Megan O’Reilly is among the Mt. Spokane High School track stars who have been told they shouldn’t race on Bloomsday’s 12-kilometer course May 1. Nevertheless, she stepped up to be a standout among the race’s traveling ambassadors.
O’Reilly and her mother received an expense-paid trip to California and VIP treatment at the Carlsbad 5000, one of the nation’s prestigious road races. The trip was a gift from the winner of a drawing for early registrants for Bloomsday 2005.
The two-time Washington state high school two-mile track champion didn’t waste the opportunity. O’Reilly tempered the 5-kilometer Carlsbad course in 17 minutes, 45 seconds, the fastest finish among 13- to 17-year-old girls and 13th overall out of 1,561 runners in the race among women age 39 and younger at the April 3 event.
The finish was, as she described it, “the coolest thing, around a corner and downhill through walls of people cheering. I felt strong. My legs felt good.”
It was O’Reilly’s first major test after recovering from stress fractures that scratched her from contention for a state high school cross country title in her sophomore season last fall.
Best of all, she said, was the opportunity Bloomsday gave her to share the VIP treatment with some of the world’s best runners, including Tirunesh Dibaba, a 19-year-old Ethiopian who tied the 5K world record at Carlsbad.
“I got all of their autographs on my race bib, and when I asked the men’s winner (Dejene Berhanu of Ethiopia) for his autograph, he took off the flowers they had hung around his neck and put them around mine. I wore them on the plane all the way home.
“I’ve learned that I love to road race. Maybe after college I can be down there with those professional runners and their life on the race circuit. I love them; they’re so fun.
“And definitely, I’ll be back to do Bloomsday sometime. Everybody needs to run Bloomsday, especially if you’re from Spokane.”
Bob Barbero, Mt. Spokane running coach, congratulated O’Reilly on her personal-best 5K performance at Carlsbad, a trip that took her out of the team training regimen for nearly a week.
“He told me ‘Good job,’ ” O’Reilly recalled with a smile. “Then he said, ‘Now we start working on track.’ “
– Rich Landers
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