Sports Person of the Week
Puchalski Proves a Consummate Leader for Guilford Cross Country
Reese Puchalski worked hard to come back a few injuries and lead the Guilford boys’ cross country team as a senior captain during the 2020 fall season. (Photo courtesy of Reese Puchalski )
Reese Puchalski has been around running his entire life. With a vast family background in the sport, Reese decided to become a competitive runner and has been doing that for the past few years at Guilford High School.
Reese was inspired to start running by his grandmother Patricia, who was a Kona Ironman World Championship qualifier; and his father Jonathan, who has competed in triathlons. Reese tried out for the cross country team at Adams Middle School when he was in 7th grade and calls it one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
“I’ve been running since 7th grade, and I’ve been in love with the sport ever since,” says Reese. “I’m really grateful to have been exposed to family members who ran from an early age, and I hope the sport can continue to stay a part of my family in the future.”
Now a senior at Guilford, Reese served as a captain for the Guilford boys’ cross country team during the 2020 fall season. He also competes for the indoor and outdoor track squads. While Reese is always striving for personal-best times on the trails, he also embraces the team aspect of cross country.
“People outside of the world of running don’t always realize it, but cross country really is a team sport. Part of the excitement of racing is improving on your own personal records and placing as highly as possible, but in cross country, scoring is based on all of the top-five runners, so the whole team has to come together to succeed,” Reese says. “And even more so outside of races, distance running requires year-round dedication and having training partners to log hundreds of miles with over the season. That’s what makes the sport so special. Day in and day out, being able to bond with teammates through long runs and grueling track sessions is the highlight of cross country for sure.”
Guilford boys’ cross country Head Coach Jon Rivera says that Reese proved an integral member of his team after battling back from some serious injuries. Rivera says that having Reese on the squad was like having another coach and that the senior went above and beyond his duties as a captain.
“Reese is a tremendous student. The time and work he put into the team was vital to its success,” Rivera says. “Reese is a hardworking, natural leader with a positive team-first attitude and was finally able to race again this fall. The entire team was waiting in joy for him at the finish line. Him being able to race again was the feel-good story of the year, because of how hard he has worked to get back.”
Rivera says that Reese was a varsity level runner as a freshman, but has been held back by injuries the past few years. Despite those injuries, Reese worked hard to return to a competitive level of running as a senior. Coach Rivera believes that Reese’s dedication set an excellent example for the rest of the team.
“He set such strong example with his rehab. He was there every day busting his butt,” says Rivera. “He was aqua jogging in Lake Quonnipaug before school to get the workouts in. In 20 years of coaching, I don’t think I have ever seen an athlete command the amount the respect he does.”
Reese greatly benefited from swimming and aqua jogging throughout his rehabilitation process. He had to find new ways to stay in shape without putting too much pressure on his legs. While it was a challenge, Reese continued putting in work in order to maintain his level of fitness.
“I have spent a lot of hours on the stationary bike and the elliptical to supplement running when I haven’t been able to hit the track because of a right knee surgery and a left tibial stress fracture,” Reese says. “With the team, summer practice is always one of the most fun times of the year, and we get together six days out of the week all summer long to get in shape for the season. I always try to keep the mentality that races are run in the fall and championships are won in the summer and, when summer training gets difficult, we always remember to embrace the process.”
Aside from running, Reese also plays flute in Guilford High School’s wind ensemble. Last year, Reese completed a Capstone Project in which he researched coaching philosophies for high school distance running.
“The project was a great way to combine my athletic and academic interests,” says Reese. “Since then, I’ve used my scientific and practical coaching knowledge to help coach the team during the offseason. In addition to Coach Rivera, I also want to thank my track coaches, George Cooksey and Jim Ford, for furthering my love of running all year.”
Now that the cross country season is done, Reese has his sights set on the track. Reese’s primary goal as a senior is to stay healthy for his final year of competition.
“My biggest goal is to just get to the start line healthy and then take it from there. As a team, we are trying to get as many people as possible to qualify individually for the SCC and State championships and even try to score points in some events,” Reese says. “Overall, I’m really excited for whatever kind of track season we end up having, and I hope I can get in a few more races with my teammates before graduation.”