Athletes of the Issue: Dean and James Melonides

Paige Hosbein I first met James and Dean at a preseason cross country practice. I was brand new to Latin and with that, came nerves and excitement. I looked up to the upperclassman on the team with admiration. Looking back, I realize that James and Dean welcomed me into the close-knit team. The simple “nice job”’s they said to me after races made a significant difference in feeling apart of the Latin community. They are inclusive leaders, but fun leaders too. Amanda Aprati noted that “they do not take anything too seriously and keep the sport light-hearted,” making the five mile Vo2max practices a little more bearable with a positive attitude and high spirits. Their co-captain, Daniel Korach, noted, “James and Dean are both great leaders, as teammates and runners, and it’s been awesome to be on their team the last three years.” This year they led the Latin Boys Cross Country team to victory in the ISL conference. They have run cross country ever since the fourth grade and began running track when it was available in high school. Running is their primary sport, with an exception to when they both played basketball in the sixth grade. Dean chuckled, saying he “didn’t score a point, but James did score.” Even with their rigorous course load and multiple commitments, they always come to practice ready to run, rain or shine. They have both have had outstanding performances during their high school running career. This year, Dean won the meet at Lake Forest Academy, and ran three miles in 16:48 at the ISL Conference meet. He’s improved tremendously since last year, cutting off over a minute from his three mile time. Also, he ran exceptionally at Sectionals in Washington Park two weeks ago. It was a meaningful race for him, as it could have been his last cross country race ever, however, he successfully advanced to the State Championships in Peoria. At State, he ended his last season on a high note, running a personal record and blazing fast time of 16:10. He runs super fast, but his strategies are not fancy; he simply tries to eat a meal at either Chipotle at McDonald’s two days before his races. James has been a top point-scorer on the team this year as well. He ran his best race at Sectionals last year where he was the only boy on the team to qualify for State and broke 17 minutes at State, a major accomplishment. Mrs. Stender, a mom of a recent alumnus, Kathryn Stender quoted it as “the race of his life.” Out of the numerous memorable things about cross country, James’ favorite thing is talking to people that he does not get to talk to often during the school day. He also likes cross country better than track because it’s a smaller team, and he’s better at it. Dean’s favorite cross country memory was when they were the underdog victors of the ISL Conference meet his sophomore year. A cross country race is scored using the top five runners’ places; the lower the team’s overall score, the better. However, they were tied with another team, so they had to use the sixth runners, and Latin’s sixth runner just out-edged the other team’s runner. It was “shocking and amazing,” Dean said. It is a cross country tradition to drink chocolate milk out of the conference trophy (after it’s washed of course), so it is always fun to celebrate the conference victory. Although they are not going to run on college level team, they both hope to have a life-long love for running and hopefully run a marathon in the future. They are also both excited to run their last season of track this spring at Latin. ]]>