Coach Lawrence's Blog

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August 22, 2014 – Introducing the seniors: Max Maydanchik and Alex Domiano

Max Maydanchik joined our team during the track season of his Sophomore year. He showed some promise in the 400 and 800, but did not seem to enjoy much success, yet, at the longer distance. However, he joined Cross Country the next fall and consequently has seen his endurance improve dramatically. Last year in track, he was one of 19 team members to run under 10:30 for 3200. Alumni looking at our initial training groups might be surprised to see his name in the ‘red group’ but he has certainly earned the position after an outstanding summer of training.

In his remarks, Max began by directing his comments to the left side of the room, where, by tradition, the underclassmen generally sit. He told the gathered freshman that they already “part of something I wish I would have been a part of freshman and sophomore year.” He admitted that he hesitated to come out because he was scared – afraid of how much discomfort serious training brings with it. He recalled a moment during his Sophomore track season when he left practice early, trying to be unassuming In the locker room, he saw then-senior Cole Justus who asked “Did the coaches scare you?” Max said it wasn’t so much the coaches, but the running itself. He stated, (and I must agree), “the hardest part of running is running.” But he assured his teammates no matter how hard it is, he now knows it is well worth it.


Alex Domiano made an immediate impact on our team when he joined us freshman year. He was our top freshman athlete, and ultimately went on to finish 10th at that level in the conference meet. By the next year, he had earned a spot in the varsity top 7. He improved a lot by junior year, yet the team did as well, and Alex ended up as the first alternate for state. It is a testament to both him and our team last year that he would have been in the top seven for literally any other team in state. After an excellent track season, Alex is highly motivated to thrive in his final high school season. 

Alex told his teammates that, as a four year member of HCXC, he felt he’d developed a true appreciation for what makes the team unique – the culture of bringing everyone together. He pointed out that for most teams at Hinsdale Central, the freshman and sophomores train separately from the varsity. To illustrate how XC is difference, Alex pointed back to a track race from his freshman year. It was his first race back from a leg injury that had sidelined him for a few months, and took place in our fieldhouse. What Alex remembered most of that race was how loud it was – how around every turn he had ALL his teammates, younger and older, yelling and rooting for him. He ended with a pledge that as a member of the senior class, he would strive to be as welcoming to the current freshman as they were to him.


August 21, 2014-Introducing the Seniors - First up, Mac O'Donnell and Nick Tandle

Over the next several days, I will be introducing members of our senior class. This year, we have invited each senior to address their squad mates at the conclusion of our daily team meeting. Two seniors will speak each day about what being a part of HCXC has meant to them. My intention is to use this blog space to capture some of what each individual said when it was their turn to have the stage. I think it important that, as last year, this blog captures not just my voice but the symphony of perspectives and personalities that make up our team. We start today with the two seniors that spoke at yesterday’s meeting: Mac O’Donnell and Nick Tandle. The format I will follow over the next several days will be to write a short introduction about each senior, followed by a brief summary of their remarks:

Mac O’Donnell came out for Cross Country his freshman year, and has been with us ever since, even though there were periods when he could not run due to health concerns. So humble and self-effacing is Mac that I was not even aware of the full extent of the challenges he overcame until I heard him address his teammates last evening. Mac is a well-liked member of the team who works hard. I expect him to make huge improvements in his final year.

In his address, Mac spoke to his teammates about how much he missed running when he had to be held out for a season due to a medical condition doctors discovered. He had to have surgery to address this issue, and was finally able to rejoin his teammates as a junior. He reported that he loves being part of the team and urged his teammates to enjoy the experience.


Nick Tandle is also a four year member of our team. Nick started out with modest credentials – he finished 31st at conference his freshman year as the team’s fifth man. Last year, he narrowly missed earning all-conference honors at the JV level. His biggest improvement, though, came during the winter between cross country and track. In horrible conditions, Nick thrived. By midway through indoor season, he had his breakthrough race, running 9:53 for 3200 at a meet hosted by Proviso West. This was a significant achievement, and one we hope portends more to come.

Nick spoke to his teammates about how the older members of the team looked out for him when he was a freshman. He recalled a practice at Waterfall Glen where Neil Pedersen, then a senior, approached him, offered him a sincere greeting, and then took him around to meet other members of the team, including Rajan Khanna, Mike Korompilas, and Jack Feldman. This was the beginning of an experience that would allow Nick to create bonds with guys he will never forget. He urged the current group of freshman to ‘subscribe to the program’ specifically for these bonds. He closed by inviting any of his teammates to eat lunch with him 5th period and by suggesting that the team can “pay tribute to past leaders by creating a climate of inclusivity.”


August 15, 2014-And we’re off
As I pulled into the senior parking lot Wednesday morning, I saw a crowd of gathered athletes and parents, suitcases and backpacks lying at their feet. Exiting the car, I began greeting the team members who would be travelling to Kenosha with the coaches for the next three days when I noticed a few unexpected but familiar faces: Emmett Scully, Billy Magnesen, and Kevin Huang, the trio having coordinated with each other to see us off before departure. I could not have scripted a more perfect beginning to our 2014 cross country season then to have these three men, soon to be departing to their freshman years in college – one to the East Coast, one in the Midwest, one to the West Coast – symbolically hand the reins to their younger, and now former, teammates. It was a classy gesture befitting of three of the finest young men I have had the privilege of coaching.

And so, hugs exchanged and bags loaded, we turned the minivans toward I-294 North and kicked off the 2014 season with our second annual trip to University of Wisconsin-Parkside. The idea of a team trip for a select group of our top runners was one we initiated last year. As I wrote in my blog back then,

We got the idea after talking to some coaches from other teams in the area that we respect. From them, we have adopted the belief that isolating a group of the most committed athletes for a few days can be an effective way to develop a ‘we-first’ attitude among our team…This trip is not a vacation. The purpose is not simply to have a good time (though I expect we will), but to cement an unbreakable bond. This is not at all to say that those who are not joining us in Kenosha are not as important to the team as those who are; but, it is to acknowledge the reality that Cross Country is ultimately a meritocracy. In the end, only 7 runners are allowed to represent the team during the championship phase of the season. The 7 who emerge will be the ones who, through a combination of innate ability, hard work, luck, and mental fortitude are able to rise above the rest. The 16 runners coming to Kenosha this August are the ones who’ve risen highest at this point in the season. I hope younger runners who did not make that top group set it as a goal to make it in future seasons. After all, becoming a great runner is a very long process, one that plays out over years, not just a single season.


Given that the 2013 season started for the first time in Kenosha and ended for the first time with a state title, we returned this year with hopes that the days just north of the border would prove equally fortuitous. To that end, we devoted significant portions of the trip to rigorous training and to structured dialogue about our hopes and dreams for the season. Over three days, our athletes logged close to 40 miles. On Wednesday morning, we warmed up on the UW-Parkside cross country course that plays host to Footlocker regionals each November. On this course has run every great Midwestern runner from the past three decades: Bob Kennedy and Todd Williams, Dathan Ritzenheim and Donald Sage, Chris Derrick and Evan Jager, Chris Solinsky and Lucas Verzbikas, Malachy Shrobilgren and Grant Fisher. And yet we had the hallowed paths almost completely to ourselves.

The Parkside course is infamous for its first 800 meters, which run almost entirely uphill. From the starting line, you look westward up a long grassy expanse which narrows towards a distant horizon. The first quarter mile runs relatively flat and then the fun begins, as a monstrous two-tiered hill awaits your arrival. Unlike flat courses in which the pain settles in gradually, you’re running with exhaustion just two minutes into the race. By the time you finally crest the hill (in what actually only takes 3 minutes but feels twice that long) your resolve has been eroded and the bulk of the racing dauntingly remains. And so it was that we specifically set up our workout to tackle this first portion of the course multiple times. The workout, as it was last year, required our boys to run 4 continuous loops: you run the first 1600 of the course fast, and then get a 1200 meter jog recovery back to the starting line before beginning again.

