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Alex Reich takes top honors at Midwest Conference Championships

It’s halfway through the 8-kilometer race at the Midwest Conference Championship. Alex Reich ‘11 trails his rival, Monmouth College’s Geoff Bird, by a few strides. Facing reality, Reich realizes he will not be able to beat the talented Bird if he waits until the last kilometer. It’s time to make a risky decision, the kind even the most assured and seasoned of athletes lose sweat over. Reich must use his “kick”—that all-out push of acceleration normally reserved for the final stretch of the race—now, or be a grateful runner-up.

Alex Reich
Alex Reich, '11, second from right, runs alongside a pack of Grinnell cross-country runners during the Midwest Conference tournament race last weekend - Will Freeman

Luckily, it works.

Around the 3-kilometer mark, Reich uses his “kick” and passes Bird. And not once does he look back.

Reich beat Bird by three seconds and claimed the individual title for Grinnell with a time of 25 minutes and 24.86 seconds. His time is the 14th-fastest finish in an 8-kilometer race for Grinnell College.

“I wouldn’t say it was unexpected, but I was amazed by his performance,” said Head Coach Will Freeman. “You need courage to do that and he took that risk. It was a gamble and it paid off.”

Reich, a biology major, has been involved with cross-country running since he was in the sixth grade. When he is not on the course, he enjoys gardening, cooking and working with crafts such as pottery.

Reich has been following the footsteps of his older brother Henry Reich ’08, who led the perfect score team at the conference two years ago.

“His brother was a star,” Freeman said. “Alex is becoming an equal to his brother.”

Reich is known for his strong work ethic on the team, and it has shown in his four years running for the Pioneers. His hard work certainly paid off at the Midwest Conference Championship.

“[His work ethic is] beyond comparison,” Freeman said. “He’s so well respected for that. He doesn’t need to be babysat. He just goes out and does what he has to do and it’s amazing to see him do that. Hard work and discipline in this kind of sport and he shows it.”

When Reich was injured, he worked on his core by cross country skiing. According to Freeman, Reich’s running has not been negatively impacted by his injury and break from running.

“Most coaches think running is just running and the more you run the better you get. Alex has shown that that is not always the case,” Freeman said.

Instead, he has only improved his game from meet to meet and from year to year.

“Usually there are good days and bad days for the runners,” Freeman said. “He has progressed from meet to meet on a linear way. It’s rare, you don’t see that.”

Teammate Sam Krauth ’14 also praised Reich’s work ethic.

“I remember I was heading to dinner after practice and shower and I saw Alex still working on his conditioning in the dark outside,” Krauth said. “He’s a humble guy. He has definitely influenced me to do certain workouts that I wouldn’t have done.”

The Pioneers will compete in the Division III Regional Championship on Nov. 13. Reich is confident that the Pioneers will come away with yet another victory.

“We’re unbelievably a deep team and we have amazing talents,” he said. “Everyone is willing to step up and we’re going to win.”

Reich is one of the four Grinnellians to be nominated for the Watson scholarship (see article on p. 5). The Watson scholarship “offer[s] college graduates of unusual promise a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel outside of the United States in order to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community,” according to the Grinnell College website.

“Hopefully, I have the chance to go to Washington D.C. and intern on environmental policy,” Reich said.

People around Reich are confident that he will succeed in whichever direction he chooses to follow.

“He takes care of himself,” Freeman said. “He’s got a great lifestyle habit to be a top athlete. He’s got things balanced with academics and his personal life and running. And he’s got talent. When you put all those together, he’s unlimited in what he’s capable of.”

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