Hornet Red-Devil Recap and Analysis

I am going to begin this review of the events of Saturday morning and early afternoon with a short description of how it ended: with a trip to Portillo’s for a Maxwell Street Polish AND a Jumbo Dog AND an extra large Diet Coke, to be followed later that evening by Pulled Pork and Funnel Cake purchased from a vendor at Darien Fest, which I happily walked to from my house with my wife and a couple of friends.  Not the diet typical or appropriate for runners, I fully acknowledge.  Yet it felt deserved, after an opening weekend in which we confirmed for ourselves that the work we’ve been putting in these past many months is having its intended effect; that the goals we set late last November are emphatically realistic.  

So, when upon entering Portillo’s with Coach Westhphal I saw, only half unexpectedly, about 20 skinny guys wearing red seated around one very long narrow table (10 guys to a side, positioned in such a way that it would almost have resembled a UN negotiating session were they not all munching on french fries) I was not disappointed, nor tempted to lecture the gathered harriers on the importance of refueling after stress efforts with complex carbohydrates and protein bars.  Sometimes, it is OK to enjoy what tastes good (after all, one of the benefits of running is the ability to eat more than the average person without gaining weight).  These are high school athletes, not professional runners, though they have chosen to lead a very atypical high school life: tackling difficult academic loads, and then not starting their homework until after completing their 8-10 miles at practice each day.  Letting loose every now and again (and this is about the extent of letting loose for most of these guys) is not only fun, but necessary.  I was happy to see the boys I coach enjoying themselves, all of us knowing we’d back back to work on Monday (not that such work is not enjoyable – I like to think of these guys as ‘happy warriors’ – but it is a very exhausting sort of enjoyable).

In reality, we were all exhibiting the quality of delayed gratification – a principal I structure my life by (I didn’t allow myself to begin writing this blog until after I finished my grading, the laundry, the grocery shopping, and my run).  One of the highlights of the Hornet Red-Devil Invitational each year is the gratification of finally getting to see where we are at after long months of intensive training.  There is a certain relief in finding out this information, even when, as was often the case in the early years of my tenure at HC, the outcome was not as good as we hoped it might be.

Up until this meet, figuring out how competitive our team might be, as well as who might compete for positions in the freshman, sophomore, and varsity top 7, is simply guess work.  I had a sense of how well I thought we might run this year, and was pleasantly surprised to learn my predictions were fairly accurate.

Here were our pre-meet goals:

Sophomores- 3 in the top 10; 5 in the top 30

Outcome: 3 in the top 10 (Belgrad, Doorhy, Planson); missed the second goal (Schnieders was 45th, Joe Miscimarra, worlds’ ahead of where he was last year, was 5th man in 63rd)

Varsity-3 in top 5; 5 in top 12; 7 in top 30

Outcome: We had 3 in the top 5; 5 in the top 15; 7 in the top 46.  

Freshman-6 in the top 30 (though I had really no clue what to expect)

Outcome: We had 3 in the top 30 (Sean O’Connell in 13th, Neil Cumberland in 15th, Andrew La Valle in 24th) and 5 in the top 55.  


In our team meeting on the Friday before the meet, we downplayed these place goals and focused instead on the process: we’d base our assessment of our performance based on how well we prepared and executed for what would be, for the freshman, their first ever high school meet.  On this basis, we did extremely well: most athletes arrived on time, everyone had a focused demeanor heading to the starting line, everyone warmed up and cooled down properly.  As is often the case, when you execute your plan well, the finishing places take care of themselves.  We tied our record for lowest combined place (adding the freshman, sophomore, and varsity team places together) with 11 (1st on varsity, 4th on Sophomore, 6th on Freshman) and we did so with all levels missing key pieces (Adam Jaber missing for the freshman; John Bynan for the Sophomores; Alex Domiano, Austin Kleber, Ben Anderson, Yuji Cusick, Andrew Irvine missing for the varsity).  Best of all, we continued to see huge improvements from the previous season:

