Carleigh Reish glanced at the podium Friday at the state track and field meet in Casper and said to a friend, “You know how cool it would be to stand up on the first-place podium?”
Reish soon received an affirmative answer. The Tongue River High School freshman topped the state in long jump, leaping 16 feet, 6 inches. A new personal best had headlined a memorable start to a budding track career that featured three more trips to the podium.
“It was one the best performances, not just of a freshman, but of any athlete I’ve had here at TR,” Tongue River Head Coach Steve Hanson said.
Hanson knew of Reish’s success at the middle-school level. He had heard about the first-place finishes, noticed the impressive times, but some doubt still remained.
Hanson has coached for a majority of his adult life, and he has seen athletes that thrive in the middle-school circuit and then, for a multitude of reasons, can’t replicate the dominance at the high school level.
That wasn’t the case with Reish. She burst onto the scene at the Greybull Invitational, the Lady Eagles’ first meet of the season, and pre-qualified in all four of her events.
“I’ve never seen that happen before as a freshman,” Hanson said. “Usually they have to work a little. To her credit, she did not get complacent. She maintained a work ethic.”
Reish cruised the following week at Powell, and then was taken back by the competition in Sheridan. At the Dan Hansen Invitational, running against 4A girls, Reish saw counterparts that could not only keep up with her but beat her, as well.
“It was definitely an eye-opener,” Reish said.
As the season wore on, Reish competed against other athletes that pushed her to improve. She ran against Wind River’s Mindy Russell and knew about Southeast’s Jordan Stoddard who she’d see at the state meet.
Reish had built up her confidence all season long, but entered the state meet a little skeptical of her skills.
“It was a little nerve-racking,” Reish said. “I was really nervous seeing those different teams at a bigger meet well. It was like, ‘They’re probably going to be more people that are better than me.’ It was a little scary.”
Reish battled those nerves and placed sixth in the high jump with a mark of 4-10. It wasn’t the best jump of her career, but having the chance to compete on the first day, in the finals, helped her settle in.
Reish ran the third-fastest seed time in the 200-meter dash, and that catapulted her into a state championship in long jump. Reish followed that up and seeded herself third in the 100-meter preliminary race later that Friday.
And then Saturday — amid the less-than-ideal running conditions that featured rain and sleet — Reish crossed second in the 100- and third in the 200-meter dash, recording personal bests in both races.
“That’s exactly what we want,” Hanson said. “We want to peak at the right time. The stage didn’t get to her. The weather could have been a factor, but it didn’t seem to slow her down.”
Reish tallied 27 of her team’s 39 points at the state meet, helping her team place eighth. It was a dream start to a high school career for a freshman. And with three years left, the future is bright for the Lady Eagles’ young star.