Salute to Seniors: Kevin Berry of Colts Neck HS

Salute To Seniors is a medium for "senior farewells". With so many seniors heading off to bigger and better things we wanted to give everyone a chance to salute them one more time as well as invite those seniors to tell their stories from the past four years. We will be posting this series through July, if you would like to submit check out this article

Athlete: Kevin Berry - Career Stats

High School: Colts Neck

College: Princeton University

What was your most memorable race?
At outdoor sectionals my junior year, I was 7th in the 3200. I had made it to Meet of Champs on a wild card that indoor season, so to be out in the first round the following season was particularly devastating. What made it even worse was that, although I knew at the time that I'd had a bad race, I still held on to get sixth in the seeded heat, and only found out later that my time had been beaten by 27 hundredths of a second from the unseeded heat, effectively un-punching my ticket to groups. If I sound salty it's only because I am. After that, I told myself that I'd train so hard that even if I were to have a bad race in the future, I'd be so fit that I'd still run fast enough to move on. I've certainly had much better races since then, but I cite this as the one that really, truly motivated me, and for that I consider it my most memorable. 

Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?
It would be doing a disservice if I said anyone besides the guys over at CBA. They're right in our county, so we see a lot of them, and their distance squad is second to none. We spent the whole past cross country season literally and figuratively chasing them nearly every race, and there was a pretty big rivalry brewing just going into the season with our summer training logs and, of course, the dual meet buildup. To finally narrowly beat them at the Meet of Champs just to have Princeton pull off the huge upset and win it all has to be one of the most bittersweet conclusions to a season in school (if not state) history. But beyond all the recent rivalries, one of the great things about CBA is their incredible depth. So, even as a freshman running for the first time, there were still guys in those blue uniforms around my level that I could look to and use as a benchmark. Let's face it: everyone wants to beat CBA, because everyone wants to beat the best. To give them a run for their money is an honor in itself. 

What was your greatest accomplishment?

This is a pretty easy one for me to answer - it has to be the Group III 3200 this past indoor season. My teammates and I had gone to the Bubble the night before and watched Alex Roth and Will Hare of Princeton go 1-2 in the Group IV 3200 and we told them jokingly after their race that we'd have to beat that the next day. Lo and behold, when the next day came the stars aligned, and we crossed the line Jordan Brannan first, Anthony Russo second, and myself right beside him in third. At the end of the day, I feel that a lot of guys in state history can say they've run 9:15, but very few can say they've been a part of something as cool as sweeping an event in a group championship. I've trained with Jordan and Russo day in and day out, so for us to do something that big, in a sense together, is something I'm hugely proud of. 

Group 3 Boys 3200 Meter Championship Race

If you could do it all over again what would you change about your running career in high school?
I'm sure I'm not the only one to say this, but I'd take summer training seriously sooner. It's hot, and it's humid, and it's horrible, but it's worth it. I also wish I could've gotten at least one good race at a Meet of Champs. Not sure that I could have actively done anything on that front (short of controlling the weather), but it's a little sad to think that I ran in 4 MOCs and bombed all of them. 

What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
I was injury free for most of my high school career, but I've been dealing with tendinitis at the insertion of both my Achilles for the past few months that has made running in spikes somewhat difficult. I'll be stretching a lot now to hopefully get rid of that completely before I race again. 

What will you miss the most?
I'll miss the atmosphere more than anything. Jim Lambert's gratuitous caps lock and exclamation points. Brother Lamar and his ties, waiting at the finish line with a roll of toilet paper. Hearing Don Bosco's bagpipes when coming out of the bowl. And of course, catching up with friends from different schools around the state at meets.

What advice would you give to younger athletes?
This probably mostly applies to longer races like the 3200 or XC, but listen to your body first and foremost and don't be afraid to start out towards the back. Odds are a lot of people in front of you have gone out too fast, and you can catch them in the later stages of the race. It took me a long time to stop panicking in the start of races and just trust my fitness, and now all my best races have come running hugely negative, or running even but passing most of the field the second half. When I ran my Holmdel PR at Groups this year, I hit the mile in 5:40, but ran the bowl in 5:21 and the last 1.1 mi in 5:20. I was around 40th place going into the bowl, but finished 12th. Obviously everyone races differently, but play around in less important races and see what works for you.

What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?
I can't even begin to explain how grateful I am that I got to run for Coach Schlentz at Colts Neck. I know without a doubt in my mind that I wouldn't be even a fraction as fast or as serious about running as I am now without him. Shout out also to Adam and his oft-forgotten blog, and thanks for always humoring our conversations.

What are your college plans?
I'll be staying in New Jersey and walking on at Princeton University this Fall. Go Tigers! 

Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?
Big thanks to my parents, of course, for all the support and gas money they've funneled into me over the past four years. Thanks again to my coaches as well. I also have to thank my teammates, especially Jordan Brannan and Anthony Russo, who taught me what it really means to want to be good and not to be content with mediocrity, and more recently to Matt Schaefer, who has provided extra impetus to race well. Big thanks to all three of them, too, for carrying me to an All-American berth in the indoor 4xMile.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?