For several of the attending athletes – John Bynan, Alex Lambert, Ethan Planson, Jacob Belgrad – it was the hardest workout they’d ever faced. We encountered mild headwinds, but temperatures were lovely, in the high seventies, and after 45 minutes of gut-wrenching work, we gathered happily back at the minibuses to rehydrate before the cool down. As the guys sipped from their Gatorade bottles, I made the rounds, going up to each individual and asking for their split times. I was curious to see how we compared to the previous season, and got my first confirmation that, yes, this team can be even better than last. McBrien, Evertsen, and Domiano had average times equivalent to what Huang and Magnesen ran last year; Brenk and Feldman were slightly faster than what Matt McBrien had run in 2013 as our third best finisher that day – and were significantly ahead of what Scully, Caveney, and Domiano had run one year previous.

There were other workouts to follow, and you can read about them on our logarun accounts. All were taxing, but made particularly enjoyable due to the beautiful scenery – variously forests, prairie, and rolling hills. The Parkside campus was made resplendent by weather which proved the antithesis to the brutality of last winter; nestled among tall evergreens, we were one of the few organized groups at the University for these mid-August days and thus had a dorm almost entirely to ourselves, had no lines to worry about at the cafeteria (which served surprisingly healthy and tasty meals), and could step outside at night and feel a genuine solitude not available in suburbia.

In fact, the only other sports team using the UW-Parkside facilities while we were there was the Northwestern Football team, who comes up annually precisely because of the relative solitude the campus affords: far away from Evanston, the team can focus on the basics, free from distraction. Hersey high school took their top ten runners to Portland and Eugene this summer. Palatine went to Colorado. They can have their amazing vistas and chance encounters with Olympians. We’ll take modest Kenosha and the quiet reflective moments it affords.

Just outside Ranger Hall, the dorm we called home for two nights, there are several green circular picnic tables, resting on woodchips, on the periphery of a large grassy field. At my behest, the boys moved some of these tables so that we could all sit facing each other. I’d given each attending team member a questionnaire on the ride up, asking the following questions (which I’d encourage all HCXC athletes to reflect upon):


1. What are your individual goals for this season? What are your team goals?

2. What would your dream season look like? What do you think it will take to make this vision a reality?

3. What are your greatest fears as this season approaches? How can we work as individuals and together as a team to face our fears and triumph over them?

4. What are our team’s unique strengths? What will differentiate us from the many other quality teams in state? What is the “HCXC Way”?

5. How do you define “commitment”? What does it mean to be committed in the context of high school cross country? What personal sacrifices are you willing to make for your teammates?

6. What do you think it means to be ‘mentally tough’? Who are some athletes you have seen/observed who you think exemplify this quality (both at the high school and professional levels)? What makes them so? What can we do as individuals and as a team to develop our mental toughness?

7. What are your interests outside of running? Tell us something about yourself that will help us get to know you better.


Sitting around those tables, we took turns sharing our responses to these questions. I learned that by far the greatest fear cited by team members was getting injured, a reality poignantly driven home later that day when I learned that Billy Magnesen just discovered a stress fracture and would result in him missing his first six weeks of college cross country. Like Yuji, he is facing weeks of rehab and cross training. To this day, stress fractures remain a mystery to me. I read today an announcement that Chris Derrick will be ending his season prematurely due to nagging injury. As a professional athlete running for the Nike Oregon Project, he has the finest medical team in the world working with him, and yet could not escape injury’s grasp. It is possible that, as good as we look now, injuries could sabotage our season – will it be worth it then? Alex Lambert expressed this concern: that all his hard work might not pay off. I answered that we must remember that it is not just the end result but the process that is rewarding. We’ve all made big sacrifices to lead a runner’s lifestyle. These sacrifices are real, and they are not easy. But running has given me the best memories of my life – as well as virtually every important non-familial relationship that I value (to say nothing of the fact that the woman I am now married to stated in her match.com profile that she was “attracted to runners”). And, this was true even before we won state last season.

I learned also that individuals on this team have ambitious goals: some to be all-state, some to make the top seven. Planson, Belgrad, and Bynan are united in their goal of winning conference on the Sophomore level.

We talked about trying to emulate Billy Magnesen’s approach to races – he never seemed to be fazed by pressure and exhibited an unflappability in competitions that we all admire. John Bynan told his teammates that he worked hard in practice each day because he did not want to let them down. It was what motivated him, and, I hope and suspect, what motivates his teammates.

I learned that Griffin Gartner has aspirations to be a pilot, that Ethan Planson has an astonishing knowledge of college football, that Jacob Belgrad “likes boards,” that Nathan Hill spends much of his Sunday teaching children at his church, that Nick Tandle makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich.

I also had the opportunity to address the team at various points throughout the weekend on a few themes that I hoped would guide them this season. My lecture notes on these themes are below:


Lecture Themes

1. Professionalism
2. Inclusivity
3. Passion


Professionalism
-Builds off last year’s themes of self-awareness and responsibility
-Think about logarun as an extension of who you are – present yourself there as you would want others to view you – same thing for if you talk to media – humble, gracious – thank others always (Avoid profanity, saying anything negative about a teammate or opponent, and ranting/wining).
-There will be conflicts – but let’s settle these in-house. “Don’t air dirty laundry in public.” “We are all just winging it” – we will have to make adjustments – tough decisions – judgment calls. Have faith we have had the experience and education to make good decisions for the most part, and be understanding if we are wrong.
-Stay humble! DBTH.


Inclusivity

-Spirit of generosity and inclusivity – expansive rather than exclusive – widen the circle
*The great athletes make others around them great (MJ vs. AI)
*Think about how many people felt a part of the win last year – alums from 1970s
Scully twitter message (July 25)-> “An old man just approached me while I was leaving my house, said he was on the ’73 HCXC team and has been trying to meet the team to say thanks for carrying on the legacy, he was tearing up and saying he was really proud”
*New Book coming out – Paul Roberts – “America in an Age of Instant Gratification.” EJ Dionne review -> Refers to Rolling Stones lyric (you can’t always get what you want). Says that Roberts reverses this: “These days, we usually get what we want, very quickly. But we can’t always get what we need to lead fulfilling lives.” This is what makes running XC so purposeful – there is no instant gratification, but there is, in the end, a sense of fulfillment.


Passion

-Sterility of suburban life vs. desire to feel alive (RUSH)- “the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth”
-On a quest to do something few ever have the opportunity to be a part of. Of all the people you know, how many have been a part of winning a championship on a level as big as state? Better to be us then Reiser or Dale. Better to be us then the starting QB of an average team. Better to be us than Fayette or Withall (two of our all-time greats who paved the way for you guys, but who never got to be part of a team contending for a title).
-Dead Poet’s Society (death of Robin Williams) – “We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business these are all noble pursuits necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, and love; these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman "Oh me, Oh life of the question of these recurring. of the endless trains of the faithless of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these? Oh me, Oh life." "Answer...that you are here and life exists....You are here. Life exists, and identity. The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse." The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
And I suggest to you – that running is a kind of poetry


Professionalism, Inclusivity, Passion. These will be some of our guiding principles in 2014. We are now returned from Kenosha and I have an even deeper respect and appreciation for the fifteen athletes who had the privilege of making that trip. The rest of their teammates will join them on Monday, and our group will then be complete. To each individual on our team: what will your verse be? To our team at large: in 2014, what kind of chapter will we write?



August 8, 2014-The hardest workouts of all time
This morning, I read the following message posted on Matt McBrien’s logarun page: “2 mile warmup. Stretching and strides. Then fartlek with 1 minute rest between 1122334454433221. This was hard. I ran 10.4 miles for the 59 minutes of running. Hardest workout in a long time.   The workout Matt did is very challenging, all the more because he had to complete it by himself (many of his teammates, I hope, gathered together at KLM to tackle the workout together).  Matt’s reflection about the workout’s difficulty gave me the impetus to write a blog I’ve been thinking about writing for a while, on the hardest workouts I have ever had to manage. 

