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.
What was your most memorable race?
My most memorable race was the indoor 3200m at the 2019 MOC. This race stands out to me because it was my first MOC title which put me on the map for college coaches, and gave me a level of exposure that I never thought I would attain. My coach and I knew what the goal was going into the race, and I knew what I was personally capable of, but to everyone else I was just another runner in the background of a loaded MOC field hoping for a spot to medal. My performance in that race provided me with the confidence I needed moving forward at competitive meets. It was proof to myself that no goal was out of reach if I was willing to put in the hard work to get there.
Who would you consider your biggest competition over the past four years?
Over the last 4 years, my biggest competition would have to be Devin Hart, Jack Stanley, Kevin Antczak, and Jack Jennings. With every race I competed against them, I knew they would bring out the best performance in me, and it would always be a close race all the way until the final stretch. It was very special sharing the top stage with all of these standout runners over the past 4 years.
What was your personal greatest accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment was getting the MOC double this past winter season. Especially with all of the controversy that happened in the 1600m, it was extremely difficult both mentally and physically to regroup after that event and come back to race within the stacked 3200m an hour later. It was a challenge I had never encountered before, and I was proud of my ability to focus on the task ahead of me and give that race everything I had left.
Watch the 2020 Indoor Meet of Champions 3200m Race, Instant Classic!
If you were writing a letter to your freshmen self, what are some items that would include?
If I was writing a letter to my freshman self, I would tell myself to trade in my soccer cleats for running spikes earlier and run all 3 seasons from the beginning. I feel that I lost out on some valuable time full of lessons and experiences any runner has in the beginning of their career, and consequently felt that I was behind other competitors in my age once I actually got serious about running. Given that junior year was my first cross country season ever, I had no idea what to expect or any previous knowledge about the various courses.
Fortunately, I had great coaches, teammates, and my older brother, who all helped me out and gave me great advice that has played a big role in my success today. Also, due to the fact that I felt I had a lot of catching up to do my junior year, I was focused on training to work my way up and win big meets. In retrospect, I would also tell myself to enjoy the whole journey more and focus on enjoying the sport.
What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
Throughout my 4 years of high school, I was fortunate to not experience any injuries or setbacks that took me away from running. With that said, I think the biggest obstacle for me was learning the mental aspect of running, as well as the spring 2019 season. I have always heard, "so much of running is mental," but I never truly understood that statement until I began training and competing. Being in the right mindset leading up to race day, on race day, and even during and after the race plays such a critical role in one's career as a runner, and I feel that it is mostly overlooked by most high school runners.
Coming off of the huge surprising win in the 3200m at 2019 indoor MOC, I was so physically and mentally ready for Nationals the following weekend that I felt like I could have raced it the next day. However, in the days leading up to the race I ended up getting the flu which negatively altered my mindset and my training regimen. I ended up falling extremely short of the goal I wanted to achieve at Nationals. As a result, I was torn between eagerness to get back to where I was for the Spring, as well as having doubts for the upcoming season after my recent performance.
Before that Spring season even started, I think I was physically burned out because I had never participated in three seasons of running in a row before. I definitely struggled having a third straight season for the first time, and all that mileage and racing the whole year was starting to catch up to me. As I mentioned previously, I also didn't fully have a positive mindset going into the season. After a couple of races of things not going my way, I began to get really hard on myself, and would think nothing but negative things. It honestly felt at some points that I had already lost the race before it even started. I started to hate running and as crazy as it sounds, had thoughts of quitting. Sometimes you need to lose, in order to learn how to win again.
During the summer prior to my senior year I spent a lot of time trying to learn the mental side of running and where my mind should be at the week leading up to the actual race and being in the race. I began to realize that running isn't all just about the training but also how you think about it. With this new perspective, I found that running became a lot easier and I started to enjoy it more than I ever did. I realized that once a bad race is over, it's so important to let go of it, focusing only on what aspects I could improve and prepare for the next race.
What will you miss the most?
In leaving high school running, I am going to miss my Head coach - Coach Smith, the most. Over the past four years, I've really built a bond like no other with him which has played a huge role in my high school success. He wasn't just a coach to me, but also a friend and mentor who I could talk about anything with, which I believe not only helped my training and meet performances, but also made me grow as an athlete and person.
