Salute To Seniors is a medium for "senior farewells". 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, and already have a number of submissions, if you would like to submit check out this article for how to do so.
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Q: What was your most memorable race or moment?
A: My most memorable race would have to be on November 10th, 2018 during the group championships. Up until this point I hadn't had a good season, my first actual PR of the season was at sections the week prior. My season wasn't going as well as I had hoped but I was still on varsity and fighting for that 5th man spot. We had hope that we were gonna win but it would all rely on what me and the other two 5-6-7 runners did. One of the three of us had to step up and run a great race. Prior to the race I wasn't feeling my best and didn't think I would have a good race.
When the gun went off however all those feelings of doubt vanished and my race mentality kicked it. In that first straightaway of Holmdel our projected 5th man got tripped which put me in the mindset that this race depended on what me and my other teammates did. Going through the rollercoasters I felt pretty good, I was running alongside our 4th man Matt with relative ease. Our coach told us to take it out slow, let all the other teams screw up by going out too fast and that's what we did. We went through the first mile roughly around 6 minutes.
Then came the bowl. And I was still feelings great, like no feeling I had ever felt before during that season. I was still with Matt through 2 miles and we were moving. We kept passing people especially those on the teams that we were mainly going against for the state title. Throughout the entire race I felt great, I was moving and felt so light on my feet. I had a smile on my face in the last mile, I felt like Eliud Kipchoge when I was smiling, like "this is great, I'm running great, feeling great, and helping my team win" We got to the last straight away on the course and crossed the finish line. I ended with an overall PR of 18:09. I beat kids who were sub 17 at some courses which felt amazing and I was a major factor in my team winning group 1.
Q: Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?
A: My biggest competition apart from myself would be my teammates. It's a healthy and fun competition but it's still there. Trying to be better than each other and progressing and becoming better because of it is always a good thing. Because of my rapid progression over the years I haven't really had 1 person who I can say is my biggest competition, I'm constantly moving up. For instance my freshman year competition is way different compared to my sophomore years competition and so on. I couldn't even stay on warmup my freshmen year but now I can do all the workouts with the top guys. So my competition is always rapidly changing.
Q: What was your greatest accomplishment?
A: My greatest accomplishment would have to be dropping both my 5k time and 3200 time in half. My first ever 5k was a 37:42 at Pennypacker Park which is a fast course. It wasn't a fluke and I didn't walk, it was a race for me and that's not something I should be proud of. I was slow, really slow but I ended my senior year running 18:09 at Homdel. In the 3200m I ran 20:23 for my first ever 3200, which is the second slowest time in my schools history. I dropped that time to a 9:52 that I ran at States this year. So my greatest accomplishment would be my progression, not an individual race but all those runs and workouts and hard work that has enabled me to become a good runner.
Q: If you could do it all over again what would you change about your running or field career in high school?
A: I think I'd start a little farther back from high school, I really wish I started running earlier because I think If I did I would be way better than I am right now, but I also kinda wish I did the little things when I was a freshmen like push-ups and core and all that jazz. There are some races I wish I competed in like the 5k at Moorestown invite and 3200 at the Cherokee night of 32s.
Q: What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
A: The biggest obstacle that I've had to overcome would be the mental obstacle my freshmen year. I was so amazingly slow that I didn't even want to race. Everyday was a struggle, everyday my Achilles would hurt from a preexisting injury, everyday I would wonder why I ran, why I choose this sport over soccer, the sport that I had played all my life. I told my coach that I didn't want to race, I didn't want that embarrassment from being the slowest out there.
It wasn't until my grandfather gave me a little speech when I was visiting him. He told me that no matter what I ran he would be proud and that I'll eventually become good if I keep with it. If you ask anyone after my first race if they thought I could do anything good in this sport and they said yes you can safety say that they were a maniac. There is no reason anyone should have believed i could be anything. Even though I lost 6/8 of the races I ran freshman year of XC I still kept with it. And that's not like coming in 50th out of 60 or something that's coming in dead last place.
Probably the worst part about those races would be the end where I would get the pity claps. I don't know if it's just me but I don't really like those especially when it was directed toward me. I was just slow, there was no underlying reason for me being slow I just was. It didn't make me feel good or want to get better from getting these claps. I understand the purpose behind the clap but it just didn't make me feel good about my racing or times or ability.
