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 still have a number of submissions to publish.
What was your most memorable race or moment?
My most memorable moment during my high school running career would have to be November 6th, 2018 when my team took the number 10 spot on the state rankings for cross country. A few days prior we had raced very strong taking 3rd as a team at the Group 4 North II sectional championships only losing to Westfield and North Hunterdon and upsetting #7(at the time) ranked Ridge HS.
We were so hyped and for two constant days checked MileSplit waiting for the rankings article to be posted just to see if we made the cut. Texting everyone on GroupMe and just seeing the excitement and shock from everyone once it was posted was a moment I won't ever forget. We had already been racing strong and above expectations during that Championship Season but seeing that ranking just showed everything had been validated.
We moved onto Groups and even though an injury to our #2 runner put us out, we knew everything we had accomplished was as a team and it had been one of the best seasons in our schools history. Going into a season basically unknown on the team scale and being able to get a spot on a list of some of the top teams in the entire country is always something to be excited for.
Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?
Over the last four years competition hasn't been hard to find, the competition is a leading reason for my success. In cross country the Westfield boys have always been top competitors around the state and a constant title contender in the state of New Jersey. Whether it's just a dual meet, shore coaches or at MOCS, they are always ready to go, a small 1-5 split team.
Track sees the same and between Union Catholic, Summit and Westfield it's always a close race against those guys regardless of event or if its relays or not. Being a freshman and seeing how far we all have come makes these races a certain level of crazy. Coming to talk more to them and building relationships, it's always fun to race them or see them drop a new PR. The success around the state from Union County has been growing and I look forward to seeing what the younger guys in the County can put forth in years to come.
What was your greatest accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment would be this past spring season when I won my first individual sectional title in the 3200m. I went into the race nervous as always but confident that I would secure a top six spot to qualify for Groups and eventually Meet of Champs.
What I have learned racing in Group 4 was anyone can win on any day and people always show up to these races prepared and ready since they are always stacked talent wise. I was coming off of both Conference and County titles and was looking for a PR from this race.
I was the 5th seed and sat deep in the pack just waiting for the right moment to strike. I hopped into the front with 500m to go and felt particularly well and ready for the last lap. We came across in 8:30 and I knew for a PR I would need my fastest final lap ever but was sitting comfortably on the leaders shoulders. It came down to a 3 person last straight away kick and I was able to close in 1:03 for a 9:33.7 PR and my first sectional title.
Sitting on the track after and just taking it all in was surreal and something I never imagined as a freshman would ever happen. Congratulating Will Loggia from Westfield who got 2nd in a huge pr was also awesome, kids a stud and look for him senior year to kill it. Overall, one of my favorite moments in my career and definitely a race I will remember for a while.
If you could do it all over again what would you change about your running or field career in high school?
I would tell myself to relax more and not be so hard on myself. I am someone who looks at everything very closely and sometimes looks at the bigger things rather than enjoying what I have. Always critiquing races or seeing the negatives in races has always been an issue of mine. Similarly, I have always been someone who gets very nervous before races, whether I'm projected to win or lose I always am fearful. I would make sure my younger self relaxes more and finds joy in the racing process rather than being scared of it. Taking the opportunity to look at running in the bigger picture and worrying about the smaller things second.
What will you miss the most?
I'm gonna miss the atmosphere of running in New Jersey, no matter what meet you are running at, especially in cross country it was always hyper. The crisp fall air just scattered with screaming, bells, whistles and cheering just to give the runners the little extra motivation. Every race in New Jersey is a battle and the state is so deep when it comes to distance running that everywhere you raced it was always a battle. New Jersey distance has treated me well the last four years and I'm gonna miss the battles and atmosphere from every time I toed the line.
What advice would you give to younger athletes?
To all the younger athletes reading this, train hard but recover harder. The seasons are all long and grueling and no one dropped a massive PR from a single road loop or workout. Constant improvement is how you will get better and making sure to allow your body to rest after a hard day will be the key to avoiding injuries or setbacks. Also, enjoy your time running because before you know it, it will be your last race ever in your high school uniform. Cherish the moments you have with the people you train with, enjoy the ride.
What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?
Coach Koegel is one of the most dedicated coaches out there, he wants all his athletes to be successful to whatever degree is possible. He is always preparing us, writing workouts and spending his time making sure we are healthy and ready to perform. Without him and his persistence I would not be where I am today and I am very thankful for him sharing his love for running with me. His constant grind and high energy motivation is the reason to get up at 7 am and do a long run or do 12x300s or 25 hill repeats. Coach Koegel, whether it is teaching math or being an XC/track coach makes people successful and I am happy to have called him my coach for the last four.
What are your post-high school or college plans?
I will be attending the University of Rhode Island where ill be running XC & Track, I will be studying Marketing.
Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?
I would like to thank all my teammates, friends, coaches and family for supporting me the entire way. Without you guys none of this would be possible and I am so appreciative of the support system I have been able to become accustomed too every practice, every meet and every run. Brandon Garcia in particular has been there since the start and we have grinded out the last four years together. I'm gonna miss the kid and he is gonna do big things running at the University of Albany.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I am going to miss the NJ running community so much and I am grateful for all the people I have met through it. It's been an amazing four years and I will miss the bowl, the bubble and the t-shirt lines even if they seemed like such a pain throughout High School. Go Raiders and Go Rams