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.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg