Salute to Seniors: Jack Jennings of Mendham HS

Salute To Seniors is a medium for "senior farewells". We invited the 2020 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. Thank you to everyone who submitted, we still have quite a few to post and the series ends with July. 

Jack Jennings

Mendham HS

What was your most memorable race? 

My most memorable race is probably the XC Group 3 race this past fall. I had a great run of form from my conference, counties and then sectionals, running in the low 15:00s week after week. I had felt the most fit I had ever been but I was still mentally nervous. My coach was persistent that I was the one to beat and that I could run with almost anybody in the country.

That race went off and Liam (Murphy) and I went back and forth for the entire race. I thought we were running 15:30 pace the whole time. I glanced at the clock as I passed the line and saw 15:19 and was like ¨that pretty fast¨ and then immediately remembering that I wasn't at Greystone. I was in absolute shock for a while after the race as I had never thought I would ever be able to run that fast at Holmdel. This race really gave me a mental boost that I needed and also became an instant classic.

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

My freshman / sophomore year I wouldn't say I had a specific rival but I would always compare myself to the other guys in my grade. It wasn't until my junior year that I can say Liam Murphy and Kevin Antczak became my biggest competition. The Group 3 gang is strong and us three did nothing but push each other this past XC season. Us three have very similar times and pushed each other when it mattered most.

What was your personal greatest accomplishment?

My greatest accomplishment is helping my team win our county, conference, section and state group championship 3 years in a row. Nothing is better than winning as a team and celebrating with your friends. The brotherhood is strong and there is no other group of guys I would have rather spent the last 4 years with.

If you are writing a letter to your younger freshman self, what are some items that might include?

I would simply tell myself that you are about to go on the journey of a lifetime. you are going to make new friends and experience extreme highs and absolute lows but don't let that get in the way of what's important. Listen to coach and believe in yourself and the rest will fall into place.

What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?

I don't think I ever had too many obstacles. My freshman and sophomore year I got some minor injuries. I pulled my hip flexor like 4 times in 2 years and I also pulled my butt after MOC my freshman year. Don't know how that happened but it did. Other than that, the beginning of my junior year I had a problem during races and workouts where I would gag and sometimes throw up mid race. I just cut some things out of my diet and that fixed the problem.

What will you miss the most?

I am going to miss my boys and running at Greystone. Greystone was my favorite course and I felt I had mastered how to race there. I'm also going to miss running around the course with a uniform tied to a stick as our ¨flag¨ and cheering on the JV kids. There really is nothing like the Brotherhood of XC and I truly am going to miss all the experiences with my friends.

What advice would you give to younger athletes?

LISTEN TO YOUR COACH THEY KNOW MORE THAN YOU. Other than that, I would have to say believe in yourself because the greatest opponent you will ever face is in your own head. Trust the process as success doesn't come fast.

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

My coach, Roy Hamblen, has to be one of the best, if not the best cross country coach in NJ. When I came in as a freshman, I had no clue what I was doing or anything. I was a shy little kid who liked to goof around but my coach saw something in me, and he sees something in everyone he coaches.

My coach has changed my life so much and I really don't know where I would be without him. I'm not just speaking for myself though, plenty of other guys on the team feel the same way. My coach cares about everyone on the team and favorites nobody. He's not afraid to call you out but he's just as likely to highlight your successes no matter who you are.

You know you have a good coach when everybody from the Varsity to JV is improving week after week and not just improving but constantly dropping 20-30 seconds at a time. My coach knows what he is doing and I have the utmost respect for him because without his guidance, words of wisdom and training, I really don't know what I would be doing with my life.

The 2016 Group 3 finish between Gindi and Grossman Jennings chose as the greatest XC moment he's seen. 

Name the top New Jersey XCTF moment your have witnessed. Can by by level of greatness or just something that really stood out to you. 

One of the greatest moments in XC I had seen was the 2016 Group 3 championship. I was in the race so I didn't get to see the finish but I remember watching the race after online and seeing Elliot Gindi and Matt Grossman have a photo finish both running 15:27.

I remember thinking that these two were Gods among men and I looked up to Matt Grossman specifically because I raced him a few times indoors and I was just amazed at how he could go out and run fast times by himself. I got lapped a few times by him in the 3200 but it's okay because I was more amazed by it than mad.

What are your post-high school or college plans?

I will be attending Villanova University this fall (and hopefully be on campus) where I will continue my running career. I am very excited.

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

I would first like to thank my former teammates Val Figueira and Jack Stanley. Val really guided me when I was younger and helped me really get into the sport and Stanley was a true athlete who helped push me to my fullest potential.

I would also like to obviously thank my Coach for everything he has done and making me realize that I am more capable than I know.

Lastly, I want to thank the team and my parents. I couldn't not have asked for a better team to spend my time with and a thank you to both my parents for coming to every single race and always supporting me, even if I had a bad race.

Anything else to add?