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Reinhart returns — after accident cost him junior year — to capture first major event of season

| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, 8:59 p.m.
Pine Creek Journal
Pine-Richland's Tommy Reinhart won the California University of Pennsylvania Invitational to open the season. Reinhart, a senior, became the first Pine-Richland boy runner to win an invite since 1996.
Pine Creek Journal
Louis Raggiunti|Pine Creek Journal Pine-Richland's Tommy Reinhart won the California University of Pennsylvania Invitational to open the season. Reinhart, a senior, became the first Pine-Richland boy to win an invitational since 1996.

A freak injury while working as a lifeguard cost Pine-Richland cross country runner Tommy Reinhart his junior season and potential opportunities to secure college scholarships.

“Last year, around Labor Day, I was diving backward into the pool and caught my toe in the pool grate and tore it off,” Reinhart said.

Reinhart looked down and saw the bone sticking out and knew the severity of the situation.

“I had to have surgery to reattach (the toe next to my big toe) and the doctors put a pin in it,” he said. “I was so upset because I was not able to run cross country my junior year.”

Reinhart said there's a little pain from time to time, but nothing that will slow him down. He participated in track after a lengthy rehab.

With his senior season of cross country staring him in the face as his junior year came to an end, Reinhart took his training to a new level, according to coach Chaz Connolly.

“I write up training plans in April and give them a manual to read,” Connolly said. “Tommy reads his, and he understands it. They key points are that there is a purpose in every workout and there are five different speeds to work with.

“They have to know why they are doing what they are doing and maintain their pace.”

The training took Reinhart on some long runs. There was a time frame when he was running nearly 80 miles a week over the summer, something he said may have beat up his body a little but ultimately primed him for a breakout senior season.

“I don't run that much during the season,” he said. “I ran a lot of slow, long distances.”

The alone time made Reinhart appreciate his teammates (Derek Zynn and Elijah Stedeford) more, because having support during those long runs is sometimes as important as the pre-race training.

“Those long runs alone made me realize how important it was to have others there for you,” Reinhart said. “Derek and Elijah are becoming my best friends, and that allows you to do great things.”

Great things like Reinhart's performance at the California University of Pennsylvania Invitational, where he became the first Pine-Richland runner to win an invitational since 1996.

“I took an early lead, then fell back to fourth,” Reinhart said. “Then, a big hill (came up) and when there was about 100 meters left one of my coaches gave me a look like I could catch the runner in front.

“As soon as I saw the finish, I put it on and won by two seconds.”

Reinhart is a strong runner coming out of the turns, and with the memory of a season lost a year ago, the motivation to make the push was ingrained in his psyche.

“I was so amped up because of missing my junior year (which hurt my recruiting), I knew I had to clock some fast times to get the attention I want,” he said.

Reinhart said that to keep up this level of success, he has to remain healthy and make sure he stays tough during the race, something that can be a challenge.

The senior is hoping to pick up some more wins and added that a PIAA medal would be nice to cap off the year.

Reinhart is one of a handful of good runners at Connolly's disposal this season. Zynn took fifth at the California Invitational, and Stedeford took 11th.

“Our top three look very good. Now we are looking for a strong four or five more guys,” Connolly said. “we had a good season last year going 7-1 and placing seventh in the WPIAL Championships.”

With Reinhart back to join his teammates, and if Connolly can get another runner or two to emerge, the Rams have the opportunity to reach that goal.

Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or

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