I will miss my team, my friends, and the entire Allentown community who supported me every step of the way. My teammates and I made the best memories throughout the seasons, and my friends were always supporting me and so interested in upcoming meets. Also, the love I've felt from the Allentown community through the school and from families was unreal, and I could never thank them enough.
And of course, the camaraderie and spirit that comes with the New Jersey running community. From the MileSplit coverage with their articles and interviews, to all the fellow runners I have encountered throughout the past few years. They have made my high school running experience so memorable. New Jersey's high school running community is really like no other; I've met some great people over the years and developed some great friendships.
What advice would you give to younger upcoming athletes?
To all of the upcoming athletes, the best advice I can provide: commit to running in high school from day one, set high goals for yourself and trust that your training will lead you there, and enjoy every second of it. There will be countless times where things do not go your way and you feel like quitting, but as long as you listen to your coach, adjust your mindset, and continue training hard everything will fall into place.
Another big piece of advice that has helped me is not to dwell on bad races. You either have a good race and get the result you wanted, or the race didn't go your way but can still serve as a valuable learning experience. Regardless, the race is over and you can't change the outcome of it so it's important to focus on what you could've done better and apply it to the next race.
Finally, the last piece of advice I have, and arguably the most important, is to maintain your passions and life outside of running. The second you let running become your whole life you, it can easily become more stressful than it is enjoyable.
Workout Wednesday with Liam Murphy prepping for NJSIAA Sectionals.
What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?
I can not thank Coach Smith enough for everything he has done for me. All of my performances and results are really because of his training regimens, workouts, and weekly plans he gave me over the years. I had little knowledge of the sport coming into this or how to train, so I attribute a large part of the runner I have become to his coaching.
When it comes to setting goals, if anyone else could hear the discussions my coach and I have had on plans for the season, they would've just laughed at us. My coach has taught me the importance of setting high goals and to not stop working towards them until I reached them. Not only did this help me in high school running, but it is a skill that I will carry with me the rest of my life.
My other coach, Coach Myhal, has also had a large part in shaping my work ethic and making me a smarter athlete. She has definitely instilled the importance of warming up properly and making sure I stretched before practice to make sure everything felt fine. Because of both of their efforts and support at every step of the way, I have reached where I am today and I could not express how fortunate I am to have them both as mentors in my life.
Name the top New Jersey XCTF moment(s) you have witnessed.
The most memorable moment that I can recall in New Jersey XCTF over the years would have to be when my brother Conor won the Group III 3200m indoor race in 2015. At this point I still didn't know anything about running or what that really meant, so it was cool to see him and my family get really excited over such a big win. This was definitely a pivotal moment that sparked my interest in running, and inspired me to do the same someday. It also showed me what hard work can achieve with consistent training and dedication to your craft.
What are your post-high school or college plans?
My post high school running plans are to run for Villanova University and compete in cross country and track & field within the Big East. I'm very excited to continue to run for the Wildcats next year, and eager to learn from another impressive coach in both Matt Valeriani and Marcus O'Sullivan. I'm looking forward to being a part of a team again and to train daily with these guys on campus.
Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?
I would like to say thank you to my family for supporting me and being at every single one of my races. It's been really special to have gone on this journey over the last four years, especially with them cheering me on every step of the way. I couldn't have done it without their endless support and encouragement.
A huge thank you to my parents for traveling all over the country with me to all my different races, and for supporting me at all times. Another huge shoutout to my brother, Conor, for being a great mentor, training buddy, and second coach these last four years; he has shaped who I am as a runner and person. Another thank you to my sister, Kiera, for cheering for me louder than anyone else at every race. And to my grandparents for also being at every single one of my races, and memorizing every statistic and fact possible about high school running. And finally a thank you to my extended family and friends for their endless support at all my meets and for always showing up in large numbers to support me. All of you guys are the reason my last four years has played out the way it did, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
High school running has given me more than I could ever imagine; allowing me to travel all over the country seeing new places, meeting professional athletes and Olympians, and making great friends for a lifetime. The experiences and lessons I've gained are so valuable along with all the wildest moments I've gone through.
And to the NJXCTF community - you guys made these last four years so special. Thank you Rob Kellert and Jim Lambert too for all the great coverage on NJ MileSplit over the years, and for making running so enjoyable for us!