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 would definitely be Indoor Groups, I never anticipated myself getting that far and it was crazy going up against the fastest kids in the Group. After advancing from Sectionals, I knew that it would get tougher but I always wanted to see the next stage. Even though I only PR'd by only .10, it was enough to make it a good day and to think that I ran the last possible race in the Bubble with the greatest competition.
Who would you consider your biggest competition over the past four years?
I would consider my biggest competition over the past four years to be my teammate Richard Carella. Although at times we would bump heads, I never had a teammate who pushed me beyond my limit and kept encouraging me to go on. He practically built me up from day one to become the athlete I am today.
He showed me how to pick yourself up after a race and proceed on to fight like hell the next, and he was a good runner who fought me to the line in every single race we had, whether it was a dual meet 400 to the Thompson Park 5K. I can't thank him enough for everything he has done, without him, I wouldn't be as strong and would be lost without someone to look up to.
What was your personal greatest accomplishment?
My personal greatest accomplishment would be going sub 2 indoors, it was a couple days after I ran the 4x800 at MOC where I ran 2-flat the third time in a row and thought I had something more. It was a small night meet at Ocean Breeze where a group of dedicated athletes from all levels went to compete right before the Corona frenzy. I pushed myself to lay it all out and ran 1:58.2 and went to the ranking of 27th. For the first time ever I thought what I did was enough to be something to smile about.
If you were writing a letter to your freshmen self, what are some items that would include?
If I were to write a letter to my freshman year self, I would say to calm down your thoughts. I was always someone who would second guess myself in everything, but there were times in races where that second guess would cost me or hurt me. If I were to just run, the outcome would be completely different. Also, just concentrate on doing your best instead of being scared to run, just remember the work you put in and leave it all on the line.
What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
The most difficult obstacle I had to overcome was hurting my foot. I tried changing my form unnaturally sophomore year that led to my foot being in massive pain that would come back every couple of days. After fighting it, I realized I needed to take time off. I had to sit some days out and was close to missing a big meet but my foot healed just enough to run and we hit the DMR record that day. It comes and goes, but not nearly as bad as it was that year.
What will you miss the most?
I will definitely miss my teammates, coaches and the memories the most. Nothing will replace those pre-meet days where we all took a freezing ice bath after school for preparation for the next day, the jokes and laughs we had were something else and it always calmed me before the big day.
I'll miss those moments when we hit relay records after a long day of nerves and waiting, but it became so worth it at the end. I'll miss those workouts with both teams where we would gather and anticipate what we may do and then get ready to run hard. Not to mention planning on relay spots and seeing what team stacks their best in one event for us to take another. There is much more stuff I will miss, but overall I will miss the atmosphere of high school XC and track.
What advice would you give to younger upcoming athletes?
My advice would be to never take any race for granted and run every race like it's your last one, most of us never saw this until it was too late and now most of us leave in regret. Also, have fun, this is a sport that you go out to run hard and not a job that determines your life. Running is a sport of many possibilities, treat it as one.
What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?
The influence my coach had with respect to my performance and overall life goals was a lot. Coach Andrews has been there from the very beginning and picked me up when I couldn't stand, he helped me develop a drive to fight even when you think it's not the time to. Bob has taught me discipline and made me the runner I am today. He is like a second father to me, helping me progress through school and even problems that can occur off the track as well. He was always honest, if I ran really well, he would tell me. If I did very bad, oh man I would shiver when he would approach, but his honesty built my gratitude knowing that he is looking out for me.
Mrs. Howrold has always been a kind soul and she has always talked to me before and after a race. She taught me patience, that hard work is required to race better, not just easy runs. Even though we had disagreements, it was always a pleasure to talk and laugh with her. Mrs. Rickert was another great coach, she was fierce and crazy, but the type of coach you need to be patriotic. Rickert was the type of coach to be excited and happy to see you race. She taught me one thing, to be brutal. If so someone were to step in your way, you catch them and hit your goal. Last, I can't forget about Coach Pulieo, one of the nicest guys I have ever met. He was passionate and always happy to be a part of the team and the first coach I recognized in the sport.
Name the top New Jersey XCTF moment(s) you have witnessed.
The top XCTF moment I have ever witnessed was the 2019 indoor MOC 3200m. I have never seen someone run under 9 minutes, but the fact that both Liam and Devin both did it indoors in the Bubble was crazy. The entire race was Devin in front and Liam following closely behind. The craziest part was when they hit the mile mark under 4:30, they both started speeding up. The last 200 meters were nuts with both of them fighting side by side, in the end Liam edged out Devin and I have never seen the Bubble that loud before. I wasn't in shock that much with Liam beating Devin, but the fact that they both went sub 9 and took the US #1 and #2 in the Bubble.
What are your post-high school or college plans?
My post-high school plans will be me attending Rider University in Fall 2020 to study political Science and to run DI XC and T&F.
Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?
I would like to say thank you to a lot of people. First and foremost my family, they have been there through the good races and the worst ones. My Dad has never missed a race and has always cared about my performances and drove me on with encouragement and guidance through workouts and races. My mom, even though she has no idea what's going on half the time, always cheers me on. My sister who screams the loudest and tells me " there is a guy behind you" even if I'm dead last.
I can't thank the Manalapan team enough for giving me another chance to perform better, especially the Andrews and Spectors families. Of course with Manalapan, I would like to thank my Coach and Mentor Bobby Andrews for being an amazing coach. I would also like to thank the Monroe team for all of the great memories and the relays we hit together. Also, I would like to thank Pleasantville alumni Larry Ramirez for guiding us and running every practice with us along with teaching me to be positive and strong. Last, I would like to thank Mrs. Howrold, Mrs. Rickert and Mr. Pulieo For being great coaches and people who I can always talk to and have a laugh with.
Is there anything else else you'd like to add?
The last thing I would like to add is I wish we got to run one last season, I know many athletes feel the same but doing time trials and workouts without a crowd is very hard to adapt to. Although our season was cancelled, I would like to say this sport made me the person I am today, and I absolutely loved it. Also...LET'S GO BRONCS!!