Athlete of the Issue: Simon Ricci

For him, the race started as any other. Simon Ricci began his three-mile journey at a 5:25 pace, competing against runners from almost 30 other schools. The curves and bends were all too familiar for him; his home course was a perfect arrangement for yet another victory. Simon, though leading the Varsity race, faced a familiar challenger: Jacob Meyer from U-High, a rather talented individual who has prevailed over Latin’s best runners, including Simon, all too frequently. As Simon turned the last tree, more than 200 meters left of the race, his opponent began to pursue him. Simon and Jacob began sprinting in an attempt to outrun the other, cowbells ringing in the distance, words of competition sparking the already prevalent rivalry. As the finish line inched closer and closer, Simon began to exceed Meyer’s pace. At last, Simon won the race, contributing to the Varsity’s 2nd place victory and earning individual hardware as well. Despite his current talent, Simon wasn’t always a gifted runner. Despite quitting after his first year of running in 5th grade, then becoming “the worst” player on JV soccer in 6th grade, Simon came to cross country “for good” in 7th grade and has ran ever since. Though his running career had a shaky start, Simon has consistently increased his ability through both middle and high school, as evidently seen in his 5:47 mile in 8th grade to a 4:31 mile in junior year. To what does he owe his ability? Good form, efficiency, body shape, and genes, though “[his] mom hates running and [his] dad was never exactly fast…” then he adds, “but training and motivation in training are probably the most important aspects of becoming a good runner.” Running in itself is a mind set; one cannot simply race a race if they have not mentally prepared themselves for what is to come. For Simon, the reason why he runs is simple: “when you’re done there’s that feeling of satisfaction you get from having run really fast.” Also, on a more personal level, Simon believes that “it’s basically impossible to think about anything negative when you’re running, so like bye college and hello dreams of winning races.”   Indeed, running is “inherently painful,” according to Simon, who struggled with his right hip flexor from midsummer to late September. As a runner, Simon is prone to injuries such as this, and despite being a totally mental sport, “the pain” of cross country prevails as the hardest part, for “it’s unavoidable because if you’re not hurting you should be going faster. When you’re in a race and it starts to hurt, you’re supposed to push through and keep going just as fast for another fifteen minutes and then go even faster at the end.” On the team, we certainly idolize Simon as an immortal running God, though what we don’t know is how much he relies on us to improve himself not only in a physical aspect but a mental aspect as well. “Our team is the best. I think this team is really good at supporting each other. Sometimes the fastest runner might be put on a bit of a pedestal, but I feel like I’ve connected with a lot of my teammates, especially the freshmen (who are great, by the way),” said Simon. “I really hope this team is able to come together and run at maximum potential in the important meets this season. They deserve it. Any teammate who is able to take time off from their race preparation to tell me I’m going to win the race deserves to have some great results. I heard a coach tell his team that running for yourself can make you good, but running for your teammates can make you great. I believe it. It’s hard to run when there’s nobody pushing you along.” Simon hopes that, in his future, “running [will be] good to [him].” Maybe traveling down to state once more, running in college, and after watching the marathon on Sunday, running the full 26.2 mile course, which is notoriously brutal while also being satisfying. With these goals in mind, whether establishing school records in track and cross country, winning a race, or practicing alongside his teammates, Simon Ricci is definitely one to watch. ]]>