Mid-season reflections

Let me begin by offering an obvious but important personal statement: my life today is completely unrecognizable from what it was half a year ago.  You don’t know what you don’t know.  It’s a false equivalency to suggest that becoming a parent is like becoming a head Coach, but it’s fair to say that both require tremendous amounts of on-the-job learning, both can bring extreme physical exhaustion but also genuine fulfillment and sense of purpose.


I last posted a blog on January 3rd, one day before returning to Hinsdale Central for the beginning of second semester.  The absence of text here should give some indication of how busy the intervening months have been.  Yesterday was the first Monday I’ve had of 2016 where I was not struggling to keep my eyes open as the clock ticked past 9:00 p.m., mind full to bursting with the list of tasks awaiting for the morrow.  The first day of the week had heretofore started with a 5:00 a.m. wakeup call followed by morning  sprint practice at 5:45, intensely focused class and track prep work from 7:00-8:45, a full day of teaching, afternoon distance practice from 3:15-5:45, then a short and happily tired car ride home for my first chance of the day to see my wife and daughter awake.  Then dinner, usually one parent eating while the other attends to Clio, then switching roles (gone are the days of the long, relaxed meal).  By the time the dishes are loaded, floor swept, coffee made, and tomorrow’s lunch prepared we’d have perhaps an hour together before trying to go to bed, though we’d been stripped of the illusion of control we once thought we exercised over when that precise moment would be.


All athletes I coach have busy lives, their parents even more so.  I can look back to previous times in my life when I thought I was maxed out, only to realize that what I was doing then seems eminently manageable by my current standards.  I have a newfound admiration for parents with multiple children, and for single parents taking on the daunting task of providing for their children alone.  In this respect, it is a true privilege to be a coach; I am fortunate enough to have the time, even with an infant, to devote to a vocation I love.  With due respect to the administrator who told me, ‘of course, you are a teacher first and a coach second’ I don’t see those roles as distinct.  In fact, I can now confidently add parent into that identity mix – as all three titles: teacher/coach/parent have the same objective: to assist the growth and development of the young.


And no matter one’s mastery over content, the truest challenge for a teacher/coach/parent is to motivate the young, to light the flame of passion (to borrow a phase) which will help the pupil become self-directed.  And in this respect, I think our track team has made tremendous progress so far, though it may not be fully reflected yet on the results page.


If there is one accomplishment I am most proud of so far after the end of our indoor season, it is the new sense of shared mission we now have.  I have witnessed the slow process of our very large team beginning to coalesce around the idea that we are capable of contending for the top spots in the meets we participate in.  Of all the changes we made from last year, perhaps the single most significant was the institution of weekly team meetings.  We now meet every Tuesday in the Dance Studio, all 165 team members crammed together in a narrow rectangular room with wood floors and mirrored walls (magnifying our size to infinite proportions).  In this intimate space, we convene weekly to cover administrative issues such as uniform distribution or practice times but more importantly to publicly give recognition to those who earned it in the previous week’s meet and to inspire each other on to even greater achievements.  It has become a weekly ritual that we collectively value.


During these Tuesday meetings, we do our ‘shout outs’ to the athletes who shined most brightly in the week before.  This is often an athlete who scored high in their event, though sometimes it is an athlete who saw a massive improvement in their performance even if they did not place in the meet.


One of the challenges of writing about a team as large as ours is that all 165 individual athletes deserve recognition, but that is not a feasible task for a single blog post.  Instead, as a way to tell the story of our season so far, I offer a week-to-week accounting of our ‘shout outs,’ as this will offer some indication of the diversity and depth of our team (text taken verbatim from the weekly powerpoints I composed):


Week Four: Little Four Invite

Matt Cangelosi – 1st place, 400 with only one week of training; Won the frosh/soph level as a freshman in his first ever high school track race


Justin Taylor – 2nd place, Frosh/Soph High Jump; Jumped 5’4” in his first ever high school track meet; This mark would have placed him 4th in WSC Indoors last year, 3rd in 2014…and he has only been jumping for three week


Joey DiJohn-3rd in 200 (26.9); 4th in Long Jump (16’4”); Only a freshmen


Nick Biancalana-3rd in Pole Vault (6’6”); Has only been vaulting for 3 weeks; First time competing in a high school track meet


Kaidi Hu-3rd in Frosh/Soph 400 (62.5); 1st time ever running the event in an open race; Rolling 40 time indicated he might have some ability in this event


Colin Jay-Surprise winner of Varsity 400 (57.3); Also looked good in 55LH


Varsity 4*400 of Bobak, Muhammad, Carta, Hillock-Beat a DGN team that set a school record


Week Five: Proviso Quad

Owen Joyce-Wins Soph level of the Shot Put as a freshman; First time ever competing in a meet


Alec Hill-Wins Frosh/Soph 3200 by 47 seconds!  Sets a PR by 34 seconds! Had a stress fracture that prevented him from competing in Cross Country, but is now fully healthy; Going to be a huge contributor to this team


Liam Burke-3rd place in Frosh/Soph High Jump; PR of 5’2”; Only a freshmen; Ran a great 200 – almost 3 seconds faster than his time from the Little Four


Nicky Midlash-4th place in 3200; Ran a PR by 26 seconds! Also ran a PR in the 400; Missed all of his sophomore Track season due to surgery


Ben Hall-5th place in Varsity High Jump; PR of 5’8”; Missed all of Junior Year due to injury; Second PR in two weeks


Matt Ostrowski, David Vachlon, Alex Smirnov-Finished 4th, 5th, and 6th in Frosh/Soph 600; All are new to Track; Ostrowski also finished 5th in the Frosh/Soph High Jump