The gold standard for most challenging workout of all time is one only ever completed by a fictional character.  In “Once a Runner” our hero and protagonist Quenton Cassidy completes a workout of 60*400, running low 60s for the majority.  What made the workout especially insane was that Cassidy began it thinking he was only going to be running 20 circuits of the track.  After finishing what seemed to be a manageable workout, his coach, Bruce Denton, demanded he do 20 more.  Cassidy dutifully returned to the track, soldiered through another 20.  And then,

“Twenty more, Cass.”

They jogged on quietly.  Cassidy felt close to tears, and wasn’t even ashamed about it.

“Bruce.  Sixty quarters.  Bruce, you can’t be serious.  Nobody does that kind of stuff anymore.  Arthur Lydiard –.”

“Screw Arthur Lydiard.   Quenton, this is where you find out.  This is the time and place.  All the rest is window dressing.”

“I don’t know if I can do it.”

“Quenton.”  He smiled for the first time all day.  “You can do very nearly anything.  Haven’t you figured that out?”

“Yeah.”

“Look, runners deal in discomfort.  After you get passed a certain point, that’s all there really is.  There is no finesse here.  I know you can do this thing because I did it myself and when it was over I knew some very important things.”

“That you’re a lunatic?”

“Maybe.  Maybe we all are.  But I expect you’ll find out in your own way.  That’s why I am going to let you do them by yourself, just the way people do everything that’s important.  You can slough it off if you want, but by God, you’ll sure as hell know when you’re doing it, won’t you?”

 

There is a lot of wisdom in Denton’s advice to Cassidy.  That running fast ultimately comes down to dealing with discomfort, that to do anything important, you must learn to overcome obstacles not so much to receive praise or adulation but simply because you must live with the recognition of what you could or could not manage to do.

Part of the purpose of assigning very hard workouts is physiological, certainly – this is how the body gets physically stronger.  More important, in my mind, is the mental strength athletes gain from conquering hellaciously difficult challenges. 

An individual workout can be made more easy or difficult based on many factors.  How many intervals?  What distance?  How much rest between each (and is this a jog recovery or a standing recovery)?  How fast for each (blast the first and hold on for the remainder?  Try to get faster each one?  Keep it consistent?)  Track or grass loop or hilly trail?  Freezing temperatures with wind blasting your face or drenched in sweat on a sweltering August afternoon?  After a few days of rest, or the day after another hard workout?  Is it a workout you are expecting and thus nervous for?  Or one your coach assigns when you thought you’d have a recovery day?  Alone or with teammates? 

In reviewing my running logs dating back to my junior year of high school, I have identified ten workouts that are among the toughest I have ever completed.  I don’t think it is really possible to rank these from toughest to “easiest” – suffice to say all pushed me to my limits and humbled me.  So, instead, I will present these in chronological order, from my days as a high school runner to my days as a high school coach.

9/14/1997 – Here is what I wrote in my log: “Ultra-Hell Day: 2 mile warm up, cal, 6*110.  1 hour continual run (22 5/8 laps at east end).  24*100.  1 mile cool down.”  Once each fall, Mr. Newton would assign the “one hour continual run” where, in essence, you simply see how far you can run in one hour.  I recall that for this workout I kept up with Don Sage (who was two years younger than me but would go on to be a national champion for Stanford) for 54 minutes before falling off his pace.  I expect I ran over 11 miles in that hour.

September, 1999-We ran 8*1500 around a gravel loop at Arbor Lake in Grinnell.  I averaged low 4:50s.  Arbor Lake is to Grinnell what KLM is to HCXC – our home away from home, and sight of many challenging interval workouts.

Late march, 2000 – When I ran at Grinnell, we’d spend each spring break in Florida training in more temperate climes.  I recall a workout my Sophomore year where I did 20*400.  The workout was structured such that we had 4 sets of 5*400 with 2 minutes recovery after each interval and 4 minutes recovery after each set.  I managed to average 63.5 for the entire workout, and even outlasted my older teammate John Aerni who would go on that year to earn All-American honors by placing 5th place in the Steeple Chase at nationals.  It was one of the few times I ever beat him in a workout.

9/17/2001-Log entry: “2 mile warm-up, 15*1K (3:10) 90 second standing rest.  2 mile cool down.”  I remember doing this workout as a senior in college.  We ran a grass loop that actually took us around the circumference of the outdoor track facility.  It featured some short hills.  Most of my teammates stopped after 10.  I did the last three on my own.

Now we’ll jump about a decade in the future.  During this decade I did a fair bit of marathon training.  To be honest, I do not find the prospect of a 22 mile long run to be nearly as daunting as 25*400 or 5*1600.  I ran some good workouts here (once I did two laps at waterfall and kept them both under 61:00) but did not really start running intense workouts until after I made the decision to become a volunteer in track so that I could stay with distance rather than coach field events. 

February 14, 2011-“2 mile warm-up, stretching and strides.  3*2400 (or slightly more, since we ran in lane 2) with 1 lap jog recovery in 8:00, 7:56, 7:49.  I actually got dropped by Fayette and Withall on the last one - I believe this marks the first time an HC runner has legitimately defeated me in a workout - hats off to you gentleman.  2 mile cool down for 9.5 total.”  Four days later, Billy and Zach both ran huge PRs at the Proviso West Quad.

April 17, 2012-“ Stough warm-up, stretching and strides.  Then 4*400 with a 5 minute rest in 60, 60, 61, 61.  This was a very hard workout for everyone, with lots of guys in visible pain after the last one.  Excellent effort - this one wiped me out.  2 mile cool down.”  My enduring image of this workout was in the aftermath, seeing many guys lying on the ground.  As I recall, senior Will Meyer couldn’t stop shaking, and a young Matt McBrien needed assistance from the trainers.  The “4 minute mile” workout, in which you run 4 quarters as fast as you can, is always a killer.

July 30, 2013-“Stough warm-up, stretching and strides.  25*400 in 68.5 average.  2 mile cool down.  General strength.  Averaged faster today than any of the times I did 20*400 over spring break.  Will do 4 more this p.m.”  This workout can stand in for every 25*400 I ever ran.  In high school, we did this every Monday of the summer.  In my high school diary, I called this “hell day” and numbered them.  I counted 7 for my junior year (the only year of high school I kept a diary).  So I probably have done this workout 25 times in my life.  It never gets easier.

April 16, 2013- “2 mile warm-up, stretching and strides.  Then did the O'Fallon-inspired workout, running with Mags, and hit the following splits->4:57, 5:52, 3:46, 5:59, 2:27, 5:59, 67.  Total time was 30:10, which I think is about 30 seconds better than last time.  Felt good for the first time in a while.  2.5 cool down.”  We started doing this workout in 2013 – O’Fallon’s coach Jon Burnett had posted this idea on the Illinois Track and Field/Cross Country coaches association website.  Because there is no rest at all – (your recovery pace is a 6:00 mile) it makes for a great challenge.

August 14, 2013- “At UW-Parkside.  Did a 20 minute warm-up and strides.  Workout was 4 continuous loops where we ran 1 mile hard, then jogged 1200, before starting again.  Goal was to get faster each mile.  I ran 5:37, 5:32, 5:28, 5:05 (with Billy and Kevin until the last).  Did a 2 mile cool down.  Then, came back in the afternoon for four more.  Very productive day.”  What made this workout so hard was that the first 800 of each hard mile was directly uphill.  Once you crest the hill, the course levels out.  I will get to do this again next week.  Lucky me.

