Salute to Seniors: Jake Aylmer of Haddon Twp

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 are closing up the series and still have a few in queue to be posted. 

Jake Aylmer

Haddon Township HS

What was your most memorable race?

My most memorable race is XC States from junior year, when we won the team championship. Going into the meet not many people outside of Haddon Township thought we could win (shoutout Jim Lambert for being the only expert to pick us in the pre-meet preview article). We all knew we put the work in and had a shot, and we ended up winning by 46 points, all without anyone finishing inside the top 10 individually. We were escorted around the town with a firetruck parade when we arrived back in HT and it felt great to bring a state title back home.  

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

Some of the best competition I've had has come from my own teammates, especially Liam Duffy, Noah Dinerman and Luke Overbeck. Being able to train everyday with some of your biggest competitors has been extremely beneficial for all of us and it helped me improve as a runner dramatically. Outside of Haddon Township, my biggest competition has been Zach Williams from Audubon. Being in the same conference, section, group and living in neighboring towns has allowed us to have some intense battles in a lot of races, while also becoming great friends in the process. Thanks Zach Wills for always pushing me to be my best. 

What was your personal greatest accomplishment?

My greatest personal accomplishment was leading my team to a 2nd state title in a row this past fall in XC. I took the race out fairly slow, going out in 12th place through the mile, but I started moving up during the 2nd mile to 9th place before finishing in 4th place in 16:38. Being defending champs put a target on our backs but everyone stepped up to the challenge and we won by a resounding 89 points.

This race ended up being especially important to me individually because my performance made me the 7th fastest runner at Holmdel from my school, and I was HT's top finisher at states since Owen Long won the meet in 2015. I'm very proud to be up there with some of the best that have ever come through Haddon Township XC.

What will you miss the most?

Something that I miss more than anything already is just going to practice and being with my teammates every day. The camaraderie around my team was awesome and I miss being able to see them. Running was only part of being on the team, but the time we spent together was very special and I will miss it the most.

While I certainly had a great time being on the team, it's always fun to see hard work pay off. There's nothing more rewarding than winning a meet as a team and seeing everyone improve and succeed. While we missed out on a few of these opportunities this spring, I will never forget all the meets we won together and the practices we spent working hard to reach our goals.   

What advice would you give to younger upcoming athletes?

Some of the best advice I would give to younger athletes is to trust that you can be great. The amazing thing about this sport is that anyone can become the best with a bit of hard work. Listen to your coaches, they know what they are talking about. Always maintain trust in yourself and know that your hard work will pay off. Most importantly, remember to have fun. Don't get too stressed over a bad race or workout, trust the process and have fun with your team and better times will come.  

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

I have had some great coaches during my 4 years of XC and track at HT. 

Coach Vernon coached me to break 5 in the mile and I advanced to states for the first time individually while training under him. Coach Vernon always knew that I could give more to my training and taught me to believe in myself. These lessons stayed with me even when he wasn't my coach anymore and allowed me to trust myself and my abilities over the past 4 years. 

Mr Steltz was not only my winter track coach all 4 years, but he also was my English teacher in 10th and 12th grade. Mr Steltz helped me realize how important nutrition was when he noticed I was not performing to the best of my ability and that I was always tired in general. I wasn't at my best in school or running during this time but he was able to help me eat better and form healthier habits, which has led to improvements in all aspects of my life. Mr Steltz has always been a great mentor and friend, offering advice and helping me gain a lot of confidence in myself over the past few years. 

Coach Donohue has created a tradition of winning at Haddon Township. In his 15 years as head coach, HT has won 7 state championships. This winning culture starts with the coach and goes all the way down the roster. Coach Donohue gave each runner on the team great attention, writing workouts that fit everyone's needs and allow us all to improve dramatically year over year. This dedication to every runner has led to great success for HT in cross country and I'm sure it will continue for years to come. Thank you CoachD5k.

Name the top New Jersey XCTF moment(s) you have witnessed. 

This past October, Coach sent us out for an easy run, but told us to push each hill we came across. Everyone stayed together throughout the entire run up until the final hill: Centre Street in Haddonfield. As we approached the bottom of the hill we were still running together but as soon as the road started to incline, Dom "Boom Boom" Borrelli shot out like a cannon. Boom Boom literally floated up the hill in the most graceful way possible, leaving everyone else stunned behind him. I've never seen someone run so majestically, and I doubt I will ever see anything top it. This performance was by far the most athletic thing I have ever seen.  

What are your post-high school or college plans?

I will be attending Stevens Institute of Technology, running cross country and track.  

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

I want to thank all of my teammates at Haddon Township the past 4 years. We had some great times together and I made some of my best friends from being on this team. From caravaning to Chipotle, the memories will certainly be cherished. 

I want to thank my coaches. Coach Donohue, Steltz, and Vernon all helped me mature as a person and improve as a runner. These three have had a tremendous impact on me and I thank them for that. 

I want to thank my competitors. Without you, I would have no motivation to go out there everyday and try to improve. It's been a lot of fun seeing everyone get better through the years and I've been lucky to compete against a lot of great runners in the Colonial Conference and South Jersey.  

Is there anything else you'd like to add?  

With the spring season cancelled and behind us, and the fall season in jeopardy, there haven't been many things to look forward to. During these past few months I've realized even without races to work for, I still find myself going out everyday and enjoying running simply for the purpose of running. Those that love running for what it is will come out of this stronger than those that don't. They will be putting in the work because they want to, rather than because they have to. While it was nice to have some free training the past few months, I am looking forward to racing again and hopefully that can happen soon.