Week Six: Proviso West Invitational

Kareem Muhammad-4th in 55 (6.51), 4th in 200 (23.07), 6th in Triple Jump (43’4”); Ran lead leg of 6th place 4*200 (22.6 split); Earned 19 points for the team – this is more than 7 teams scored TOTAL


Sean O’Connell, Steven Zaher, Alec Hill, Neil Cumberland-Won the F/S 4*800 against several of the best distance teams in state; Less than 1 second off 24-year old school record


Cullen Fitzgerald-Wins the Soph High Jump at hugely competitive meet; Sets a PR of 6’0”; Closing in on school record (6’2”) for sophs


Phil Barrett-Sets PR by over 2 feet!  Breaks 40’ Barrier for first time; Senior leader in the throws group


Week Seven: HC Invite

Luke Skokna and Ethan Ruth-Both broke school records; Ethan’s time in 55HH (7.8) smashes the freshman indoor record and breaks the soph record; Luke’s time in the 55 breaks the frosh record; His time in the 200 was very close to breaking school record 24.7 handtime=24.96.  School record is 24.73 FAT; This was Luke’s first high school track meet


Darnell Nicholson-2nd in high jump (5’4”); Only a freshmen; 1st ever high school track meet


Brandon Belgrad and Keegan Caveney-Newest members of ‘sub 5’ club; Both ahead of the pace of their older brothers(Jacob ran 5:06 at this meet freshman year, while Brandon ran 4:53;  Keegan broke 5 in his third ever track meet – TJ, who went on to be all-state, did not break 5:00 until Sophomore year)


Jeff Dang-Finishes 2nd in Shot Put (42’3”); 3 foot PR


Long Jumpers-Every Long Jumper had a PR; Robert Banda was 2 inches from tying the freshman indoor record; Varsity goes 3-4-5, Frosh/Soph go 1-4-5-6


Frosh/Soph Team-Scored in every single event; This is the first time this season we have done that at any meet on any level; Scored over twice as many points as the second place team (195 to 87)


Week Eight: Hinsdale South and Batavia Meets

Wilson Cook – 20 second PR in the 1600


Charlie Lyne -Fastest 55, 4 lap relay split, and 200 of anyone on the team (except Zajeski & Johnson)


Chris Koldras, Donald Brorson, Ian Stevenson, Joe Glasby, Andrew Tobia – All ran PRs despite less than ideal track conditions


From Batavia – Huge 3200 PRs for Kusak, Miscimarra, and Cumberland; Huge 800 PRs for Naess, Coan, Guth, and Schiavitti; Huge 1600 PRs for Hopkins, Frank, and Zaher


Week Nine: Indoor Conference Championships

Varsity-Kareem -> 26 points, Jared Neumann -> 20 points, Blake Evertsen -> 14 points


Sophomore-Ethan Ruth -> 22 points; Robert Banda -> Breaks frosh record in the Triple Jump.  Previous record set in 1989; O’Connell/Zaher -> 17 combined points in the toughest double in Track and Field


JV and Freshmen – Charlie Lyne – wins 55 and 200; Colin Chval – wins 55 LH and 55 HH; MD3 Group – 15 of 15 guys ran PRs!



In reviewing the ‘shout out’ list, I see already the inherent limitation in the endeavor: it simply cannot do justice to all the individual highlights we’ve experienced already.  No mention got made of Garrett Oakey, a Sophomore who was moved up to Varsity for football this Fall and who has already made an impact after making a difficult but admirable decision to commit to the Track Team, qualifying for finals in both the 55 and 200 at Indoor Conference.  Chris Brenk, already an established Cross Country talent, is in the midst of a dramatic comeback from surgery that sidelined him over winter break.  Nathan Hill is emerging as one of the premier mid-distance runners in the state, running within .5 seconds of our school indoor record.  Jack Borys, an unheralded Sophomore, broke through at JV Conference shaving his 1600 PR by 25 seconds in a single race en route to a 5:07, making the 5:00 barrier his logical new goal.  Guys brand new to the sport are now point scorers at the conference level: Bernard Wong in the Long Jump, Sam Schiavitti in the 600, Jack Chen in the Triple Jump, Max Kuropas in the 4*200.


The single analytic that best tells the story of our progress so far is one I have previously shared on twitter and in our weekly team meeting: of all teams in the West-Suburban Silver division, none improved as much in a single year as us.

Most Improved – 2015 Indoor Conference to 2016 Indoor Conference


TEAM 2015 Results 2016 Results Point differential
  SOPH Varsity Combined SOPH Varsity Combined  
Hinsdale Cent. 28 60 88 78.33 77.5 155.83 +67.83
Proviso West 6 58 64 63 60 123 +59
OPRF 98 116 214 148.5 118 266.5 +52.5
Glenbard West 38 54 92 73.83 60.5 134.33 +42.33
LT 110 82 192 79 81 160 -32
DGN 137 41 178 36 80 116 -62
York 110 115 225 45.33 50 95.33 -129.67


We are at the midpoint of a season that I know I will always distinctly remember, with a very specific team goal known to all members of the team and coaching staff.  It is a goal that will not at all be easy to accomplish, but one whose pursuit will bring enough sense of pride and purpose to offset the vast amounts of physical and mental exhaustion yet to come.

One thought on “Mid-season reflections

  1. To say I am proud would do an injustice to what I am feeling.  Noah-I have so much pride in what you do as a husband, father, coach, leader.  What else can a smiling grandmother say.


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