September 21, 2013-“ 7:00 a.m. practice -3 mile warmup, followed by 6 miles alternating tempo/fast.  Ran 5:42, 5:17, 6:00, 5:17, 5:42, 5:08, for a total of 33:07.  Solid workout all around.  Two mile cool down after.  Then over to DGS - we won the open division.”  Another workout we’ve done multiple times – this was the best I ever ran it, thanks to being pushed by Kevin Huang.  Like the “O’Fallon workout” this is hard because your recovery is still fast.


One could always assign a diabolical workout – say 10*1600 – but it is not so much what the workout is as how you run it.  10*1600 in 6:00 pace would feel quite manageable for a runner the caliber of Fayette, Feldman, Magnesen, McBrien.  But run 5*1600 in under 5:00 pace.  Few high school athlete can do it.  Just knowing that workout is coming calls up the butterflies into one’s stomach.

Yet it is through these workouts, and the countless other varieties, all taxing, all requiring concentration, that champions are forged.  In “Once a Runner” Quenton Cassidy is confronted by non-runners: “What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret.  And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared, to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heartrending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes.  The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.  How could they be expected to understand that?”



August 3, 2014- Summer Training Statistical Analysis
This past Friday, we met at Waterfall Glen for our final official day of ‘summer running,’ gathering for the 25th of our 25 allotted ‘contact days’ permitted by the IHSA. To the portion of our team in attendance that day (perhaps half of the total number of boys who’d originally registered back in June, a good number being absent to join family members on vacation, on college visits, or building houses in West Virginia) I prepared a few short remarks to share, knowing that I would not being seeing any team members for the following ten days (the ‘dead period’ where the IHSA prohibits practice from being held). I suggested that the week and a half where no official practice was held would be a defining segment of their season, for it is in the absence of oversight where true character is revealed. How would the team react when “practices” were led by seniors, completely optional, and away from my exhorting and Coach Westphals’ measured encouragement? If this team wants to defend the title they helped last year’s seniors earn, they will need to be at least their equals in practicing the disciplined habits exhibited by Billy Magnesen, Emmett Scully, Kevin Huang.

And yet, while I do really believe that the next ten days will be crucial in determining the character of this particular group, I also recognize that a full season lasts about 21 weeks, and so we are only 1/3 of the way through, with time enough for adjustments in attitudes, corrections if we start veering off course. And while I think the IHSA sometimes is overly restrictive in its regulations on coaches, I also acknowledge that the ‘dead period’ permits me the few days of genuine relaxation I will have between now and Thanksgiving. Like the boys on our team, I will be running each day, trying to stay on the schedule of workouts we are suggesting for them. However, after I’ve unlaced my shoes, rehydrated, showered and dressed, the day spills out before me, the precious hours mine to enjoy (mind you, the summer days leading up to this point had been filled with graduate work, home improvements, professional development). On the runs, I have been processing how the season has gone up to this point. Tonight, I took some time to compile a bit of data. I will share the raw numbers as well as some thoughts on what it portends.

First, there is the question of mileage. Here are our 2014 mileage leaders, 7 weeks into the season. To be on pace to hit the 1000 mile mark, an athlete should be at 392 miles by this point. Right now, we have 4 athletes ahead of the mark, with 6 others close, and 6 more for whom achieving 1000 mile status is not out of the realm of possibility. Here are the top 20:

1.  Matt McBrien

479

2.  Josh Feldman

470.5

3.  John Bynan

402.5

4.  Andrew Irvine

399.5

5.  Alex Lambert

389.5

5.  Stefan Rosas

389.5

7.  Ethan Planson

372.5

8.  Joe Griffin

372

9.  Blake Evertsen

363

10. Ryan Doorhy

357.5

11. Max Maydanchik

334.5

12. Yuji Cusick

332.5

13. Joe Miscimarra

320

14.  Chris Brenk

315.5

15. Griffin Gartner

311

16.  Alex Domiano

310

17.  Ben Anderson

304

18.  Nathan Hill

289

19.  Nick Midlash

285

20.  Ben Schnieders

263


I cannot sing high enough praises for Matt McBrien and Josh Feldman. These two men have been absolute models of consistency from the time they were freshman. They did the work in their first three years which has allowed them to handle such a challenging training regimen as seniors. The quality of their training will be second to none in the state – and as good or better than any previous athlete I have ever coached. Expect big things from these two seniors this season.

Three other seniors who I’d like to single out for praise are Stefan Rosas, Alex Lambert, and Joe Griffin. It may be a surprise for our recent graduates to see the names of these three athletes among the top 8 for summer mileage. Last year, they were proud members of the “black” group – the nickname given to the third fastest training group. For many members of “black” group, breaking 5:00 for the 1600 and 11:00 for 3200 by track season is the big goal. For a lot of teams across the state, a runner with those credentials might be among the Varsity top 7. However, on our team, last season, our 35th best athlete ran 4:59.9. This is to say that athletes in group 3 are good, but understand that making the top 7 is not usually a realistic short term goal. For many athletes, training hard to get faster without reaping the rewards of getting to run in the varsity invitationals is not worth it. What I love about Joe, Stefan, and Alex is that they all have bought into the system, and understand that they can make hugely important contributions to the team, even though they may not be in the Varsity top 7. As a result of their efforts this summer, the coaching staff decided to invite them to our team mini-camp in Kenosha later this month. We are only able to take a limited number of athletes on this trip, and we discussed whether we wanted to confine the trip to athletes who we thought might make the top 7 or to include those who exhibited great work ethic over a number of years. Ultimately, we felt that Joe, Stefan, and “Lammie” had absolutely earned the privilege of joining us.

A similar discussion was held about Sophomore John Bynan. Though John has yet to break 5:00 for the 1600 (he came ever so close last season in track) he has had a remarkably consistent and solid summer. That he ranks third on the mileage list attests to his determination to improve. In fact, he has managed higher mileage than any previous Sophomore we’ve ever coached. He will join us in Kenosha. More importantly, he has positioned himself for a breakout season. With similarly solid summers put in by his 10th grade teammates Ethan Planson, Ryan Doorhy, Joe Miscimarra, Nick Midlash, and newcomer Jacob Belgrad, the Sophomore team seems poised to turn some heads this fall.

Unfortunately, this summer, we also faced our first major setback: junior Yuji Cusick was recently diagnosed with a stress fracture in his hip and will miss the next 8 weeks. This is a huge blow both to Yuji personally and to our team. Yuji was off to a great start this summer. He was keeping up with the very top group for waterfall long runs, running 20*400 in a low 70 average, maintaining consistent high mileage. He appeared positioned to make a legitimate claim on a coveted varsity top 7 spot. The reality of our sport, alas, is that we all walk a razor’s edge – to be the best, we must test the limits – yet we cannot do that and completely mitigate the possibility of injury. Our program aims to be as proactive as possible about minimizing these risks: mandating ice baths, training on a variety of surfaces, learning to tell the difference between discomfort and pain. Still, each year, many of our athletes will need days off here and there, and some will suffer from injuries which require weeks or months to heal. We can only console Yuji by reminding him of the many other athletes in our program who have rallied back after serious injuries: Chris Brenk was sidelined the majority of his freshman year of cross country but was top 50 in state the next; Emmett Scully had his first two years of high school marred by injury but ended his senior year at NXN in Portland Oregon; Neil Pedersen overcame multiple stress fractures – and mono – to represent us in state for both XC and track; Jake Hall had a great summer of training but got hurt right before the Hornet-Red Devil Invite his senior year and never ran a cross country race – yet by track he was healthy again and finally did earn the chance to run on the big blue oval at Eastern Illinois in the state track meet. This is cold comfort, I know, when 7.5 weeks of cross training are staring you in the face, but all the qualities that make Yuji a good runner will also make him a great cross trainer. His day will come later than he or us hoped it would – but it WILL still come.

