Monday, May 25, 2009

Senior Farewell

It is that time of year – graduation. We are saying goodbye to a group of guys who have run thousands of miles and had a tremendous impact on our distance program. The core group of high performers who came in their freshman year have made an impact from the beginning. It brings back a lot of good memories and a sense of amazement that they have grown so much and are now off to their next phase of life…

I wanted to write some of my memories up about them, as well as provide some context for the younger runners in the program. It shows that tremendous growth can happen with hard work and focus.

Chris Balch – Balch came out his Sophomore year from Cross Country. He was tall, and to be honest a bit awkward in his running style. His VDOT at the end of that first season was 48. He ran a 5:30 in track his sophomore year. Balch improved his Junior year, but his real breakthrough came his senior year. I asked him after his great race at Sectionals on Saturday what made the difference. He said that at the end of Junior year Track he made a decision to work harder and get very specific about his goals. Since Cross Country season began he has been doing about 50 miles per week, up from 30-35. This focus and increased mileage, along with the fact that he has simply grown into his body allowed him to get to a 60 VDOT in XC and 63 in Track – with PR’s of 4:44 and 10:21 (worth probably under 10:10 since it was so hot at Sectionals). I look forward to hear how he does at Syracuse and with his triathlons. My bet is a guy who has learned to focus and work hard will have great success.

Ben Friedman – Ben came to the program with more experience than most runners on the team. He made an immediate impact his freshman year (60 VDOT), making the Varsity XC team and running on the 2nd place State Group 3 and 10th place Meet of Champions Team of 2005. Over the course of his 4 years, he has set the standard for hard work. Day in and day out – year round – no one works harder. He has been a steady fixture as one of the leaders of the team over that period of time. He leaves with being in the Top 10 runners of all time (65 VDOT) on all of the major courses we run on in Cross Country. And it is likely his total mileage in high school will never be surpassed. As he heads off to Alabama, I am sure his work ethic and perseverance will bring him continued success.

Micah Friedman – Micah was one of those freshmen who came out for the team with a deep knowledge of the sport. Like his cousin Ben, he was a consistent hard worker. He progressed a great deal between his Freshman (50 VDOT) and Sophomore years, however he was always held back by injuries. His Junior year (60 VDOT) he emerged as one of the leaders on the team and ran for the Top 7 in a number of XC meets. He went out for football his senior year and really added a huge amount of muscle – especially compared to the skinny guy he was when he entered the program. He was able to finish off his high school career running the 800 meter in track and setting PR’s his Senior year. Micah is off to Maryland, and I hope he comes back for some runs with the team when he visits home.

Andy Josephson – Like Balch, Josephson came out his sophomore year as a long and lanky runner. He has been one of the most consistent runners coming to the bench in all seasons and all weather. If I would stop by for a run on a cold winter day, and there were only 5 guys there, I could be sure one of them was Josephson. He has had great improvements, coming from a 49 VDOT to a 59 VDOT by consistently running. As he heads off to Lehigh, it will be strange to not see him at the bench…

Alex Matteson – Matteson came in as a freshman on a mission, and he leaves the same way. He had excellent success early (56 VDOT) and was a part of the Varsity 7 by his Sophomore year. He has been a consistent part of our core ever sense and will be one of those pieces we will miss next year. Matteson has great spirit, and could always be counted on to make the long training runs interesting in some way. He was also the type of guy you wanted on your team when you went to war. Matteson achieved the goals he set his freshman year, and is off to TCNJ. I am hoping he has continued success and becomes a core part of that program and a great engineer.

Dave Ringwood – Ringwood was a gift from Bishop Eustace his sophomore year. He was immediately part of our Varsity 7 reaching a VDOT of 59 that first year – demonstrating the raw talent he had. As one of the Captains his Senior XC season, he was a true leader. The Freshmen gravitated to his sunny disposition – claiming they wanted to make a T-Shirt with the 9 moods of Ringwood – all smiling happily. He had a great XC season running the second fastest time of any Moorestown runner ever at Holmdel (16:47). He had a setback in indoor with a hamstring injury and unfortunately in his first meet of Spring track developed a tight ITB and did not run his final season. I am quite sure he will have an impact on the Hopkins XC and track teams – both thru his hard work and his great natural leadership abilities.

Nirav Shah – Nirav was another one of the tall lanky guys who came out that sophomore year – convinced by the core group that running around town really was fun. I think he has had that fun. He left for a stint on the crew team, but came back to track his senior year. He’s improved from that freshman 48 VDOT to a 55 this spring. The thing I will remember most about Nirav is the fact he would bring Business Week on the bus to read. I’m sure that will pay off in his years at Villanova!

Dave Wilson – Even though Wilson did not join until his Junior year, he will be remembered as one of the key contributors in this class. Not a natural talent with speed, he put in 50-60 miles per week on a nearly year round basis to build a ton of strength. This past XC season he also figured out how to push himself to new levels of performance because he was so determined to earn his way onto the Varsity 7. He did just that and was part of the team that finished 6th at States. I will miss hearing him and Eagles discuss politics on our runs, and am sure he will come back after time at Washington & Lee to keep Eagles on his toes…

Ryan Wolff – Wolff probably encapsulates what our team is about as well as anyone ever has. I remember first meeting him at a summer track meet when he was in middle school hoping to run a 3:00 800. Since then he has been dedicated to improving himself and his team. His steady diet of 50-60 mile weeks for years has brought him to the heights he has reached this spring. In every single match-up Ryan was able to come thru – from the epic battle he had with Eric Morris at Burlington Township to this past weekend when he qualified for States. More than his personal accomplishments, he has always been the ultimate team guy. I’m sure he will make great contributions to Quinnipiac.

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