Chelsea Reilly knows Boston: Her father, Peter, grew up in nearby Dedham. As of 12:32 p.m. Monday, Boston knows Reilly, too, after the 23-year-old won a national title in the first 10K of her career.
Reilly claimed the title in 32:41 at the 36th Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women, which hosted the U.S. women’s championships for the 18th time along a course that began on historic Beacon Street and proceeded much of the way in sight of scullers on the Charles River on a cool, dry autumn day.
"I love being in Boston," Reilly said. “I think I had the most fans out there of anyone."
Running with her coach, 2008 Olympic marathoner Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, for the first half of the race, Reilly moved to the front of a large pack that included two-time Tufts10K champion Katie McGregor, three-time Olympian Jen Rhines, and recent USA 5K runner-up Neely Spence when the pace started to pick up. Lewy-Boulet had told her young Bay Area Track Club charge to conserve until the 5-mile mark, and Reilly followed instructions; when eventual runner-up Tara Erdmann made a move at 5 miles, Reilly went with her, not taking the U.S. lead until the final straightaway on Charles Street.
“I knew that if I was in the race with a half mile to go, I would have a good shot,” said Reilly, who finished eighth last month at the Fifth Avenue Mile in 4:29.
The overall race on Monday, however, was won by Kenya’s Hellen Jemutai, in a personal best 32:30. Jemutai, who finished third on Sunday in the B.A.A. Half Marathon, running 1:13:35, bolted to the lead at the sound of the starting horn and was never challenged, building up a 30-second lead by 4 miles before the pack began to gain ground.
“Yes, surprised,” said Jemutai, on running the entire race alone. “It’s really tough.”
Jemutai took home $4,100 for the victory, with Reilly earning $2,700 in for second place overall and $7,550 for the U.S. title. Finishing third overall and second American, Erdmann, 23, won $2,300 and $4,550. She and the 23-year-old Spence, who finished fourth overall and third U.S., were also making their 10K debuts.
Reilly’s 39-year-old coach finished 17th overall, in 33:50.
“She’s something special,” said Lewy-Boulet, who professed no surprise at Reilly’s earning a national title on her first attempt at the distance. “I said there was no reason why she couldn’t compete with everyone else if she could just hang in there until 5 miles. She executed exactly what we had talked about.”
A 2012 graduate of the University of California-Berkeley, Reilly’s best NCAA finish was ninth at 5000 meters this spring. But validating her coach’s observation that she has “the distance mentality,” Reilly said of her inaugural 10K: “I kept on waiting for it to get really hard,” she said. “And it didn’t get hard.”
Full results are available here.