Homeschooling is a large part of the reason 14-year-old Sean Reith could become the fastest 8th grader in the country.

The superlative goal is not out of the question, considering Sean’s achievements earlier this year at the New Balance Nationals indoor track meet.

Sean crossing the finish line

Sean Reith crosses the finish line in first place at the most recent New Balance Nationals indoor track meet.

Sean won the mile run for middle school boys at the March event, which was sponsored by the shoe company and held at Boston’s Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center. He finished with a time of 4:24—a meet record. He also set a meet record for the middle school boys 800-meter run, with a first-place time of 2:00.

His younger brother, Reagan, 12, has also developed as a runner. Reagan qualified to compete in the New Balance meet, as well, finishing the mile with a time of 5:11.

Yet Sean and Reagan are not the products of an elite athletics program. They’ve been homeschooled since kindergarten, and most of their training is done on their family’s Ohio farm.

Family Activity

Sean didn’t take up running with the principle aim of becoming a top competitor. He switched to the activity after trying other team sports. As Sean’s mother, Kristan Reith, noted, she encouraged him to pursue track after observing his behavior when the family returned from trips.

Sean and Reagan

Sean and his brother Reagan prepare to compete dressed in the logo of their family’s homeschool and farm.

“Sean used to just hop out of the car and run laps around the house,” Kristan recalled.

At first, running served as part of the family’s physical education program. “At one time all five of our kids were part of the youth running club,” Kristan said.

By the time he reached middle school, Sean discovered he not only enjoyed track and cross country, but that he was finishing races near the top of the pack. In 6th grade he earned runner-up honors at the state cross country meet.

Bouncing Back

In 7th grade Sean joined the local public middle school track team. The change boosted his access to athletic facilities and regular competition, but Sean said the experience ultimately proved disappointing.

“I wasn’t getting any faster,” he observed.

At the end of the season Sean left the public school team and went back to his former full-time coach—his dad, Mike Reith.

“I did a bunch of research,” Mike said.

His findings persuaded him to change Sean’s workouts to focus not so much on running at a certain speed. Instead, they aimed at having Sean maintain an optimal heart rate during practice—and then just running a lot.

heart monitors

The Reith brothers use a variety of heart rate monitors to optimize their workouts.

Sean said he now runs every day, compiling weekly distance totals ranging from 75 to 90 miles. His brother Reagan puts in quite a few practice miles, too.

Mike said he monitors both boys to make sure they don’t overdo it.

“I give them the option to take time off,” said Mike, “but Sean doesn’t like to. He does a good job telling us how he feels, or what a particular workout feels like. One thing we’re proud about—we never run at a race or goal pace. They run hard days for sure, but we do more on volume.”

Gaining an Advantage

Like many top youth athletes, Sean prefers being homeschooled because the flexibility helps him find more time to train. Sometimes he runs twice a day, though he still helps his siblings with farm chores, such as caring for the family’s goats, pigs, and chickens.

Sean on a treadmill

Sean runs 75 to 90 miles a week. When the weather is bad, he gets on the treadmill.

Kristan concurred with her son about the benefits of their family’s homeschool schedule—whether for regular schoolwork or special activities.

“It’s definitely an advantage,” she said. “That’s one of the reason Sean’s declined my offer to go back to a public school track team.”

The Reith family took an entire week off to attend the New Balance meet. Sean said the top-of-the-line facilities and crowds of spectators made it a special experience.

“It was nice,” Sean recalled. “There were a lot of people—probably one of the biggest meets I’ve been to.”

Mike was impressed by the attendance as well.

“The center holds about 5,000 people,” he recalled, “and we couldn’t even get a seat.”

Focus on the Feet

Another perk Sean obtained by qualifying for the New Balance meet was being gifted a pair of shoes that at the time were not available on the open market.

“They sent me some of their track spikes,” said Sean. “The shoes are definitely faster—they give you more spring.”

The teen said he plans to keep wearing his New Balance spikes when he competes at meets this spring in Ohio and the Midwest. At some point this season he plans to challenge the US record for an 8th grader running the mile, which Mike said currently stands at 4:19. That’s five seconds faster than the time Sean recorded in Boston.

If all goes well, Sean hopes to aim even higher.

“I want to run in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles,” he said.