What was your most memorable race or moment?
My most memorable race has to be North 2 Group 4 cross country sectionals this past fall. I had been dealing with a pretty tough back injury for the majority of the season, and was only just starting to feel a little more like myself during my county meet the week before. Knowing the group and section that we're in, it's one of the toughest in the state filled with NJ's top competitors. I knew that with the strong teams we're racing against, all 7 of us needed to have the race of our lives in order to qualify as a team - and I had looked at more than one virtual meet to try to see where we would stand. My entire focus the days leading up to sectionals was on the team. I wanted to put everything I could out there for my girls, and I hoped they were going to do the same for me. They knew how badly I wanted it. I didn't have a time or place goal in mind for myself, I only wanted to run my best race to try to get my team to Groups.
Earlier that morning, our boys team placed 3rd in the section, which was a huge deal for our program. That set the tone going into our race. After "tattooing" my teammates' hands with motivational words, we headed to the line for our race. I've always given my girls a pump up speech before each race in our team huddle, and they surprised me by giving one back - it was really special. My nerves were at an all time high, but when the gun went off, everything fell into place. I worked my way up from the back and slowly began picking people off over the course of the race. My coach was at about the halfway point (by the Eagle), and he yelled that I was in a really good spot - I had to carry it through the second half.
The second half of the race was an entire blur. Before I knew it, I was sprinting over the crest of the final hill by the finish, with my teammates screaming on either side. "Ninth!! You're in ninth!!!" The final stretch was electric. When I crossed the line, I had no idea what I'd just done. It was nearly a one minute 5k PR and I was headed to Groups, along with a Greystone school record. The best part was when I turned around, I saw my teammate Olivia Zambrio finished in 10th behind me and that we were going together.
Although my whole team ultimately didn't make it to Groups, I'll never forget this race. I shocked myself and everyone else.
Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?
The Westfield girls are definitely my biggest competition. After competing at almost every relay invitational, county, and state meet with these same girls, I've come to know them very well. They're crazy fast on the track and on the course, but they are such kind and humble competitors. I love racing these girls because they always push me to be my best. It doesn't hurt that we're town rivals either ;)
What was your greatest accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment was winning a mini-wheel at the Penn Relays this past April. Since I was a freshman and saw one of my senior distance girls run at Penn, I knew that I wanted to go too when I was a senior. Franklin Field is iconic, and running there is a dream for so many. When my coaches told me that I was running on the Penn 4x4, I thought it was a prank. Our sprinters have so much talent, I wasn't sure why they'd put me on the relay when at the time, I'd only ever run one 400 before. However, the relay was the most surreal experience of my life.
Running on the third leg, I was handed off to in second place. After passing the 200m curve, I passed the girl in first and continued my charge. Handing off to our anchor Julia Jackson in first place was relieving. I was confident in her to finish strong, and she did exactly that. Our sprinters are so talented, and I'm lucky to have been able to race with. We shocked our coaches and pulled out the win. I was so honored to be able to represent my high school at such a prestigious meet and to be able to come home with the wheel - I never thought I'd be able to say that.
If you could do it all over again what would you change about your running or field career in high school?
If I were to have a second chance at my high school running career, I would take myself more seriously during my freshman year. I didn't realize how much of a mental game running is, and I wish I would've paid more attention to my target splits and pushed myself harder. I wish I started weight lifting and caring more about my diet earlier. I didn't realize how much faster I could become on the track if I was more focused. It also would have been really cool to run cross country for an additional two years, but I wouldn't change my soccer career for the world :)
What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
Transitioning from soccer to cross country was the most difficult obstacle I've faced. I played soccer competitively for 13 years, so it was natural for me to play in high school. I thought I'd never be running cross country, but before junior year I changed my mind. It was really hard for me mentally to be able to get into the mindset of running year round, and that the races would be a lot longer than 1600m. I wasn't sure if I'd fit into the cross country team because most of the girls were returners, my summer training was weak, and I was just really scared. Convincing myself that I belonged in the top 7 was a struggle, but once my head was in the right spot, my times dropped everywhere, leading into a successful junior track season.
What will you miss the most?
I'll miss the camaraderie of the New Jersey running scene. The atmosphere as you come down the final stretch of the track or course is electrifying every time. I'll miss how friendly and encouraging everyone is, and how girls I don't even know will give me hugs after a race to congratulate me. Of course I'll miss my team and my teammates - they've become some of my best friends.
What advice would you give to younger athletes?
I want to tell my younger teammates to have fun, too. The girls on my team work so hard, and I want them to know that they should be enjoying themselves. A bad race doesn't define you, and your times will drop with hard work.
What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?
Without my high school coach, Mr. Koegel, I wouldn't be attending the college that I am. He's been supportive of me all along, and a huge part of why I chose to run in college. I didn't think that this was something I'd be able to do, but once I hit a turning point in dropping time, he saw the opportunities were ahead for me. He's been a huge motivator and allowed me to become a leader on my team this past year.
What are your post-high school or college plans?
I'll be continuing my academic and athletic career at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. Roll Cards and Go Wes!
Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?
I want to first thank my parents. They've been supportive of me and my track/cross country career throughout high school, and driving all over the state to watch me run (from Egg Harbor to the Armory). I wouldn't be able to do it all without them. I also want to thank my fellow seniors (Mary, Brandon, and Ben) for being my best friends on the team. We've always been so supportive of each other. Thank you Liv for being my training partner - you made all the hard workouts better! Thank you to the leaders on my team who came before me - you set the stage. Thank you to my younger teammates - I can't wait to see what you accomplish. And, thank you Mr. Koegel - you push me at practice and in the classroom and I wouldn't be the athlete or student I am without your guidance.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Thanks NJ MileSplit and go SPF Raiders!