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.
What was your most memorable race?
There was definitely a lot of memorable races but I think these are the ones that really impacted me the most:
- 2017 Cross Country Group 3 Championship: Qualified for my first Meet of Champions also making the jump at Holmdel Park from running 20:42 freshman year(an all course PR when I ran it) to 16:36 as a sophomore which was the biggest drop in Holmdel time out of anybody in my class that ran Holmdel those two years.
- 2019 Shore Coaches Invite: A battle to the line for the ages with Luke Johnson where we both tied the meet record set earlier and I broke the only school record I ever wanted to beat since sophomore year that was held by Mainland legend Greg Hughes.
- 2019 Foot Locker Northeast Regional Championships: Punched my ticket to San Diego to qualify for my first cross county national championship.
- 2019 Nike Cross Nationals: Running at my first cross country national championship and under the toughest conditions I have ever raced in
Liam Murphy, Kevin Antczak, and Jack Jennings after all three qualified for Foot Locker Nationals.
Who would you consider your biggest competition over the past four years?
Without a doubt my two biggest competitors have equally been Liam Murphy and Jack Jennings. Every time we raced whether it was groups on the track to cross country nationals, we encouraged and pushed each other to bring out the best competition in ourselves. It doesn't get any better than that and I'm definitely going to miss racing them on a regular basis.
Even though I haven't been near the same level as them until this past year, freshman and sophomore year I always saw their names at the top of the class and would tell myself that if I kept on working hard, maybe one day I would see myself competing with runners like them.
What was your personal greatest accomplishment?
The greatest accomplishment of my high school career was going from being seconds from All-American status at Nike Cross Nationals to a just week later battling some sickness and go from 40th to 8th at the Foot Locker National Championship to finally earn All-American status and run I believe the second fastest NJ time of the decade at Balboa Park only behind the legendary Cheserek. This race was also one of the most memorable. The willpower I had that race to keep pushing myself and passing people while already in a lot of pain was something I'll never forget.
If you are writing a letter to your younger freshman self, what are some items that might include?
I would have told myself to "Make the most of high school running and have no regrets because too soon it will all end and go by in the blink of an eye". I would have also told myself "One day you are going to genuinely enjoy running for what it is and treat it more than a high school activity, so take It more serious from day one." because it is on of my biggest regrets that I didn't take running serious until sophomore year.
What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
There were many obstacles like little injuries, sickness, etc that I had to overcome, but by far the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was my physique and running ability going into my freshman year. I was pretty out of shape and somewhat overweight at 5'5'' and 150 pounds with no athleticism or muscle whatsoever.
What contributed to this and was also an obstacle was my eating habits and that I valued video games over everything. After a summer of training I believe I ran 26-7 minutes for the 5k at our time trial and by the end of freshman year I lost my bad habits, 10 pounds and on top of that ran 4:50 for 1600 and 10:18 for 3200. That summer I worked really hard and by the start of my sophomore year I was stronger and weighed under 135 pounds. Since then I grew a few inches and for reference I am now 5'8-9'' and 130 pounds.
What will you miss the most?
I will definitely miss the most making more memories and everything I did with my team; from races, to practice, to hanging out and I'm also going to miss getting to race and see my other friends at meets.
What advice would you give to younger athletes?
My first piece of advice to younger upcoming athletes is that if you do the same thing over and over again don't expect a different outcome: whether this thing is putting in the same level of commitment and not having the results your looking for, doing the same training and seeing no success or continuous injures, etc, something has to change if you want a different outcome to occur. One thing I should say is the same outcome is not always bad: if your doing everything the same, trying your best and seeing good results, I wouldn't mess that up by pushing yourself too hard. This doesn't just apply for training but it also applies for racing too. If you want to run a race faster than you need to run the race differently than you have and this is the only way to test your limits and only you know when its a good time to do that.
The second thing might sound a bit harsh but is brutally honest. I see so many people who run elite level mileage with ridiculous paces/workouts and then I go on their MileSplit profiles and see slower than expected times (compared to what they do for training) and no improvement. These people think the only way to get better at running is by running harder in practice and they get beat up and are fatigued on race day and usually don't make it through the season without injury or regression. In addition to seeing some ridiculous mileage and paces, sometimes I see that the elapsed time on peoples runs are 20-30 minutes longer than the duration of the run.
That being said, if people are continuously stopping on these runs from running too fast or long, etc, they are not getting anything out of it other then beating themselves up. The worst part about these types of runners is they like to show off their training and most likely another misled runner will see it and think they now need to do all their runs like they do. There's a reason that track workouts and hard efforts are not done every day. There's a difference between working hard and working hard in practice. Race day is when you should being showing off all your hard work so If your training runs/workouts are far more impressive than your ability in races then you are probably over-training.