While Yuji’s stress fracture has been the only serious injury, several of our better athletes have had to deal with minor nagging pains that have limited their mileage more than is ideal. As a consequence, our summer mileage at this point appears to be on par with, but not better than, last year’s state champion team. Of this years’ top 10 returning athletes based on 3200 time, only 4 (McBrien, Feldman, Irvine, Evertsen) are among our top 10 in total summer miles. We will need to have the others be more consistent in their August and September mileage than they have been to this point. To gain a sense of how this 2014 team stacks up against previous HC squads, I examined July mileage from the previous four seasons. It is interesting to note that while our biggest jump in performance came from 2012 to 2013 (when we improved from 12th to 1st in one season) our biggest jump in training actually came between 2011 and 2012. In 2011, our top athletes were running an average of 45 miles per week in July. By 2012, this number had jumped to about 60 miles per week. It took about two years for this additional training to pay off – a good reminder that this sport requires patience. Improved training sometimes takes a while to pay dividends – the hardest challenge is to keep the faith and keep training hard when that payoff hasn’t come yet. At any rate, here is a comprehensive list ranking our best trained athletes based solely on miles logged in the final 5 weeks of summer running:

Rank

Name

Year

Avg. July Weekly Miles

1

Matt McBrien

2014

71.4

2

Billy Magnesen

2013

69.5

3

Chris Kennedy

2012

69.0

4

Josh Feldman

2014

68.7

5

Emmett Scully

2013

68.2

6

Kevin Huang

2013

66.2

7

Jack Keller

2012

64.5

8

Aria Darbandi

2013

62.9

9

Jake Hall

2013

62.7

10T

Ryan Somerfield

2012

60.9

10T

Max Maydanchik

2012

60.9

12

Matt McBrien

2013

59.8

13

John Bynan

2014

59.3

14

Ankit Aggarwal

2012

58.7

15

Alex Lambert

2014

58.1

16

Stefan Rosas

2014

57.7

17

Emmett Scully

2013

57.2

18

Ethan Planson

2014

56.5

19

Andrew Irvine

2013

56.0

20

Andrew Irvine

2014

55.6

# in top 10: 2014-3, 2013-5, 2013-3
# in top 20: 2014-8, 2013-8, 4

The chart above should be an eye-opener to this year’s team. While training this summer has been solid, it cannot be said to be a major step forward compared to last year. The 2012 team certainly did more in the summer than the 2011 team, and the 2013 team more than the 2012 team. This year’s team has maintained the level of the previous year (an amazing year it was, to be sure). Our one major stated goal this year is NOT “repeat as state champs” nor is it “qualify for Nike Nationals.” It is simply this: “to be a better team in 2014 than we were in 2013.”

Will we do this? While the comparison to 2013 above gives some cause for concern, perhaps a more fair way to examine the question is to consider how our returning athletes are doing this summer relative to last summer. In that sense, a brighter picture appears. I have mileage records dating back two seasons for 11 of our current athletes. The chart below shows their progression:
 

Name

2013 summer mileage

2014 summer mileage

Chris Brenk

190

315.5

Alex Domiano

302.5

310

Blake Evertsen

93* (did not start train with team until 7/21)

363

Josh Feldman

365.5

470.5

Nathan Hill

123

289

Andrew Irvine

385.5

399.5

Matt McBrien

323.5

479

Sean O’Flaherty

364

255

Stefan Rosas

317

389.5

Nick Tandle

277

256.5

Matt Tobia

217.5

170.5


In addition, though I don’t have specific records to prove it, I am almost certain the following athletes are running significantly higher mileage than last season: Ben Anderson, Jacob Belgrad, John Bynan, Ryan Doorhy, Griffin Gartner, Joe Griffin, Alex Lambert, Max Maydanchik, Nick Midlash, Joe Micimarra, Ethan Planson, Graham Reid and Ben Schnieders. All in all, this suggests that the vast majority of our athletes have taken seriously the item on our 2014 team pledge to run a little more in 2014 than we had previously. It is not hard to figure that we get better by doing more than we have before.

I will close with a reminder of the one certainty: No one can know what kind of narrative arc this coming season will take. Two years ago at this time, Billy Magnesen had averaged 47 miles a week in July and just run a 3200 time trial in 10:37. A month later, he’d emerge as our #1 man at our first meet, a position he would never relinquish. One year ago at this time, winning state was not on our radar. It would not be until after the Hornet-Red Devil Invitational that even the idea began to enter our consciousness. Something unexpected will happen this season – some runner will emerge seemingly from out of nowhere. We will not be surprising anyone in state this season, as we did last, so we’ll adjust and evolve, as all good teams must. The color of the leaves will change, as will the fortunes of different teams in state. As late as Regionals last year, York seemed unstoppable. They’d bested us twice. Yet, two weeks after Regionals, we were the ones to hoist the championship trophy. To do that again will require perseverance, dedication, faith, and a little bit of luck. It may not happen, but it promises to be a rewarding quest.


July 28, 2014-Guest Blogger: Stefan Rosas - Reflections on the UW "Camp of Champions"
This morning, I saw members of the team for the first time since July 18th.  Over the previous week, 27 members of our team headed north to Madison, Wisconsin to spend the week at the "Camp of Champions," a summer running camp organized by the University's cross country team.  
One of the lessons I have had to learn as a coach is that sometimes the most growth of our athletes happens away from the coaching staff.  I always feel a little apprehensive during periods when I have no contact with athletes: will they continue to train as hard?  Of course, it is a flattering conception of self to think I am the primary reason our athletes work hard, but the logic is faulty and the proposition is not, in fact, desirable. What a coach must hopes for and tries to cultivate is athletes who are self-motivated; our role is to help athletes identify collective goals and then to support them in their effort to achieve these.  Sometimes, this entails simply taking a step back and letting the athletes figure out for themselves what they want.
I won't lie, it is not easy to relinquish control.  Last week, while the many of our athletes were in Madison, I was in New York City, taking a one-week professional development course on the Reconstruction period of American History at Columbia University in New York City.  I did my runs in the mornings along the Hudson River or in Central Park, and checked in on logarun to read news from the team in the evenings.  On Thursday, I read the following intriguing message on Chris Brenk's account: " Tonight made me get my fire back...After knowing that we can all get together after such a hectic day, and sit in a circle and lay down the truth in front of one another, rekindles all of our spirits, and makes us more proud than ever be a part of something new. We're not last year's team. And whether that's a good thing or a bad thing depends on our attitude to embrace the day to day process, to know when to get serious, and to simply work harder than everyone else...We are a different team.  ."  It was not until this morning that I got the entire story.  That story will be here recounted here by senior Stefan Rosas.  While the moment was a private and personal one for the team, he (and I) feel it is appropriate to share it with readers of this blog.  We have been very public about our commitments to each other (see our '2014 team pledge' on the sidebar) and sometimes a compact made in person can be strengthened by being recorded, creating something tangible which can be revisited whenever the bonds of that pact show signs of fraying.  Sometimes I feel like the captain of the ship we call HCXC and sometimes I feel like the passenger, along for a wild and exciting ride.  Here is to helping our 2014 team members make their season every bit as great as they envisioned together on late on a summer's evening, on the campus of a midwestern university, far from the eyes and ears of their coaches.


Camp of Champs 2014
Whenever someone asks me where I am going for a week and I tell them running camp, they always have a confused expression on their face. I’m sure they are all thinking; why someone would go to camp just to run. What these people don’t understand is that it is that it is not the actually running part that is fun, but the journey that comes along with our teammates.

Ever since the end of my freshman year, I have traveled with the team to The University of Wisconsin in Madison to be amongst the best runners in the Midwest. The Badgers certainly know how to make a great runner for they have won multiple Big Ten Championships. Camp of Champions, as it is called, is a camp where runners from all around come to learn how to be a stronger and smarter runner by listening to one of the best XC teams in the nation. We are also put into small running groups with a counselor who runs with us twice a day. It is a very open environment that encourages us to ask them questions about running or collage or running at collage.

