishing in second place at the Class 4A state meet in Colorado Springs in late October, Reading quickly set his attention to qualifying for the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego — the finals of which were ran on Saturday morning.
To do so, Reading had to finish in the top 10 of the Foot Locker Midwest Regional in Wisconsin on Nov. 24. His fifth place finish was more than enough.
When it came to Saturday's prestigious settings and surroundings, with just 40 runners from across the United States having qualified, Reading said there were a little bit of nerves creeping in at the beginning of the race.
However, it really didn't show. His dead-on 16-minute finish put him in 19th place, a tremendous showing for a student-athlete who last year led his team to fourth place at state but was nowhere near the times of 2018.
Reached by phone on Saturday, Reading said he was pretty excited about the accomplishment of simply qualifying.
"It's been a really crazy run with all the travelling, for sure ... I was pretty nervous for a bit because this was my first time at the Foot Locker and you're competing against just 40 people instead of 400," Reading said. "It's more in the spotlight. I honestly would have liked to be further up, for sure, but just looking at the field and all the state champions here, it was pretty special where I finished, I think."
As the only boys representative from Colorado, Reading did help the Midwest group finish first in the team standings with just 25 points. Cole Hocker of Indianapolis, Indiana, won the boys race in 15:13.
The course was traditional — "yeah, there were little bits of mud here and there and rolling hills, so it was good," Reading quipped — and he was able to remain in the middle of the pack for the duration of the race.
Reading is still not committed to run anywhere at the next level, but a couple of trips in January are likely on the docket.