Geneseo's Reed Vanderheyden will join the Mississippi State University track team in the spring of 2019.

The Maple Leafs’ Reed Vanderheyden remembers watching his older sister, Hanna, run hurdles in middle school and being inspired.

“I was just thinking while I was watching, that’s going to be me running like that one day,” Vanderheyden said.

Both had historic careers running hurdles at Geneseo middle school and in high school.

However, Hanna had even higher aspiration when it came to Reed’s college future.

Studying biomedical science at Missouri State, Hanna wanted to see Reed run at a Southeastern Conference school and told him to take a look at Mississippi State University after being impressed by what she saw online.

A few weeks later, serendipity stepped in and Mississippi State Assistant Coach Steve Silvey contacted Reed about running track in the spring of 2019, in Starkville, Miss.

After taking an unofficial visit to the campus and talking with his parents Dana and Gary, Reed knew Mississippi State was the place for him.

“I fell in love right at that moment,” Vanderheyden said. “I made the decision in my mind right then and there.”

Reed felt the warmth of the southern culture, he enjoyed the campus’ beauty and he felt a good rapport with the coaches.

“Every single athlete was genuinely nice,” Vanderheyden said. “I think that really pulled me into that school was the characteristics of people down there.”

Over time, the talks became less about guiding Reed toward signing with Mississippi State and more about what to expect when he arrives on campus.

The SEC reputation of being pure speed remains as real as ever.

Last season, eight SEC teams finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Division I Championships in men’s track and field.

Reed remains undaunted, wanting to prove he’s one of the very best.

“In order to be the best you have to train with the best,” Vanderheyden said. “I know that not just my competition but my teammates are going to be unbelievably great athletes. They are only going to push me to go even further.”

His dream of running with the best and competing at the DI level started after he finished runner-up at the IHSA state competition his sophomore year.

Reed finished runner-up in the 300 intermediate hurdles in 38.11, which caught the attention of recruiters.

“Colleges started talking to me,” Vanderheyden said. “My sister told me if I put in the work, stuff like this would happen. Right then, I knew it was happening.”

With his college plans settled, Reed will focus on inspiring other athletes to try to achieve what he did.

“I want to leave the biggest mark I can,” Vanderheyden said. “I want to influence other athletes, not just track athletes. Just because you start from one place -- and you won’t be the best when you start -- it’s your results, in the end, that makes you the person and athlete you want to be.”

Kind of like the inspiration his sister Hanna gave to him.