The camp is extremely active.  A typical day consists of a morning run, 2 seminars, yoga or core work, an afternoon run, an ultimate Frisbee tournament game, soccer or volleyball, and a skit preparation( which never ended up happening). We were doing some sort of activity all day every day. It was an extremely taxing day but don’t get me wrong, it was a ton of fun.

The thing that made our experience different is that Hinsdale Central sent 27 runners to the camp. Most people who attend the camp are alone or with one friend. I think Glenbard West brought 5 runners but we were by far the biggest team there and the whole camp knew about Hinsdale Central. We were all nicely placed in the same dorm, on the same level, taking up 2 hallways. I am sure all 27 of our athletes had an amazing time this past week and all those who can return will. In fact we all had so much fun, playing Frisbee, going swimming, pulling pranks on each other, and enjoying each other’s company that things started to get a little out of hand.

By Thursday we all were making a lot of noise and getting on each other’s nerves. By having 27 people literally spend the whole day together over a period of time, this was bound to happen sooner or later. By that time the counselors noticed that, not only our team, but the other campers were becoming a little too rambunctious for their liking. Late that night, after an intense Frisbee game, we were all getting out of hand and our hallway counselor Tyler, (respect, he was a cool guy), let us know that the staff was getting worried about the camp and we should all settle down. When I heard this I decided we should all meet up in the lounge and discuss what was going on. All 27 proceeded to gather in the lounge and heard what Tyler had to say. He notified us that our team was never specifically mentioned as a problem, but that we could be part of the solution by keeping ourselves in line.

Once he left us, we all felt the need to address the team. We all sat in a big circle and tossed around a spike ball to who ever felt the need to say something about not only our actions at the camp, but about the summer as a whole. It was mostly run by seniors but many juniors and some sophomores did contribute. Once everyone calmed down we all agreed to keep our cool for the rest of the camp. Some of the points that came up were the need to start acting like a team again. We had spent the whole week acting as if we were against each other when in reality, we should have exhibited synergy. We also brought up the morals we all agreed to at the beginning of the summer. One that stuck out was to be a better team than last year. Many of us felt that we did not have the same drive as we did last year and we cannot repeat a state championship without that same drive. Others brought up the importance of logging your miles and showing up during the dead period. One of the points that I brought up was that this camp was meant for us to have fun and become better runners, but once we get back, it would be the most crucial part of the season. A time to get serious and focused. It had been a revival of our morals. By the end, we were all in agreement that we needed to take our training much more diligently and we needed to start respecting and encouraging each other from then on. We entered that room as a group of individuals and left as one team set on one goal.

The rest of the camp went smoothly and everyone left exhausted from all the fun we had. The past 3 years I have attended this camp have been the most fun I have ever had. I highly recommend the camp for anyone who runs cross country seriously. The staff at the camp really does enjoy having our big team there every year and for good reason. We are all eager runners who like to work hard and play hard and I cannot say enough about the respect I have for this team.


July 14, 2014 – 1000 Mile Challenge Update #1
We are beginning our 5th week of summer running. It is hard to believe, but we have only 2 more weeks of summer training left (this does not include the week of July 20-July 26, when several of our team members will be at the University of Wisconsin Camp of Champions). I think we all appreciate how crucially important the summer training months are to long-term success. As we constantly emphasize, the characteristic that, more than any other, will lead to improvement is consistency. The process goal for the team is to try to run consistent mileage, including challenging workouts, from week to week. If we do this, I know we will be in a good position when the season starts.

So how are we doing so far? I compiled a list of our mileage leaders, and then collated their totals with last year’s team after the fourth week. Here is how we compare:

 

Rank

Name

Year

Mileage Total

1

Josh Feldman-Sr

2014

267.5

2

Billy Magnesen-Sr

2013

263

3T.

Matt McBrien-Sr

2014

260.5

3T.

Andrew Irvine-Jr

2014

260.5

5

Yuji Cusick-Jr

2014

255

6

Emmett Scully-Sr

2013

254

7

Aria Darbandi-Sr

2013

239

8

Sean O’Flaherty-Jr

2013

229

9

Jake Hall-Sr

2013

227

10

John Bynan-So

2014

223

11

Joe Griffin-Sr

2014

221

12

Kevin Huang-Sr

2013

218.5

13

Stefan Rosas-Sr

2014

217.5

14

Alex Lambert-Sr

2014

213.5

15

Andrew Irvine-So

2013

210.5

16

Jack Griffin-Sr

2013

207.5

17

Josh Feldman-Jr

2013

204.5

18

Sam Mackenzie-Sr

2013

202.5

19

Ethan Planson-So

2014

200.5

20

Ryan Doorhy-So

2014

199

21

Griffin Gartner-Sr

2014

198.5

22

Blake Evertsen-So

2014

194.5

23

TJ Caveney-Sr

2013

187.5

24

Stefan Rosas-Jr

2013

184

25

Alex Domiano-Jr

2013

179

26

Alex Dominao-Sr

2014

176

27

Chris Brenk-Jr

2014

174

28

Joe Miscimarra-So

2014

169

29

Nick Midlash-So

2014

159.5

30

Nick Tandle-Sr

2014

157.5

Context and Caveats:  At this point in the summer, we compare favorably well to last year’s state championship team.  However, it is important to note that this only represents a small sample size of the overall season’s training.  It should be noted that four of the top seven from the 2013 got off to slow start last season (Chris Brenk, for example, had run only 50 miles TOTAL up to this point, as he was returning from injury), while a few athletes who had very productive summers later faced setbacks.  One trend that I think is very positive is the number of Sophomores we have this summer who have dedicated themselves to consistent higher mileage.  Six sophs have over 150 miles by this point, while only one did at this point last season.  It is worth noting that our three top mileage runners this year (Feldman, Irvine, and McBrien) are the three returning members of the team who made the ‘1000 mile club’ last season.  They prove that each season lays the foundation for the next.  Josh Feldman appears to be on track to break Aria Darbandi’s record for most career miles logged over a career at HC.  Perhaps he will enjoy that distinction only one year before being surpassed by Andrew Irvine, with John Bynan besting them both.  Mileage is, of course, not the end all-be all, and they must be accumulated intelligently – but miles are staple food of the distance runner’s diet.  Consume enough, and the body can’t help but get stronger – that goes for both individuals and the team as a whole.


July 7, 2014-Road races and Barbeques
It was an eventful weekend for HCXC athletes present and past. For the second year in a row, a small group of team members gathered in Elmhurst on the morning of Independence Day to take part in the annual “Four on the Fourth” road race. It is a nice opportunity to get a small taste of competition amidst the hard weeks of training we do in the summer months, and also is a fun way to kick off the holiday weekend. Conditions this year were close to ideal for early July, with race time temperatures around 70 degrees, lots of sun, and mild winds.

Here are the results for the top 50 overall-I have included some annotations to give a sense of how many amazing athletes competed in his race:
      1   1/20    1033 Johnny Crain             22   M Dunlap          IL   19:17  4:50 
Crain was the 2014 outdoor division 3 national champion  in the 10,000 meter run for North Central
      2   1/37      69 Kyle Brady               25   M Naperville      IL   19:37  4:55 
Brady was also a national champion in the 10K for North Central, and is now an assistant coach there.
      3   2/37    1031 Lex Williams             27   M Normal          IL   19:45  4:57 
Williams was a standout runner for University of Michigan.  I remember when I was a grad assistant at Iowa, and he came for a recruiting trip!
      4   2/20     545 Pablo Ramirez            23   M Schaumburg      IL   20:00  5:00 
      5   1/52    1017 Eric Wallor              31   M Palatine        IL   20:03  5:01 
      6   3/37    1038 Arturs Bareiuis          28   M Crestwood       IL   20:12  5:03 
      7   1/39     535 Evan Prizy               19   M Schaumburg      IL   20:18  5:05 
Prizy was an all-state athlete at Schaumburg High School
      8   2/52      63 Emil Bojanov             30   M Chicago         IL   20:19  5:05 
      9   3/20     259 Ronald Hedman            21   M Elmhurst        IL   20:29  5:07 
Hedman was all-state at York.  He and his twin brother Tom now run at UW-Parkside.

