Salute to Seniors: Henry Wood of Pingry School

Salute To Seniors is a medium for "senior farewells". We invited the 2021 seniors to tell their stories from the past four years. We hope we can offer a chance to reflect on all the great moments these student athletes were able to experience.

Submissions for this year's series is closed, we have our last submissions in queue to publish all this week.

Henry Wood

Pingry School

What was your most memorable race/moment? Why is that?

My most memorable race was the NJISAA Prep State Championship Cross Country meet during my sophomore year. As a team, we were huge underdogs going into the race, and should have been smoked according to paper. However, we were extremely determined to win. That day, we all dropped massive PRs and came out with a decisive 36-54 victory. As an individual, I put everything out on the line, and I still remember the whole experience in vivid detail. Seeing my teammates destroying expectations and celebrating our win together is a memory I will never forget. 

Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years and why?

Personally, I was never really one to have big rivalries with specific individuals. At the end of the day, while I'm definitely fueled by competition, I've always been primarily invested in how I'm racing and seeing my own self improvement. That being said, the Skyland Conference boys have been a large source of motivation for me throughout high school as I spent a lot of time directly competing against them. Seeing people in my class like Will Pinto and James Ptack drop big times always gave me more incentive to push myself to try and rise to their level.

What was your personal greatest accomplishment?

I'm not sure if I have a specific greatest accomplishment. While I'd say my overall best race relative to my age and fitness came in the 1600m at the Outdoor Skyland Conference Meet during my sophomore year, I think on a broader scale, my time spent running for Pingry as a whole was my greatest accomplishment. While I was not always happy with every performance, the culmination of each of these experiences has led me to become the runner that I am today. My final season of high school running may not have been everything I envisioned, but I still take pride in each experience from good to bad and start to finish. 

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

I would tell myself to try not to overthink too much. This is a piece of advice that I could still benefit from today. I've had a lot of races where I'd psych myself out before the gun even went off due to miscellaneous external factors or even if I just didn't feel great warming up. The days where I wasn't overthinking and simply racing for my own personal enjoyment were the days I ran my fastest. On a side note, I may also include a small piece about maintaining a healthy diet. Putting proper fuel into your body can make a big difference in workouts and races. However, I did have one of my best performances the day after eating an obscene amount of taco bell, so who knows?

What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?

I've definitely had a fair amount of obstacles I had to overcome. Most notably, being spiked in the achilles at Outdoor Groups 2019 was a huge hurdle for me. Two heats of the 800m were combined into one at the last second, so the race was super bunched up from the gun. Within my first few steps, I received a laceration in my achilles tendon that required stitches and 8 weeks off of running along with several weeks of physical therapy. As a result, I got off to a pretty slow start to my cross country season, but I was content with the way I bounced back and was able to put up some solid performances. 

More recently, I discovered that I had a serious case of bronchitis two days before groups this spring. My doctor told me that my lungs were performing at 40% efficiency and advised me to take at least two weeks off of all physical activity (especially running) to let my lungs recover. I was extremely frustrated, but I refused to let my high school career end on that note. I decided to take a leap of faith and run in the state meet anyways. Although I did not have my strongest performances, I know I did the best I could with what I had to finish out the year. While it's disappointing to fall short of the expectations I had set for myself this spring, I know that oftentimes circumstances are far from perfect and you have to adapt to whatever scenario is presented to you. My hope is that this setback means I have more room to develop as I look ahead to college. 

What will you miss the most?

Undoubtedly, I will miss my teammates the most. Year after year, Pingry distance running has been an extremely tight knit community, and there have been a lot of memories that I will cherish for a long time. From some of our best team performances out on the xc course to yacking four years in a row during our annual chocolate milk miles, these past four years were truly special. 

What advice would you give to younger upcoming athletes?

Similarly to what I'd tell my freshman year (and current) self, I would say not to overthink too much. While it's important to take care of yourself by sleeping/eating well and making good decisions, it's equally as important to keep a level head and put faith in your training. As cliche as it sounds, failure helps you succeed in the long run, so don't let the bad days discourage you and trust your training. 

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

Coach Horesta has had an immense impact on my performance. He's extremely knowledgeable when it comes to the sport of running, and knows how to properly build up athletes for the season through tempo training early on before implementing more speedwork as the season progresses. He's also kept me at low mileage (generally ~30 mpw) so I know I'm fresh going into college. Mentally, he's motivated me to have tenacity and stay hungry with each race. He talks a lot about just trying to put your body in front of other uniforms, and while it's a simple concept, that's gone a long way for me. Coach Lear, Coach Shilts, and Coach Christensen have also been constant sources of encouragement over the years. Each of these coaches are familiar with my two older siblings who also ran at Pingry, so I felt a strong connection to them from the start. As far as overall life goals go, I think cross country and track have taught me crucial lessons about structuring my time and being gritty. It's not always easy to balance athletics with everything else going on in life, but running three seasons has been a great way to keep me on my toes.

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

I've witnessed a lot of impressive moments in New Jersey XCTF, but the most absurd to me was watching Marco Langon drop a 4:17 1600m as a freshman. Seeing a 14 year old kid dust me and drop that kind of a time was pretty insane. 

What are your post-high school or college plans?

I will be a part of the cross country and track teams at Brown University. I am undecided in terms of my concentration, but am considering applied mathematics-economics. 

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

I would like to say thank you to my coaches for always having faith in me and helping me become the runner and person I am today. I am extremely grateful for their guidance and support. I would also like to thank my teammates. Whether it be the quiet pleasure of a long run, the intensity of a workout, or just being goons during practice, these past four years would not have been complete without them. While I've had some races I'll remember for a long time, I know that it's the experiences I've shared with all of the guys on the team that I'll remember forever. Lastly, I would like to thank my family and friends for supporting me in my endeavors.