Another piece of advice is that running isn't the only thing in your life so its not something that you should constantly stress about and its not worth it to get so worked up leading up to a race or after having a bad race. At the end of the day a race is just how fast you can run for a certain distance on a given day and once that day comes there's nothing more you can do to prepare yourself so just go out there, have fun, race, and make the best of it. Once you've had a bad race there is nothing you can do to take it back so make the most of it and learn from it.
I have fell victim to stressing about running too often and its just a big waste a time and will only negatively impact your racing. The spring of my junior year I got so worked up about running fast times to impress colleges and I only had 2 races I was happy with all season and those races I did good at were the ones where I wasn't planning to impress and just ran for myself. I ran that way my whole senior cross country season and I think it couldn't have turned out any better if you ask me. So my best piece of advice is find(and continue to find) the reasons you like to run and to race for those reasons.
My last piece of advice is to take advantage of your resources and one of your biggest resource is your coach. Your coach can only make you as great as you want to be. I encourage you to not just listen to your coaches but to try to learn from them and understand why they do what they do. I also encourage you to learn from other credible people/sources on ways to take you game to the next level if that's what you want to do.
What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?
Everything I accomplished in high school as a runner I couldn't have done without Coach Heyman. Like I said earlier, your coach can only make you as good as you are willing to become and he was very good at guiding me to find that willingness. At the same time no matter how good you want to become, your coach can only coach you to the best of their ability and if they are willing to. When you combine the highest level of commitment and determination with the highest level of knowledge, you get an unstoppable combination and I feel like that perfectly describes my relationship with Coach Heyman. Not only is he a great coach, but hes a great person, leader, and role model. This guy has been a one man show for the last 25 years and still going strong. Dan Heyman goes above and beyond just overseeing the team.
Katelyn Tuohy's 16:21 at Holmdel Park
Name the top New Jersey XCTF moment(s) you have witnessed.
Since I was in most legendary NJ races out of sight in the distance, I didn't really get to see many top of the great NJ XCTF moments on the male side, but I got to see some really incredible races on the female side.
My freshman and sophomore year I had the luxury of being teammates with one of NJ's greatest runners in recent memory, Alyssa Aldridge, and that being said I got to see some of her greatest performances in that period of time. My freshman year I wasn't that familiar with the sport but one of the greatest races I ever saw was her completely dominate everyone at the 2016 Cross Country Meet of Champions and win by over 30 seconds. Only just a week later I got to see another one of her amazing efforts at the 2016 Foot Locker Northeast Regional Championships crushing the rest of the field and it wasn't til later when I really got into the sport that I realized how truly great these performances were.
One of her races that I think got overlooked but really stood out to me was her dramatic kick to win the 2017 Group 3 Cross Country Championships because it was only months after she experienced a big setback and to see the determination a willpower she had to compete on the same level was very inspiring. Alyssa's performances really set the bar for our program individually and her greatness helped motivate and inspire me to become the runner I am today.
Some other great performance I got to see were Sean Dolan's and Chloe Gonzalez's 1600 Meet of Champions victories last spring but by far the greatest performance I have ever witnessed with my own eyes on NJ soil was when Katelyn Tuohy ran at the 2018 Shore Coaches invitational.
Leading up to it, this was one of the most talked about and hyped up New Jersey races I've been around for and to hear one of the greatest high school athletes of all time was coming to New Jersey to test the likes of the infamous Holmdel Park, it just seemed like something out of a fairy-tale.
Going into the race, I was expecting her to run a time in the 16:50's to Low 17's at best and I even had a bet going (no money involved) with my teammates whether my time at the meet would be 35 seconds faster than Katelyn's and I thought I was easily going to win the bet, especially after I ran a 16:04 a couple hours before her race.
After seeing her just blow by the rest of the field at the start, I knew I was about to witness history so I made sure I immediately got a good spot at the finish. Those 15 minutes that everyone was waiting at the finish felt like an eternity and the suspense just kept building that any minute she would appear. When I saw 15:40 on the clock, I said to myself it will probably be at least another 30 seconds before we would see her. Just after I said that, I saw a runner emerge from the woods and of course, it was her.
I couldn't believe what I was seeing and the crowd was going crazy at this point. As shes got closer to the finish-line I kept looking at her, then the clock, her, then the clock and my jaw dropped. Not only did I lose the bet, but she finished less than half of 35 seconds after my time. Almost all of New Jersey's fastest runners were at this meet and her time of 16:21 was only bested by about 15 guys. Now that she'll be my teammate this year at North Carolina State along with some other really fast runners, I'm hopefully going to get to see something like this again one day.
Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?
I would like to thank my friends, family, coaches, teammates, teachers, supporters, and Mainland Regional for making me the person and runner I am today and for always helping and supporting me.
I would also like to thank the coaches, staff, and runners at NC State for making my dreams come true and giving me the opportunity to alongside them, give my all and represent the wolfpack.
Anything else to add?
If you ever have any running questions or need advice message me on the gram @kevantczak and go pack!