     10   1/57     183 Emisael Favela           37   M Berwyn          IL   20:33  5:09

Favela is a great local runner.  He has run 14:40 for 5K and 1:10 for the half marathon

     11   4/37     573 Jared Rothlauf           28   M Palatine        IL   20:36  5:09

     12   3/52     849 Jeff Jonaitis            33   M Tinley Park     IL   20:38  5:10

Jonaitis is a former EIU standout; he has qualified for the Olympic trials in the marathon, with a PR under 2:18!

     13   4/20     896 Will Cross               21   M Elmhurst        IL   20:40  5:10

Cross was a division III All-American athlete for Elmhurst College last season

     14   2/39     595 Daniel Santino           16   M Chicago         IL   20:42  5:11

Santino is the #1 returning runner for St. Ignatius.  He ran 4:26 and 9:27 as a Sophomore last season.

     15   3/39     459 Alex Mimlitz             19   M Elmhurst        IL   20:49  5:13

Mimlitz is a former all-state runner for York.  He now runs at Belmont College

     16   4/52       2 James Akita              33   M Elmhurst        IL   20:52  5:13

Akita is my former teammate from York (we both graduated in 1998).  He was a division 3 national qualifier and is currently the head XC coach at Elmhurst College.

     17   4/39     435 Matthew McBrien          17   M Hinsdale        IL   20:53  5:14

     18   5/37    1036 Pat Austin               26   M Lake Bluff      IL   20:54  5:14

     19   6/37      33 Jeff Bailey              29   M Villa Park      IL   21:03  5:16

     20   5/52     966 Adam Palumbo             32   M Chicago         IL   21:07  5:17

Palumbo finished 5th in state for the storied 1999 York team that had 5 runners in the top 12.  He ran collegiately at University of Illinois.

     21   6/52     371 Noah Lawrence            34   M Willowbrook     IL   21:09  5:18

     22   7/37     282 Eric Hofmann             27   M Homewood        IL   21:12  5:18 
     23   5/20     787 Matthew Black            23   M Highland Park   IL   21:15  5:19 
     24   5/39     596 Patrick Santino          19   M Chicago         IL   21:17  5:20 
Recent St. Ignatius graduate
     25   6/39     268 Zach Herrera             19   M Elmhurst        IL   21:19  5:20 
Recent York graduate
     26   1/54      42 Laura Batterink          29   F Evanston        IL   21:21  5:21 
     27   6/20     219 Brandon Gittelman        24   M Naperville      IL   21:22  5:21 
     28   7/20     257 Jordan Hebert            22   M Elmhurst        IL   21:22  5:21 
Former state champion for York, and a division 1 national qualifier for U of Illinois
     29   8/37    1046 Daniel Kittaka           26   M Chicago         IL   21:26  5:22 
     30   7/52     816 Eric Dorsch              30   M Morrison        CO   21:30  5:23 
     31   1/62     366 Scott Laumann            43   M Chicago         IL   21:42  5:26 
     32   2/62     477 Jan Myrda                43   M Palos Park      IL   21:42  5:26 
     33   8/52    1061 Brad Runnion             30   M Aurora          IL   21:44  5:26 
     34   7/39     851 Kallin Khan              17   M Lisle           IL   21:53  5:29 
     35   1/60     735 Jim White                47   M Chicago         IL   21:55  5:29 
One of the greatest runners in Illinois history; state champ at York in the mid-1980s and a division 1 all-American at University of Illinois
     36   8/39     667 Shujaat Sultan           17   M Schaumburg      IL   21:57  5:30 
     37   9/37     451 Nate McPherson           29   M Elmhurst        IL   21:57  5:30 
Former Palatine runner and current assistant coach at St. Ignatius
     38   9/52     541 Todd Quednau             32   M Chicago         IL   21:59  5:30 
Ran at DGN when I was at York; all-conference and top 50 in state
     39   2/60     104 Rob Chenoweth            45   M Chicago         IL   22:02  5:31 
     40  10/37     739 Jordan Wildermuth        28   M Evanston        IL   22:04  5:31 
     41   9/39     406 Manuel Lule              19   M Romeoville      IL   22:05  5:31 
     42   2/54     258 Kristen Heckert          27   F Sugar Grove     IL   22:06  5:32 
One of the best female distance runners in the state; coach at Plainfield South
     43  10/39     306 Andrew Irvine            16   M Hinsdale        IL   22:06  5:32 
     44  11/39     186 Josh Feldman             17   M Willowbrook     IL   22:07  5:32 
Last year, Josh ran 23:35, so this represents a huge improvement.
     45   3/54     460 Amanda Mirochna          26   F Naperville      IL   22:08  5:32 
     46  10/52     133 John Craig               31   M Chicago         IL   22:09  5:33 
     47  11/37     558 Jared Righter            28   M Aurora          IL   22:10  5:33 
     48   2/57     736 Robert Wiegand           36   M Chicago         IL   22:12  5:33 
     49  12/37     413 Jason Mahakian           25   M Chicago         IL   22:13  5:34 
     50  13/37     178 Eric Erspamer            25   M Carol Stream    IL   22:20  5:35 


To provide some additional context on Matt, Andrew, and Josh’s times, here is how they compare to some of the standouts from last year


Top prep and HC athletes at 2013 ‘Four on the Fourth’ race – as compared to 2014

Name                                  Year                      Time                     Place in state meet

Zach Dale                          2012                     20:38                    4th

Dan Santino                       2014                     20:42

Matt McBrien                      2014                     20:53

Ryan Clevenger                 2013                     20:56                    7th 

Kevin Huang                       2013                     21:35                    24th

Billy Magnesen                  2013                     21:46                    9th

Andrew Irvine                     2014                     22:06

Josh Feldman                    2014                     22:06

Emmett Scully                   2013                     22:35                    103rd

Alex Domiano                    20:39                    22:39                    1st alternate

 

And here are the other current HC athletes that ran the race: 
     57  13/39     140 Yuji Cusick              16   M Hinsdale        IL   22:47  5:42
     79  18/39     675 Nick Tandle              17   M Clarendon Hills IL   23:46  5:57 
Last year, Nick ran 24:32.
    126  22/39     978 Stefan Rosas             17   M Oak Brook       IL   25:34  6:24 
Last year, Stefan ran 26:14
    135  25/39     899 Joseph Miscimarra        15   M Hinsdale        IL   25:40  6:25 
    139  26/39     158 Ryan Doorhy              15   M Westmont        IL   25:50  6:28 
    217  31/39     952 Nick Midlash             15   M Hinsdale        IL   28:15  7:04

There were a total of 1008 runners that completed the race.  It was a low-stakes affair, and I know each of the 9 HC athletes that signed up left Elmhurst feeling that the upcoming picnics and fireworks would be well-earned.  The next time we race is likely to be the Hornet-Red Devil Invitational, where the stakes will be considerably higher and the competition every bit as fierce.

The Hornet-Red Devil meet will also be an occasion, as it is every year, for several alumni to come watch the current team, as it occurs early enough in the season that many college students have not yet returned to campus.  Rather than wait until early September, though, this Sunday we had our inaugural (Rajan Khanna reminded me it is not proper grammar to call in the ‘first annual’) alumni BBQ in my backyard.  A total of 31 alums from graduating classes as far back as 2008 came to join us.  Jack Feldman drove up from Champaign just for the event, while the Lyons brothers came in from Michigan in Tom’s new enormous pickup truck.  Many brats and burgers were consumed, gatorades downed, trash talked, and Frisbees thrown.  Best of all, we had a chance to reconnect, regale each other with stories, and recapture, if only for a few hours, that sense of camaraderie that only the trials of miles can truly provide.

