Salute to Seniors: Dario Epifania of South Brunswick

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 race would have to be from my freshman year. I ran the Freshman GMC 3200, and coming into the race, I was feeling real sorry for myself. I had just underperformed in the 1600 just a few hours ago, barely getting 6th when it should've been more like top 2. My coach had chewed me out, and I wasn't in the most competitive mood coming into the 32.

The gun went off, and right from the beginning, a kid from East Brunswick took it out hard. I had no desire to run with him, so, like a chump, I let him go and immediately started to race for a silver medal. I was chugging along and with about 800m to go, my coach started yelling to me: "you're gonna get second either way, try to close this gap, it's 17 seconds".

With redemption on the line, I accepted his challenge. I started to move, and with about 400 to go, my bones started to ache, but the cheers of my teammates from the infield willed me forward. The gap was now down to about 8 seconds. I kept pushing, and with about 150 to go, the gap was about 10 meters. What happened next made me realize what running is really all about.

I ended up making the pass with about 45 meters to go. The crowd was roaring, as I'd just done the unthinkable, I'd made a 3200m race interesting! I could taste the victory as I came to the line; but unfortunately, I messed up. You see, Old Bridge's track, which is where we were running, has a start line for both the full mile, and the 1600. I ended up stopping at the mile line. Absolutely exhausted, I thought I had won, only to realize that I still had 9 more meters to run, and that was enough. The kid from East Brunswick responded, and barely clipped me at the line for the win.

I was heartbroken. I had done all that work, stretched my kick to the limit, didn't PR, and still didn't even get the win. But that's running. Some days you're on top of the word, going out as a champion, and other days you're the epitome of "almosts". That race will always stick with me, because it showed me what running is all about: riding the highs, and fighting back from the lows.

Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?

East Brunswick and Old Bridge have definitely been our biggest competitors over the years. They both field strong teams that always push us to our limits. Usually South Brunswick ends up on top, but not always, and even when we do end up on top, it's never easy.

What was your greatest accomplishment?

My greatest accomplishment was becoming a two time all conference cross country runner. I had always wanted to be a top dog in the competitive GMC, and I can honestly say that I deserved those all conference nods my last two years wearing the black and gold.

If you could do it all over again what would you change about your running or field career in high school?

I would definitely work smarter. Early on, I was someone who would destroy my distance runs and workouts, and never have anything left come race day because I'd be too drained, both mentally and physically. I would also put a lot of pressure on myself to PR and run fast every single race, which is a terrible way to go about preparing for competition. If I could do it all over again, I would make sure to take the easy days easy, the hard days hard, and have some fun on race day instead of being so uptight.

What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?

Definitely my own head. While physically, I've been working for four years to become a more fit runner, mentally I've been working to become a more confident one. I've learned that the work and confidence go hand-in-hand. I would always run my best when I knew that I was doing all I could to succeed; doing all my mileage, running workouts the right way, stretching, and above all else, being consistent!

What will you miss the most?

I'll miss those cool Autumn Saturday mornings at Thompson park where me and the boys would get in a nice workout, joke around on the cool down, and then scheme with coach Rivera on how we were going to attack the next week/race. That stuff always made me feel good.

What advice would you give to younger athletes?

Be consistent with your training, listen to your coaches and your body, and most important; get to know the guys you're toeing the line with. This sport has introduced me to so many awesome guys and girls that are some of my closest friends now. The PRs and training sessions don't last forever, but those relationships can if you let them; and honestly, they're the best part about the whole sport.

What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?

Coach Rivera has done so much to help better me as both a runner and just a plain old human being. Whether it was tips for running like "smart racing always beats tough racing", or tips for life like "when you're running late, always say you're going to be later than you actually are, so that when you show up 'early', people are impressed", I never stopped learning from Rivera, and I'll always have those lessons with me moving forward.

What are your post-high school or college plans?

I'm going to be running cross country and track at Rowan University, go profs!

Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?

All my coaches and teammates. They made showing up for practice after school or early in the morning worth it. The countless number of laughs and inside jokes we've made is astounding. I'd especially like to thank my friend, Joey K. for roping me into running cross country in 7th grade all those summers ago, and my middle school coach, coach Niemis for being the first coach who believed in me, even when I didn't necessarily believe in myself.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Stay steezin, SBXC.