Q: What will you miss the most?
A: The shortness of XC races will be a missed feature of high school running. Going from 5k to 10k will be hard. But probably even more I'll miss all the friends I've made over the years. Not just on my own team but from others as well. All the boys I met at running camp and at meets and stuff I'll miss. Going around at meets and finding people who I know and talk to them about various different things has been a fun thing to do and I don't think I'll have that same experience in college.
Q: What advice would you give to younger athletes?
A: Keep with it, keep on running and run hard because if you do that you can become great at this sport. The thing I love about this sport is that anyone and everyone can become something. You don't need a base set of skills or ability. Look at me for example, I started out at the bottom, the dead bottom of runners my freshman year, I was one of the slowest runners in all of New Jersey when starting out. I'm no longer the slowest, I'm ranked in the top 200 in New Jersey in the 16 and 32 (not the best but it's still good).
I believe that whatever times I was able to finish on this year should be a baseline for what every runner starting their freshman or sophomore year can get. Everyone can do it, and I thoroughly believe that all you have to do is work hard and have that mindset that you can do it. This sport isn't about your genetics, it's about your heart and work ethic. I might not be the fastest but even if you started out in the low 30s you're still faster than I was, and you still can become something.
It depends on what you do, the little things and big things matter, injury prevention matters, the mental game matters, and having fun also matters. You should be happy when running, if you aren't happy with where you are at any point of your career don't fret over it. Just keep with it and one day you'll be fast.
Q: What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?
A: I have to give my coaches a lot of respect for what they've been able to do with me. They're one of the main reasons I'm where I am now. They've been a major influence on my running career both mentally and physically and are overall amazing coaches, they've kept me injury free and always progressing. I couldn't thank them enough for helping develop me into the runner I am.
Q: What are your post-high school or college plans?
A: My overall goal is to run D1 in college for Rutgers. I don't think with my current times I can walk on to their XC team however I have a backup plan in case I don't make they're team this year. If I don't make the team I'm gonna be running for my brothers track club moody Park. He made it after he got kicked off his own team and has been developing it into a amazing club. I'm very excited to keep running for either Rutgers or MP. But I hope to eventually run for Rutgers.
Q: Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?
A: There are too many people to be honest, my teammates, coaches, parents and friends that I've gained along the way (my FT boys and MP boys), and aunts and uncles and grandparents and siblings and pretty much my entire family. You've been there to support me throughout my running career and even though I might not be the happiest after some races it's much appreciated you guys watch every race. And a big thank you to the "movvvveeeee" guy, whenever I hear your chant I just want to move.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
A: Keep an eye on my progression, I'm not done with this sport of running. If you see me at a meet or something just be like "aye yo lunch what's good" and I'll probably respond or start a conversation. If you want to hear my full story I'm 100% willing to share it, DM me or something. You can figure it out prolly, it's a pretty crazy thing from what I've been told to halve your 5k and 3200 time. And probably my 1600 time but I wasn't allowed to run that my freshman year.
This sport is a lot of mental games, if you're strong mentally you'll go far. My humble beginning gave me a good advantage over most cause I know what it's like to lose but I think the mental game is super important. If I learned anything from this sport it is that no matter where you start you can become something amazing. If you're that prodigy freshman or that back of the pack freshman, no matter where you start you can and will get better, it's all up to you. I love running and the community around it, there are so many fun people and so few rotten ones.
I've had many highs and lows, I got injured for a bit my junior year in track but I got over it pretty quickly, when I broke 5 I had a cheeseburger the day before and didn't realize I was racing until the end of the school day. That's not saying you should go out and eat crappy food, it's a lesson. A lesson to not stress about your race the day before, the less you stress the better you'll do. It puts less stress on your muscles and mind which are both very important for racing.
When you're racing you have to be confident, you can never second guess yourself, always visualize your race beforehand it's gonna help. Power moves, as I call them, are fun they might not be the best idea but you get a fun adrenaline rush from passing in lane 3, like "look at me, I'm passing and I'm in lane 3." Obviously don't ever go in lane 3 on a curve though. When it gets cold outside just keep running. Indoor is very important for outdoor, don't get mad if you don't get your times or PRs.
In the end have fun with this sport, it's a great sport and everyone in it has potential, it's not soccer or tennis where you need to be good from the start in order to become something.