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Pryor commitment: Ashland senior chooses Harvard

Reed Pryor has a penchant for building things.

The Ashland senior took a big step toward constructing a promising future recently when he committed to attend Harvard University to run cross-country and track for the revered Ivy League school.

The outlook for many high school students has been shrouded in uncertainty since the coronavirus shut down schools, and with them, sports, in March, but Pryor managed to navigate obstacles the past 10 months to effectively get to his dream destination.

Pryor’s other finalist was Virginia, which has a strong academic reputation and lent further intrigue because the Cavaliers’ program is headed by former Oregon coach Vin Lananna.

“Kind of my mantra as I was going through the process was, you know, I’m not going to be a runner forever, so I want to get a good education,” said Pryor, who helped Ashland win the boys cross-country state championship in the fall of 2019, the last time he ran competitively for the Grizzlies. “I’m going to have a career afterwards, and both Harvard and UVA were good options for that.”

Pryor intends to study architecture. Whether he settles on that as a vocation remains to be seen, but he’s invested time to make sure it’s an appropriate direction, shadowing architects at two Ashland firms to learn about the profession.

“I’ve sort of always known that that was something I wanted to do,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in designing and building things, and I love math and I love art, and that seems like the perfect blend of the two.”

Recruiting in 2020 has a look unlike in other years, and Pryor took control of the process early. He sent introductory emails, including his personal running records and academic highlights, to a number of schools. Many responded, but Harvard wasn’t one of them.

The inability to make official school visits because of the virus disrupted matters, but Pryor persisted.

His sister, Claire, is a junior at Harvard. When the family took her back to the Boston campus in January, Pryor arranged a meeting with Crimson associate head coach Alex Gibby.

Visitations are “when people really tend to make their decisions,” said Pryor. “You get to see the school and hang out with the team and talk with the coach. I didn’t really have that with any other schools.”

“There’s kind of that aha moment you get,” he said, “like, this is where I want to be for the next four years. I just had that with Harvard, and I knew in my gut that it was right.”

He finalized his decision in September, and it wasn’t until early this month he learned he would be admitted if he finished his senior year in good standing.

Like other spring athletes this year, Pryor wasn’t able to bolster his resume.

He had a good track season in 2019 as a sophomore, setting personal bests at the Class 5A state championships with times of 4 minutes, 0.12 seconds in the 1,500 meters and 8:40.83 in the 3,000. He placed fifth in each event.

Pryor followed that in the fall with a strong junior cross-country campaign, establishing a personal best of 15:13.5 during the season and later placing fourth at state as the Grizzlies cruised to their first team title in 26 years.

He had momentum for spring track, but the season ended before it could get started.

“I felt I could really put together a great junior track season,” he said. “I thought I had the miles under my belt, and it was going to be the last season of (seniors) EJ (Holland) and Arlo (Davis), and we had some pretty big goals. I was bummed when that didn’t work out.”

His standing with Harvard wasn’t affected by a lack of action.

The Crimson assured him it recruits athletes who have requisite times and test scores, but also those who have a personality and mindset that fits the team, and that he would blend in nicely.

Nevertheless, as summer started, Pryor was itching to run a race.

He and two other prep runners — Ashland’s Cameron Stein and South Medford’s Michael Maiorano — ran a 3,000 time trial at the Ashland High track in early September. Pryor’s time was 8:28, 12 seconds faster than his previous best.

It would have ranked in the top dozen or so on Oregon’s all-time list for 5A runners.

It was particularly encouraging because it was done without the motivation of a crowd or with anything at stake.

Pryor will do more time trials in the coming weeks “just to keep racing and to have that in-season feeling you have to have,” he said.

Hans Voskes, the former Ashland High cross-country and track coach — Pryor’s father, Karl, has been hired to take over cross-country — said Reed Pryor could have gone to any school.

“He’s the full package,” said Voskes. “In terms of distance running, he has the endurance space, he has a decent amount of speed turnover, and he has more than enough intelligence to run a race well. He’s organized, but he can also respond to whatever anybody else gives him.”

Eventually, Pryor hopes to contribute those traits to Harvard’s cause.

The Crimson enjoyed one of their finest seasons in 2019, placing 15th at the NCAA championships, the highest for the school in more than 50 years.

Gibby has been there three years.

“They’re actually on kind of an upswing,” said Pryor. “He’s really turned the program around. I think he’s changing a lot of the things they do there.”

One thing the Crimson does is not slow down. Every workout, even on the easier days, is done at no worse than a 6-minute mile clip, “which is pretty quick,” said Pryor.

“They have goals to be a consistent top-10 finisher at the NCAAs in cross-country and track,” he said, “and that was something that was really exciting to me, getting on board with a team that looks like they’re already at a really high level and they’re just getting better.”

He’s eager to join in on the building process.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com.

Ashland's Reed Pryor holds the 2019 cross-country championship trophy as he congratulates a Crater runner. MT file photo