Jenna Reiter, seated center, has earned an almost full scholarship to UNC-Greensboro. Others in the photo are, left to right: sitting, Reiter’s parents Debra and William Reiter; standing, West track and field coaches Daniel Barrow and Troy Smith, principal Joe Poletti, cross country coaches Shelton Mayo, Marshall Windsor and Joanna Miller and Athletic Director Michael Turner. (J.J. Smith photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — Jenna Reiter has turned one of the best cross country careers in county history into nearly a full scholarship to UNC-Greensboro.

The West Carteret senior earned all-state status in each of her four varsity seasons. Former West standout Emme Fisher is the only other cross country runner to reach that status.

“It’s so hard to get a full-ride scholarship in running, so this is awesome,” West Carteret coach Shelton Mayo said. “And especially DI, it’s tough.”

Reiter is the fourth West female cross country runner to move on to a Division I program in the past seven years, joining Samantha Decker (UNC-Asheville, 2018), Emme Fisher (UNC-Wilmington, 2017) and Blake Dodge (UNC-Chapel Hill, 2014).

Reiter said it was older teammates like those and others that made her time in a Patriots uniform special.

“When I look back, I see how much I grew as a runner and a person,” she said. “Being involved in this sport at West brought my personality out. I was pretty quiet my freshman year. The girls helped me to open up and improve as a person. I had a lot of good girls to look up to. I was fortunate with that.”

And like those previous teammates who matriculated to Division I schools, Reiter was nearly as outstanding in the classroom as she was on the cross country course, sporting a 3.94 GPA.

“She works so hard as a student, and I think that is going to pay off for her in college,” Mayo said. “She loves to run so much that no matter where she runs, she’s going to be happy. But she fell in love with the school and the academics and really liked the coaches.”

At UNCG, she will join a program that had more women’s cross country athletes recognized by the Southern Conference on its All-Academic list than any other school this past season with eight.

She considered East Carolina, UNC-Charlotte and UNCG with the decision ultimately coming down to the latter two.

“It was a hard choice,” she said. “I really liked both. They are both good schools. I liked both teams. I think it came down to really liking the coach, and that it felt like home. There was a good vibe there. I had a really good time with my host and the team. It just clicked a little bit more. Plus, it’s a little bit closer to home.”

Reiter took third as a freshman at the 3A state meet, fourth as a sophomore and eighth as a junior.

As a senior, she took seventh in the ultra-tough 3A meet in 18 minutes, 16 seconds, which broke her record for a West girls runner at a state championship by two seconds.

“She’s more of an elite cross country runner,” Mayo said. “The farther the distance for her, the better. She loves running that much. Some kids, you have to talk them into running distance, but that wasn’t her.”

If there was any disappointment in a career that is considered one of the county’s best ever, it was that Reiter finished without a state title.

Three years ago, realignment made it tougher to win in 2A and 3A.

Before, the four divisions were 25-25-25-25 percentages, but now it’s a 20-30-30-20 ratio, stacking the two middle divisions with more talent.

This year was even more talent-rich in 3A with Mayo calling it the strongest girls field of any state championship meet ever in any classification.

To put it in perspective, Reiter took seventh in the 3A meet. Had she been in the 4A race, she would have been the runner-up by nearly nine seconds, trailing only Carmen Alder of Pinecrest who finished in 17:58.

“She is the best runner to ever come out of West Carteret cross country,” Mayo said. “She broke Emme and Blake’s records. Think about that, same course, same meet, but to never get a title or runner-up, that is where the 3A is now.”

Reiter’s time at the state meet was 16 seconds faster than Fisher’s when she won the 3A championship in 2016 and 34 seconds faster than Dodge’s when she captured the 3A title in 2011. Her time was also better than the champions in 2014 (by 28 seconds) and 2015 (by 34 seconds).

“Of course, I would have liked a state ring,” Reiter said. “A lot of years I would have been first. I’m hoping to get a state championship in the winter or spring (in track and field). We have this state championship board at school with people’s photos on it, and I want to be up there. I want to be up there really bad.”

Like most runners, she’s looked ahead at the UNCG runners’ times to see where she ranks.

At the Southern Conference Cross Country Championships, senior Kaitlyn Stone paced UNCG as she finished in 12th place with a time of 18:51. Next to cross the finish line for the Spartans was junior Kassidy Dill in 19:04.33. 

“I don’t think I will be the fastest going in, but I won’t be the slowest either,” she said. “I’m in the middle. I know it’s not like it is here when I win conference all the time. I understand that. I know what’s coming.”

Reiter won the Coastal Conference championship in each of the past three seasons and also added a regional title to her four-year résumé.

West won the league title in each of her four seasons – the club has captured the conference crown for 17 consecutive seasons – and took three of four regional championships.

The Patriots also claimed a top-10 finish at the state meet in each of Reiter’s four seasons – they’ve reached that status for 13 straight years – taking seventh, seventh, ninth and third.

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