Though it didn’t seem so at first, Valencia senior Britain Reynolds was right where he should’ve been when he showed up for his first cross country practice the summer before his freshman year.
Reynolds inadvertently joined the varsity team’s top group and got an immediate reality check on the separation between himself and school’s elite runners.
“It was kind of a shocker,” said Reynolds, who had not run on any club teams prior to joining Valencia. “They were making it look easy and I was dying. It kind of brought me back to square one but gave me that motivation of where I wanted to be.”
It didn’t take long for Reynolds to get there.
During that season’s Foothill League finals, he finished first out of Valencia’s varsity runners. Two years later, he was the centerpiece of the team’s first trip to the CIF-Southern Section finals.
As a senior, he’s mulling over a trio of NCAA Division 1 schools where he hopes to continue his career while leading the Vikings to a second postseason appearance in CIF-SS Division 1. The Vikings will compete in the CIF-SS preliminaries Friday at the Riverside City Cross Country Course.
“What every program strives for is that person who can set the baseline, the precedent, for other kids in the program to shoot for,” Vikings coach Leon Maldonado said. “He’s been that guy for us pretty much since he’s gotten here.
“ … This could be one of the best cross country teams to come out of Valencia. They weren’t big names when they got here but they’re recognized now.”
Reynolds knew he might be onto something special when he notched a 16-minute, 30-second time at the Seaside Invitational his freshman year.
“I was pacing with one of the varsity runners and then at the end I realized I had more left in the tank and went ahead,” Reynolds said. “I didn’t have a watch, so I wasn’t really sure what pace I should’ve kept. That was definitely a breakthrough moment.”
Reynolds finished in the top five in all three Foothill League races as a junior. He parlayed that with a second-place finish in the first league meet of this season and took home third in the second race.
Maldonado describes Reynolds as having a “laser focus” when it comes to the sport. That spills over to when he’s away from the team as well.
Reynolds regularly checks in with the NCAA cross country rankings and how some of the nation’s top runners are doing. He’s also well-versed in runners he’s lining up against in league races.
“He’s a student of the sport,” said Reynolds’ mother, Angela, who’s an assistant with the Vikings’ cross country and track teams. “He has that singular focus when he’s doing something he loves.”
That singular drive also helped Britain achieve a black belt in karate, which he gave up to devote more time to cross country. He’s also driven by the feeling he got when lining up at the starting line for the CIF-SS Division 1 finals last season, with more eyes on the team than ever before.
“We’re hoping to make a little more history,” said Britain, in reference to the school’s first possible trip to a state-title race. “That moment of lining up at the finals has been keeping us going all year.”