At the very beginning of the season, I held a meeting with all senior members of the team to invite them to address their teammates during our daily team meetings, and to establish a schedule of who would speak when. I explained that this was purely optional, though I knew that there was a lot of collected wisdom among their group, as together they had devoted thousands of hours in pursuit of improving at long distance running. Over the past several days, I have sought to faithfully record the messages these seniors conveyed to their younger teammates, and have used the opportunity to sketch in a brief biography of each speaker.
Today, I’d like to highlight the last of our seniors. For different reasons, each elected not to speak (in some cases, this is due to being soft-spoken by nature; in others, due to being new to the team; in Garrett Schmidt’s case, it was because he physically could not be at practice, having been confined to a hospital bed until just today, when he made his triumphant return). There are five seniors I will profile.
Garret Schmidt joined us Sophomore year, a convert from soccer (we LOVE getting ex-soccer players!) If you have been reading this blog, you know by now that Garret is a proud member of the “black group” and the members of that fraternity were thrilled to see him back in school today. Garret has the capacity to be extremely tenacious while racing. When he sets his mind to achieve a goal, he focuses intently on achieving it. This has been evident the past two seasons in track, as he pledged to help the team stay competitive in the ‘sub 5 challenge’ by breaking 5:00 for 1600. To do that a third time will require an uphill climb, as Garret will be sidelined for some time while his lungs recover from the serious case of pneumonia he contracted this summer. However, I know that so long as he is medically cleared, he will be up for the challenge.
Christian Palo is in his fourth year with the team. Christian’s quiet and polite demeanor masks a genuine sense of humor that I have seen come out when he is among peers. Christian is easy to work with, respectful, and man of many talents (and unlike his older brother Dylan, is not likely to forget to pack his track spikes on the day of an important meet!) I recall one time trial workout where I had the occasion to run with Christian. He had never broken 6:00 for the 1600 before, and I ran alongside him urging him on. At 800, we were on pace, and I knew he could achieve his goal. We kept up the pace, and when he crossed the line in 5:56, I was thrilled. He’d broken through; run faster than ever before. I hope he runs faster yet this season.
Tom Lorenc is a “newbie” – the only “first year senior” on our team. I have only had about three weeks to get to know him, but I already like him a lot. He is hard working, dedicated to his teammates, and already embracing cross country (he even got a logarun account!) Tom has improved an astonishing amount in a very short time (to cite one example, in his first ever interval workout, he averaged 3:05 for 4*800…just one week later, he averaged 2:48!) Tom is humble and eager to learn as much as he can about how to be a better runner. I suspect he will surprise himself with how fast he becomes this season.
James Reilly’s forte is actually sprinting. He is a very fast 200 and 400 meter runner – in fact, a conference champ at the Sophomore level in the one lap race. James is running cross country primarily to keep his fitness level strong for the coming track season, when he hopes to help us earn an invitation to state in the 4*200 and 4*400. As anyone who has run an all-out 400 knows, it is NOT an easy race. James is tough. I hope Cross Country make him tougher still.
Finally, we come to the end of the seniors with a profile of Griffin Gartner. Like Reilly, Gartner began his career as a sprinter. Sometime during his Sophomore track season, we realized he was a pretty good middle distance runner. At outdoor conference, he pulled off a surprise 2nd place finish at the Sophomore level. The next year, as a junior, he came out for cross country for the first time, and showed flashes of potential, including earning a medal at the JV level at Locktoberfest. During the following track season, he continued to improve. He was the surprise winner of an 800 time trial we held after Conference, and thus earned a spot in the Sectional 800. I know he wants to help get the 4*800 onto the podium for the first time since 1998 this coming spring. However, he may have a few important things to attend to before then – here is a guy with a legitimate chance at making the varsity top 7. Can he do it? Things will become a bit more clearer after the results are collated at the Hornet-Red Devil Invite this weekend!