On Feb. 2 at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River, Reyden Davies reached his potential.
In the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional meet, Davies won the 1,600-meter championship. The East Brunswick High School senior finished in 4:25.91, beating 44 other winter track runners.
“With him it’s been a culmination of four years. He was a super talented freshman but he struggled with injuries and health issues,” said East Brunswick coach Pat DiGioacchino. “This year in cross-country it clicked. He had a phenomenal year.”
“This year is a breakout year for me. Going into races, I become more relaxed,” Davies said. “I feel like as long as I execute my workouts and practices, I know I can run well. I believe in my training, myself and my coaches.”
Davies actually got healthy for his junior year. But he struggled to win because he didn’t have enough confidence. He was trying too hard after losing so much time to injury.
Last summer, he took a mental break and recharged. Davies just trained on his own without the pressure of daily team practices and weekly meets. The quiet, relaxed environment centered Davies for the fall cross-country season.
Once it started, he was ready to dominate.
The senior won the Greater Middlesex Conference title on Oct. 20 at Thompson Park in Jamesburg. About a month later, he qualified for the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
In his fall races, Davies developed a strategy that he executed over and over. He would sit back, watch the race unfold and sprint past other runners.
Davies carried his fall momentum into winter track, and he used his cross-country strategy to win the 1,600-meter title on Feb. 2.
“As long as I don’t lose the leaders I’m good. I like to stay in the top four,” Davies said. “I stay outside of lane one and see ahead of everyone. If someone makes a move, I can react appropriately.”
“Every week this year he’s been getting better and better. It’s a culmination of hard work and talent,” DiGioacchino said. “He doesn’t try to blow anyone away early but he dominates in the last two laps. He finished phenomenally strong in the 1,600, and he does that every race.”
It’s not Davies’ endurance that makes him great. He is running against other cross-country runners in most of his winter track sprints. Davies is great because he’s just faster than those rivals.
He combines cross-country endurance with elite speed.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete. If we wanted him to be a 400-meter runner, he’d be our best 400 runner. If we wanted him to be a 200-meter runner, he’d be the best 200 runner,” DiGioacchino said. “Between his distance and speed, he’s hard to beat. A lot of the distance guys don’t have his speed.”
Now that Davies is healthy, clear and thriving, he will be hard to beat for the rest of the winter. DiGioacchino thinks he can compete for the 1,600-meter title in the NJSIAA Group 4 championship and in the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, both in Toms River.
“I’ve learned to just not doubt the kid. He’ll probably break whatever goal you set for him,” the coach said. “His goal is to win the group and hopefully the meet of champions, and he’s got as good a shot as anybody.”
Davies also wants to run at the next level. His big year has drawn the attention of Division 1 programs like Penn State University and the University of Pittsburgh. DiGioacchino gets recruiting letters about Davies every day.
“A lot of people want him,” DiGioacchino said. “Reyden is definitely going to be a D1 athlete. He’s also phenomenal academically, so he’s sought-after.”
“I’m most likely going to attend Penn State,” Davies said. “I visited and felt at home with the team, just in a matter of a day or two.”