Before each former team member left, I asked them to fill out a short questionnaire.  I thought it would be fun to share what former HCXC team members are up to these days.  I hereby present ALUMNI NEWS AND NOTES:

Class of 2008

Left to right: Pete Richard, Thomas Fielder

Thomas Fielder – Graduated from SIU-Carbondale with a degree in Cinema-Screenwriting/animation.  Thomas is currently working at Rivers Casino and is taking writing classes at the Second City in Chicago.  He plans to move to Colorado soon.  Thomas offers the following apt advice to current team members: “run fast.”

Pete Richard – Gradauted from DePauw University with a degree in Romance Languages.  Currently working as a Digital Productions Specialist for the company SVM, LP.  Pete is currently training to run the 2014 Chicago marathon and will be moving into an apartment near Loyola University in Chicago within the next few weeks.  To current HCXC athletes, he says, “The time you have to compete on a team like this is so short.  Make the most of it an do something great.”


Class of 2010
Left to right: Arash Darbandi, Alex Stec, Andy Tuggle, Chris Ellsworth

Joe Berg – Graduated from DePaul University with a degree in screenwriting.  Joe is currently employed as assistant editor for a film company in Chicago.  He writes, “If you are dedicated, love the sport, and put in the effort, amazing things will happen.”

Arash Darbandi-Graduated from UIC with a degree in Neuroscience.  Arash will be back at UIC this fall doing research.  He was a four-year member of the track and XC team there.  He reminds the current group that “you don’t remember the pain four years later!”

Chris Ellsworth-Graduated from Indiana with a degree in Finance.  Gave one of the most memorable banquet speeches in HC history.  He says, “enjoy it while you have it, and don’t grow old!”

Kyle Henshaw-Kyle will be completing his degree in financing and accounting from Indiana next year.  He spent the last year doing internships in Texas and Chicago and also travelling around Europe.  He speaks truth in his advice:
enjoy having people to run with every day.”

Alex Stec-Graduated from U of I with a degree in Applied Mathematics.  Alex is now a graduate student at Northwestern.  Like Thomas, his concise advice is “run fast.”

AndyTuggle-Graduated from Hamilton College with the best major possible: History!  Andy will be spending next year in the nation of Turkey.  Andy says to current athletes, “savor the camaraderie!”


Class of 2011

Left to right: Tom Lyons (class of 2012), Pete Stubbings, Sam Gomez

Billy Fayette-Entering his senior year at Wake Forest.  Billy is a member of the track and XC team for the Demon Deacons.  He has an internship in Chicago this summer, which he balances with his training demands.  He says to current team members, “enjoy it, don’t overemphasize highs or lows.”

Sam Gomez-Entering senior year at Indiana with a major in Informatics.  Sam is doing a summer internship with “world’s finest chocolate” company.  His advice harkens back to Coach Westhphal’s regulations for cold weather days: “no hats, no gloves, no dice.”

Brad Somerfield-Entering senior year at UIC with a major in Biology.  Brad is on track to graduate this winter.

Jeff Somerfield-Entering senior year at Illinois Institute of Technology where his is majoring in Aerospace Engineering.  Jeff offers the wisest counsel of all: “listen to the coaches.”

Peter Stubbings-Peter is entering his senior year at Miami-Ohio where is majoring in Finance (on his questionnaire, he had originally indicated that his major was “women” but then crossed it out.)  This summer, Pete is a coach of the Chicago Flyers track team.  He will be President of the Miami Striders Running Club this fall.  He writes, “The hard work always pays off!  -And listen to Coach L and Coach W.”

Class of 2012

Standing left: Billy Fayette (class of 2011).  Standing right: Kyle Henshaw (class of 2010).  Seated: Neil Pedersen

Jack Feldman-Entering junior year at U of I. Jack is spending the summer in Champaign doing research on photosynthesis.

Michael Lyons-Entering junior year at U of I with a degree in accounting. Mike reports “I am on track to graduate a year early thanks to the excellent teachers at HCHS.” To the current team, he says simply: “Keep up the good work!”

Tom Lyons-Tom is entering his junior year at Michigan State. He has chosen to major in construction management. He is, in fact, the president of the “MSU Student Builders and Contractor’s Association.” Tom is putting in 50 hour weeks this summer as an intern at Norfolk Southern Railway. He offers several pieces of advice: “Take your XC values and apply them to real life; get involved; take leadership opportunities; apply early for internships.”

Neil Pedersen-Neil is entering his junior year at UW-Stevens Point. He is majoring in soils (how many schools offer that major?) Neil is a member of the track and XC teams at UWSP. He says to current HCXC athletes, “enjoy it. Don’t take it too seriously.”

Class of 2013

Left to right: Kevin Labotka (class of 2012), TJ Caveney, Sagar Dommaraju (2012), Ankit Aggarwal (2012), Jack Griffin, Aria Darbandi

Ankit Aggarwal-Ankit will be a sophomore at U of I. He has declared a major of Finance and Supply Chain Management. He will be running for the U of I club team. 

Sagar Dommaraju-Sagar will be a sophomore at UIC. He has a challenging dual major of math and pre-med.

Kevin Labotka-Kevin will be a sophomore at Butler University. Kevin has not yet declared a major but is considering sports broadcasting.

Ryan Somerfield-Ryan will also be a sophomore at U of I, where is majoring in Engineering. He has been working with the custodial staff at Hinsdale Central this summer, while also training and taking an evening calculus class (no leisurely vacation, that). Ryan will also be running with the U of I club team.

Class of 2014

Nodus's famous ride

TJ Caveney-TJ will be headed to Boston College this fall. He plans to major in business management. He will also be on the XC and track team. He says to the current team, “Stay humble. Don’t fumble your dreams.”

Aria Darbandi-Aria is headed to U of I this fall, and plans to major in Chemical engineering. This summer (I hear) he is head commissioner of ARBA…I am not sure what the acronym means but I understand it is a summer basketball tournament involving current and former HCXC athletes. He says to the current team, “run a lot.”

Jack Griffin-Jack is also headed to U of I, and wants to major in hospitality management. His advice: “Stick it out.”

Jake Hall-Jake will be attending University of Denver. He plans to double major in Environmental Science and Business. He is working this summer at Runner’s Soul.

Sam Mackenzie-Sam is headed to Vanderbilt, and things he might major in business. He is working this summer as a delivery man for Fox’s pizza. He offers the following METAPHORICAL advice: “get high off your runner’s accomplishments.”

Nick Nodus-Nick will be headed down to University of Texas-Austin and plans to major in computer engineering. For advice, he offers the old adage: “keep on keeping on.”

Emmett Scully-Emmett will be headed to Boston College. He is unsure of what major to pursue. He does know he will be running with the XC team this fall. He, too, says simply “run fast.”

Keaton Tatooles-Keaton is headed to Northwestern, though at this point has “no idea” what he wants to major in. Frequently the jester, Keaton’s advice is “when you get to camp of champs, put all of your mattresses in one room.”


I conclude with the results of a survey I took. I asked each man who came to the reunion to indicate whether they continue to run now that their high school days are over. Here were the results:

Yes-Competitively: 8
Yes-Recreationally: 14
No: 5

It’s nice to know that running remains a part of life for so many former team members. And even for those who do not run, all report continuing to lead an active lifestyle. All of this supports the contention that running cross country in high school will lead to long-term healthy habits and general positive well-being. This is not the main reason one should join our team, but certainly is a positive consequence of doing so.

To those alums who missed the reunion, will try to meet again over winter break. In the meantime, we’d love to see you at our meets this season. Having lots of fans and former runners present makes racing even more meaningful.