Juanathan Reyes has often found success following in the footsteps of others.
Reyes, a soon-to-be graduate of Stockdale High School, first took to distance running at age six, trailing behind his father Juanathan Sr. during his jogs around the neighborhood. Running became a long-standing, shared activity for the father-son duo, who even took first and second place at Bakersfield's annual Color Me Rad 5K race in 2014.
Though he finished behind his father on that day, Juanathan Jr. had developed into the family's top runner by the time he joined the Stockdale cross country team in 2016. There, he had the tall task of trying to make a name for himself at a program with a rich tradition of producing Division-I athletes.
Luckily, he says he was given the time he needed to mature both mentally and physically.
Aside from the likes of former Mustang star Blake Haney, a seven-time All-American at Oregon who returned to Stockdale to speak with Reyes and his teammates last offseason, Juanathan Jr. also grew under the guidance of former teammate Marcus Mota, a two-time section champion who currently runs at UCLA.
"He was really pushed by those guys to do well," Juanathan Sr. said. "He got to high school and (I) wasn't pushing him anymore, and there was so much tradition he could follow over there at Stockdale."
Given the opportunity to lead the Mustangs himself, Reyes took full advantage in his senior year last fall. He broke his previous personal-record time on four different occasions and earned wins at SWYL meets on Oct. 2 and Oct. 16.
The success carried over into the early portion of the now-canceled track season this spring, where he ran a winning time of 4:34.13 in the 1600-meter run at the EB Relays on March 6.
"It's was definitely a breakout year," Reyes said. "I started hitting times that were (Division-I) material that I was not expecting to hit."
Though impressed with his dedication, Stockdale cross country coach Tyus Thompson said Reyes picked up some bad habits in a relentless quest to improve, going full-tilt on days his body needed rest. But after finding the right balance while training, he said he started reaching his full potential as a senior.
"The biggest improvement he had was his commitment to the easy run," Thompson said. "He was able to put in easy runs on days where we had easy runs selected and then on the hard days he was really able to grind it out and that really pushed him to hit huge PRs and pushed him to that D-I level.”
Having come up in a program known for producing D-I talent, Reyes officially joined the ranks of his more decorated peers on April 5, when he committed to Fresno State. He'll compete in both cross country and track for the Bulldogs.
I’m excited to announce I have officially committed to Fresno State! Thank you to my family, friends, teammates, coaches, and the staff at Stockdale High School for all the support. #gobulldogs #prideofthevalley #classof2020seniorstrong pic.twitter.com/Bu83MDDeku— Juanathan Reyes, Jr. (@JuanathanReyes) April 5, 2020
Wanting to race close to home, Reyes found everything he was looking for at FSU.
"Their athletic facilities were outstanding and they had a lot of outlets for their athletes that were out of this world," said Reyes, who plans to major in biology. "I was impressed with everything."
Currently, Reyes' only stated goal as a college runner is to help the Bulldogs win a conference title before he graduates, which is a seemingly tall task. Fresno State has finished last in each of the last four Mountain West Cross Country Championships and hasn't had an individual runner place higher than 43rd in that stretch.
But after watching his growth in recent years, Thompson believes Reyes is an ideal building block for a program attempting to change its fortunes.
“Fresno State is not only getting a great runner, but a person who’s going to change their culture for the better," he said. "He’s a great listener and he’s going to follow, but in his following, he’s going to lead, which I think is what makes a great runner and a person. He’s someone that consistently does the right things."
Feeling he's just started to do the right things on a routine basis, Reyes says staying on the right track will be critical at the college level.
"Consistency is key," he said. "So I feel like if I stay consistent, I'll definitely get results."