While the Morris cross country team got practice underway Wednesday under the inspection of Redskins coach Joe Blumberg, a bulk of the locals have spent plenty of time this summer running already.
On Thursday as the boys and girls stretched ahead of a practice session, Morris senior runner Nick Marino took some time out of his day to engage the Morris Daily Herald as this week’s question and answer subject.
Q. I know we’re currently out here on the front lawn of Morris High School, but tell me where is the Redskins cross country team right now?
A. As a team, I think the guys are looking really good. We’ve had some guys step up this summer and run some heavy miles. Jacob Wantland stepped up a lot. He ran a lot of miles over the summer. He’s smart about it and is running really good. The ladies I can’t speak for because I didn’t keep an eye on them over the summer. We’re only together at the beginning and end of practice right now.
Q. In the summer, do the guys run together?
A. Yeah. We have several groups. Usually, ‘Watty’ and Tristan DeGrush will run together and that’s the front group. Sometimes I will run with them, depending on how I feel. The middle group is usually me, Chris Eliakis, Vicente Gallegos, Jake Hesslau, Jeff Burton and Jonathon Turman — that’s one big group.
Q. And you have run all summer?
A. Yeah. We do have others who are on the team that didn’t really run in the summer but can stick with the middle group. Guys like Alan Alvarez and Austin Patterson. Sam Allen runs with the middle or the high group.
Q. Do you guys hang out over the summer when you are not running?
A. Oh yeah. We’re like one big family. That’s why I love this sport. We’ll go to Buffalo Wild Wings or the movie theater. We’ll have dinner nights at our houses. We have pasta nights before meets sometimes. We hang out as much as we can and that’s what I love about the sport.
Q. I know coach Blumberg has been around a long time now, but he like when nobody but the team is around?
A. He’s a goofy guy and I love him. He’s like a second dad to me. He’s a very kind, nice guy who cares about you and treats you as his child.
Q. Sometimes as a basketball coach you’ll see him get frustrated with an official or a player. How does he handle pushing you guys? Sometimes, ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ has trouble doing that?
A. He keeps us motivated and he’s very caring for us in the way he gives us a boost. If we need it. Or a pickup if we need it. He’s a great guy and a great coach.
Q. What’s realistic for the team this year?
A. Last year we wanted to win a regional and didn’t quite get that, but this year we’re definitely looking forward to winning a regional. We’d love to go to state. We’d like to do that sometime soon and hopefully this is the year, but we’ll see.
Q. What about individually? What are the goals there?
A. You know, we look to do the best we can every meet. But we do look a lot towards the postseason. I think you’ll see ‘Watty’ step up quite a bit this season. He has the ability to win a few races this year and to get to state.
Q. Finally, if you had a seventh grader from Shabbona come to you and ask for advice, what kind of advice would you offer them about wanting to become a varsity cross country runner?
A. It takes a lot of patience. Running takes a lot of patience. There are a lot of times that you may be injured, but you have to fight through it. Maybe you are sick and you have to fight through that. You just have to stick with it. At the beginning it’s going to be hard but you still need to train as hard as you can to get better.