A little rain and sloppy conditions Friday afternoon didn’t seem to put a damper on an annual cross country race put on by Utah State.
In fact, Aggie senior LeAnn Larkin-Hatch went out and ran a course PR in 18 minutes, 44.0 seconds. She finished second overall in the women’s 5K race, just behind UNLV’s Natalia Ruiz Lara (18:25.2).
“It’s always special being at our home course,” Larkin-Hatch said. “A lot people get to come and cheer for us, including family and teammates. There is a lot of hype, so that’s exciting. And being our home course, that is a little bit of an advantage for us.”
USU hosted the fifth annual Steve T. Reeder Memorial on Friday at the Steve & Donna Reeder Cross Country Course. After a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the Reeder Memorial returned. This year’s race featured teams from Utah, Idaho and Nevada.
Reeder was one of the longest tenured assistant coaches at USU in any sport as he spent 35 years with the Aggies’ cross country and track & field teams. During his time at USU, Reeder coached both the indoor and outdoor runners in the 800 meters and longer distances, and worked with the cross country runners. He was instrumental in helping the Aggies capture 38 combined conference titles for cross country, as well as indoor and outdoor track and field. Seven months after retiring from coaching, Reeder passed away at the age of 63 in 2016, at his cabin in Star Valley, Wyoming.
Reeder enjoyed working with lesser recruited athletes and turned many walk-ons into conference champions.
“Reeder loved to get local people to come to Utah State and loved to give them a chance,” said Donna Reeder, who comes to the race every year to cheer on the Aggies and refers to her late husband as Reeder. “He brought a lot of fun and love to the kids, but academics was the top priority. They all loved running for him.”
For the race to continue on is special for the Reeder family, as children and grandchildren come to the race each year.
“We both just love Utah State and the athletes,” Donna Reeder said. “We both taught at school, but then he would come here for his ‘real’ job coaching. I got to be the mom and bring bags of goodies. It’s such an honor.”
The Aggie women won the meet with a team score of 26, followed by College of Idaho (49), UNLV (76) and Utah (86). There were many unattached runners at the meet in both women’s 5K and men’s 7K.
“I just tried to stay on my feet and not slip and fall,” Larkin-Hatch said.
The Aggie senior stayed in the front pack right from the start. She bounced from fourth to sixth throughout most of the race. With about a mile to go she was in fifth, then started to make her move. Larkin-Hatch was able to pick off three of the runners in front of her, but was too far behind Ruiz Lara.
“My goal was to stay with the front pack, whoever was leading the race, and just hang right on them,” Larkin-Hatch said. “When people started making moves, just go with them and just pass as many people as I could.”
Fellow Aggie Megan Terry was fifth overall in 18:51.4. With the unattached runners not counting, USU had its top five finish in the first eight that garnered points.
There were 54 total runners in the women’s race, and those athletes actually finished the race with some sun poking through the clouds.
On the men’s side, there were 83 runners, but just three teams. USU finished on top with 27 points to the College of Idaho's 37 in a race that was run in a constant downpour.
The top Aggie was freshman Chase Leach in ninth. There was an issue with times for the men and none were available as of press time. Garrett Woodhouse, also a freshman, was the second USU runner to cross in 14th overall.
“I felt like it went pretty well,” Woodhouse said. “Overall, I felt like I had a pretty good race. I think most of the guys did.”
With the conditions not being ideal, the runners had to adapt.
“We decided to put spikes on instead of flats,” Woodhouse said. “I think that was a good decision. ... It’s fun to have a change of pace and run in the rain.”
Woodhouse summed up the race best: “It just means a lot to be here. Utah State is a great program, a really good school and just the legacy that precedes us. It inspires me personally.”