Jeff Hopkins has been with us from the beginning. I have noticed a new seriousness in Jeff this season, as he has undertaken mileage levels higher than he’s ever managed before, continued to show great support of teammates, and already achieved a personal best 3200 time in our first time trial. One of the qualities I’ve noticed that people most appreciate in Jeff is his sense of humor, yet in his remarks to his teammates, he opted to play it straight, reflecting honestly on his high school career to this point.
Jeff began by telling the team a bit of his history – for his first three years he worked with Coach John Snee (Late this summer, we learned Coach Snee had been offered a full time physical education position at a junior high school in Park Ridge. While we will miss him dearly, we know that this is a good move for him and wish him the very best). While Jeff loved being a member of the team, he acknowledges that he did not invest in training as hard as he could have. He looks back with some regret on not using his time more productively. His advice to freshman was simple yet poignant: “work hard and don’t screw around.” As his coach, I would only add that though we cannot change the past, we can control our future. I suspect that for Jeff, the best is yet to come.
Stefan Rosas, like Jeff, joined our team when he was a freshman. Stefan has always been a hard worker, but his improvement has been more rocky than steady. There is no doubt he is a much better runner now, but the journey hasn’t always been easy. Stefan has dealt with injury and frustration often, but has really come into his own this summer. He is on pace to run 1000 miles, an honor achieved by less than 12 athletes in all my time coaching here. He has also been a great role model for younger kids, taking great pride in his training.
Stefan began by explaining to his teammates that he would leave discussions of mental toughness and race strategy to others. Instead, he wanted to reflect on where he came from as a freshman. That 9th grade year, Stefan was very quiet. He remembers entering room 155 and knowing not a single person. Yet, today, he has formed a bond with several of his teammates that is truly unique. This group of runners has come to be known as “black group.” The black group referred to the third fastest group on last year’s team, and was composed of Stefan, Griffin Gartner, Joe Griffin, Alex Lambert, Brendan Krupp, Garrett Schmidt, Graham Reid, and a few others. As Stefan acknowledged, the members of this group understood that it was unlikely they’d make the top 7. However, they wanted to establish a strong tradition of “JV” runners taking pride in their performance (I put JV in quotation marks to denote that he is doing varsity level training, and indeed would be a member of the top 7 on many teams around the state). Stefan expressed his appreciation for his teammates who have helped push him to a new level. He said, “I wouldn’t have foreseen my freshman year how important this sport would become for me. XC is a hard sell, but stick with it, and you’ll be surprised what it can mean for you.”
Final anecdote: at the end of last track season, I was presented an honorary “Black group” jersey by Stefan and his groupmates. It is a plain black jersey that says “Black” in white lettering on the front (how paradoxical) and “Lawrence” in white lettering on the back. I wore it at the “Four on the fourth” race this summer – and wore it with pride.