(WGEM) -- A year ago Illini West's Jacob Bryan was closing in on crossing the finish line first in the Running Raider Invitational.
But Bryan fell to his knees right before the end of the race and crept to a fourth place finish.
He was later diagnosed with an iron deficiency which threw his junior season in a different direction.
Bryan has since rebounded and returned to Quincy's South Park on Tuesday to toast his nearest competitor by 29 seconds.
"It's been good just knowing all the hard work I've put in is starting to pay off," Bryan said following the first place finish.
"Last year I felt I worked hard but that problem caused me to fall. You just got to put in miles. That's the only way you can really get better at running. A lot of people don't want to do it but you've got to."
Bryan is using cross country to prepare him for his first love - the track and field season.
Next spring, Bryan and his Charger teammates will try and repeat as Class 1A state champions. Leading up to that Bryan has narrowed his cross country goals to a Top 5 finish at the state meet.