Salute To Seniors is a medium for "senior farewells". We invite this year's seniors to tell their stories from the past four years. With the loss of the spring season we hope we can offer a chance to reflect on all the great moments this class did get to experience.
The series will run into the summer. Please note that there is a queue of submissions that keeps growing so there may be a wait until final publishing, but we will get to your piece.
What was your most memorable race?
The most memorable race for me was Meet of Champions during Cross Country senior year. During Groups, I hurt my ankle during the race, and could barely walk from the finish line back to the tent. After that, I felt horrible, and knew that if we qualified for MOCs, I probably wouldn't be able to run. Luckily, I was able to recover within a week, and was able to run at MOCs after our team qualified.
Although my performance was far less satisfactory from the rest of my races due to still being hurt, I am still very happy I had that opportunity to race at a meet that I had never thought I would have raced at.
The mood at the Meet of The Champions was unlike any meet I had raced before, as I was standing on a line right next to some of the most elite high school runners in the state (our team even having small conversations on the starting line with them while we waited for the race to start!). This was a defining race in my high school career and shows that I can bounce back from a difficult obstacle in a very short amount of time, even if that means I don't have my best performance. Of course, I took the following week after MOCs to get completely better for track!!!
Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?
Although it may sound cliche, my biggest competition throughout these four years has been myself. Many, many times, I would get prepared to go to the starting line, and think to myself, why I am I doing this, as my nerves would go up the roof.
During a race, it is a big battle amongst myself to move as fast as I can but it is truly not easy. My mind wants me to stop because I am tired, but I know I must fight that and continue, even if that means I have to slow down. I always know it is worth it in the end as the glory outweighs the pain. I have been through rough patches, including junior year when I had a really rough cross country season. It was embarrassing having that bad season, but I was glad I was able to rise up from that and have a stellar junior track season and senior XC season. Many people know that my "mind races faster than my legs sometimes" (shout-out to Zach Edison on that quote), and fighting that obstacle is greater than any you will find in trying to beat other personal competitors. Anyways, it's always a mental game for me, and for me, it's always thinking about how I can beat my own times, rather than beating other people.
What was your personal greatest accomplishment?
My personal greatest accomplishment, in my opinion, is when I broke 5 minutes in the mile for the first time at Lion Invitational in 2019. I remember that was one of the best days of my life. Despite it being a super windy day, I felt great out on the track. I remember seeing Coach Liz Spector, my dad, and my teammates right after the race, and seeing how excited they were for me, which got me even more pumped.
To this day, that day sticks out to me as an amazing memory, and that is an accomplishment that I will never forget. Although I would have been more satisfied had I accomplished this earlier (my sophomore year instead of junior year), it still made me feel amazing.
If you are writing a letter to your younger freshman self, what are some items that might include?
To freshman Max,
These next four years are not going to be easy, but they are going to be the best years of your life yet. You will do things you could never fathom being able to do, and you will have the greatest teammates and friends you could ever hope for. Max, I know you're super introverted and probably don't think you will really get to build a bond with these teammates, because I know it was really difficult to fit in with the middle school team, but trust me, this will be your second family for the next four years, and they will help you be a little less quiet, and expand your horizon, and make more friends.
Anyways, to the unfathomable things you will be doing. To start, November of Freshman year you will run in Alabama at the Junior Olympics national race. It will be a fun race getting to experience a new course, and nice being able to take a trip with your "Gone Running" team!!! Another unfathomable thing is running at Meet of Champs senior year. Another is getting to be on top 7 for Cross Country, as unbelievable as it seems, and breaking 5 in the 1600 and breaking 10:40 in the 3200!
Finally, and the only unfortunate part, your Senior year will be cut short. While it is infuriating and mentally difficult, you will still be able to accomplish something huge, running not only your first half marathon, but reach almost 16 miles on a single run, all by myself!! It will not be an easy time, and the time you are most looking forward to is going to look a little different, but the future ahead is bright!! Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime over these next four years, and brace yourself for high mileage, fun races, and most of all, an academic and athletic high school career to look back and smile upon.
What will you miss the most? Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?
The part of High School Cross Country and Track and Field that I will miss the most is definitely my teammates and coaches. Thank you especially Carter Caruso, Will Spector, Zach Edison, and Malav Mehta for being huge role models to me during my underclassmen years! You really helped me get through the most difficult of times, and were there to help me become a part of the team. I don't know what I would do without you four, and you were always there to show me the ropes, and give me advice. I can't thank you guys enough.
I would like to also give a shoutout to Manalapan's future XC and Track leaders Luke Rafferty, Ryan Petosa, Rowan Cassidy, Andrew Smolowitz, Aidan Solomon, Christian Savage, Jared Povell, and Josh Kim. You guys go above and beyond on and off the track, and there is no doubt you guys will continue the amazing legacy of our team. Of course I can't forget my fellow Manalapan seniors, Aiden Bonomo, Rishi Sharma, Kyle Spector, Dhavan Antala, Ryan Friedman, and Jeremie Garcia. There are no words for the impact you have all had on me. From our inside jokes to our pasta parties, it has really been a blast and won't be the same without you next year. Thank you for helping me lead an amazing team, and being the best friends I could ask for!!
Beyond those that go to our school, we were fortunate enough to have other people train with us as part of our team, so shout out to Joe Cicoria, Larry Ramirez, and Kristen Andrews for lightening the mood during workouts, and making coming to practice even more fun.
Finally, I would like to thank my amazing coaches who have been there for me consistently throughout high school Coach Redmond, Coach Moran, Coach Clark, Coach Papcun, Coach Hunt, Coaches Liz and Allen Spector, and Coach Bob Andrews. Thank you all of you for teaching me something, and making me a better person. I really appreciate being able to talk to any of you when I needed that. Thank you for all of that support.
What advice would you give to younger upcoming athletes?
To the future of Manalapan,
Please, please, don't make the time rush!!! As exemplified by this year, you never know when and how quickly it can be taken from you! I would also like to share two words with you, Don't slack!! Putting in the work pays off, and trust me, I know! I know that the temptation to slack off and run less is very high, especially when you're a freshman, but please, take it seriously, and you can be so happy with what you're able to do! Also, please don't compare yourself to other people. Being able to run is a blessing, and cross country and track runners are the elite of the elite. I know first hand it can be discouraging to spend hours on MileSplit looking at other people's times and wish you were that fast, but don't feel bad! You are amazing for whatever you are able to do, and you will be highly commended by me, as long as you put in the work!! Remember, even though I no longer attend Manalapan, I will always be there for you, so never be afraid to reach out to me if you ever need more advice.
What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?
To Coach Redmond and Coach Andrews,
You two have spent a lot of time helping me become the runner and the person I am today. Big Bob Andrews, I would not be running without your spectacular program that you do for our community. Thank you for encouraging me to join this sport all the way back in 6th grade, and continuing to be an influence to me in so many ways ever since. I will miss you giving us 400m whoppers at the end of track workouts!! I would like to thank Coach Redmond for all of the motivational talks whenever I am feeling down, and the boosting talks whenever I have a big Cross Country race ahead of me.
What are your post-high school or college plans?
This fall, I am happy to announce, that I will be continuing Cross Country and Track and Field at Stockton University. I am excited to be joined by my former Manalapan and now future Stockton teammate, Cooper Knorr, and my future roommate/training partner, Ryan Davis. I can't wait for another exciting four years, and a fresh start with a new team. I will still deeply miss my Manalapan family, but am I excited for what the future holds.