Reuben Reina Will Chase Legacy At RunningLane Track Champs



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There are legacy athletes. 

And then there's someone like Reuben Reina, whose entire life has been shaped in some form or fashion by his environment -- specifically, soaking in the University of Arkansas track and field program from a young age. 

His father, the elder Reuben Reina, won two NCAA Championships in the 3K and earned eight All-American performances three decades ago for the Razorbacks before representing the United States at the Olympics in 1992. His mother, Joell, was a four-year letter-winner and middle-distance specialist for the track and field team around that same time, too. 

His uncles, three of them in all, competed for Arkansas. Even his oldest sister Valerie, a multiple-time NCAA championship qualifying athlete, competed for the Hogs before graduating in 2016 -- it should be said that Elise, the talented soccer-playing sister, is finishing off four years with the University of Kansas. 

Perhaps the younger Reina's high school career was simply a precursor for his own journey in Fayetteville. 

But that's not to say that all his effort has been without merit. In fact, these next 40 days will represent perhaps the biggest moments of his life as he chases after elusive family goals and big-time experiences ahead of his NCAA journey, in events and races across the United States. 

Specifically, though, Reina is hoping to drop one last personal record in the 3,200m at the RunningLane Track Championships in June. 

There's no doubt the elder Reuben will be watching closely. His high school record is 8:56.

"I always just tell myself to be there with a lap to go," said Reina, who's coming off two Arkansas Class 6A titles in the 1,600m and 3,200m. "And once you hear that bell lap, just start going." 

Officially, Reina knows what he will be chasing. The Har-Ber (AR) High School graduate has his sights firmly on that family milestone, and a categorically-elite 3,200m achievement. 

"I think I can run sub-9," he said of breaking 9-minutes. "It's just a matter of racing at that pace." 

Depending on how fast that time is, though, it could spell anything from a family record to a state all-time No. 1.

While it might not come easy, it's certainly possible. Remarkably, a total of 61 athletes have broken nine minutes across the United States in 2021. More impressively, 27 have broken 8:56 and nine have cracked 8:50. 

The timing shouldn't be a surprise. A full year of training -- and the cancellation of state championships across the United States -- under the shadow of the pandemic has created a cauldron of seriously driven athletes. Reina's top cross country performance came when he was a sophomore in 2019. He didn't even get a chance to run at an XC state championship over the next two seasons. 

So this season has just hit different. Reina counts himself among those deeply invested in the outcome.

"Just to have the opportunity to race," he added. "I'm really grateful for that. There are those national meets in cross country like Foot Locker and Nike. I never really dipped my toes in the water there. This past season, there was none of that."

And so an opportunity to race at a championship-level event like RunningLane won't be taken lightly.

"It's cool to go to a national championship and I'm excited for it," he said. "I've never toed the line with that many guys in the country." 

Reina is no big fish in a small pond. He's claimed a personal best 1,600m time of 4:09.68, a current US No. 25 mark, and a 3,200m best of 9:09.58. Those two performances are No. 1 times in Arkansas, and among the best in the state's history. Arkansas' state-record in the 3,200m is held by Camren Fischer at 8:55.04.

But if you dive a bit deeper into the numbers, Reina's effort was even better than meets the eye. His 1,600m performance was 15 seconds faster than the second-place runner. His 3,200m effort was 39 seconds. 

"I was pretty much on my own from the gun," Reina said. 

But around the country, Reina knows the ceiling has raised. 

In any other year, that 3,200m might be among the country's top 100 performances. But in 2021, it's currently No. 137 on the list. 

"I mean, a lot of guys are running real quick and that's what everyone is planning to do here. I'm just looking to do the same thing. (My goal is to) just put myself in the race with all the other guys in there," he said. "I know of names in there. I just want to put myself in there. There is a lot of guys in that 8:55 range. I think that's doable." 

Of course, Reina want to match up against the very best. 

He knows that in order to run fast, his competitors will have to ultimately set the pace and force the Arkansan into a slightly uncomfortable cadence. 

But Reina has history negative-splitting. His career best at the distance, in fact, came early in the season, and before a truly hard block of training. 

"I kind of enjoyed negative splitting the last mile," Reina said. "(When I PR'ed, I went 4:38 and 4:31.) Mentally, to get through a mile and just say you have a mile to go and start picking it up and start heading home. I enjoy it. I don't know what to expect from this. It might go out hot. Just get in there and hang on." 

And eventually, if he keeps up and is in it with a lap to go, he'll also start thinking about his dad's time. 

And maybe, just maybe, his future at the University of Arkansas. 

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