Most Improved (based on place) – 2014 v. 2013

  1. Griffin Gartner -137 places
  2. Joe Griffin -135
  3. Max Maydanchik -108
  4. Alex Lambert -83
  5. Michael Chadwell -62
  6. Matt Tobia -55
  7. Nick Tandle -51
  8. Jeff Hopkins -50
  9. Ethan Planson -45
  10. Sunil Dommaraju -29
  11. Josh Feldman -24


Most Improved (based on time) – 2014 v. 2013

  1. Griffin Gartner -2:27
  2. Joe Griffin -2:13
  3. Jeff Hopkins -2:10
  4. Sunil Dommaraju -1:54
  5. Max Maydanchik -1:45
  6. Alex Lambert -1:24
  7. Matt Tobia -1:08
  8. Scott McLaughlin -0:58
  9. Nick Tandle -0:57
  10. Josh Feldman -0:53
  11. Evertsen/Brenk -0:51
  12. McBrien -0:43

I am also extremely proud of the fact that, for the 6th year in a row, our Sophomore team finished higher than they did the previous year when they were freshman:


Year of Freshman class

Place as freshman

Place as Sophomores





6 places




2 places




1 place




4 places




1 place




3 places






As I told the Freshman at our team meeting, much can happen in a year or three.  This year’s seniors finished 8th place at the Hornet-Red Devil as freshman.  Matt McBrien was 44th in his debut high school race; yesterday he was 5th.  Josh Feldman was 106th that day three years ago; as a senior he finished 12th (some things didn’t change: Graham Brown was 1st as a freshman and as a senior).  No two athletes on our team have run as many miles as Matt and Josh.  There is a reason they improved so much.

No one can know what the future will hold for Andrew La Valle; for Jack Clark: for Liam Bots or Spencer Martin.  I can promise them, though, that their commitment to our program will reap rewards.  That as seniors they, too, might be able to embrace in exhausted euphoria, as Chris, Matt, and Blake did moments after crossing the finish line yesterday.

I can tell them that should they choose to embrace the process of distance running, they’ll have lots of support.  It is overwhelming each year to see the number of parents and alumni who continue to come cheer for us years after they (or their children) have graduated.  There, under perfectly blue skies, gathered the Stubbings, the Kennedys, the Scullys, the Caveneys and the Magnesens (including Grandpa Vern, looking fit as ever), Mr. Fielder, Mr. Moore,and Mrs. Somerfield.  Across the rolling green fields jogged younger alumni including Jack Feldman, Ted Owens, Mike Kanter, Jack Griffin, and Dan Chan.  Beneath noble Oaks assembled alumni from when I first started coaching: Tim Filarski, Pete Richard; as well as alumni who preceded my arrival including Jon Thanos and Tom O’Shea.  And there, making his triumphant return, was Coach Snee, who finally could bear witness to the “Snee Peat” shirts that Hopkins, Leahy, and O’Donnell had created – each of those guys getting their own bonus bit of delayed gratification when watching John’s reaction to their design work.  Though I did not get the chance to express it to these individuals yesterday, busy as I was handing out race chips, shouting encouragement, and debriefing with athletes post race, it means a lot to us to have such a wide network of people encouraging us and rooting for us.  I hope everyone shared in the excitement of yesterday, and will continue to do so throughout the season.

Of course, as a coach, I know the road ahead is long, and will emphasize this point tomorrow as we gather together in room 155 after school.  Yesterday as I ran in parallel with our varsity 5th man Nathan Hill, seeing him through to the finish line, I thought to myself: “Yes!  We ran AWESOME!”  And then my very next thought was….”Holy cow, those Neuqua guys look tough!”


One thought on “Hornet Red-Devil Recap and Analysis

  1. A beautiful day and an even better race! Thanks for making my day. Billy would have loved to join us and would be thrilled with the way the Devils performed.


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