CHATHAM, NJ - Normally, Alec Gironda should be feeling a little lonely this week while he trains for the NJSIAA Meet of Champions in cross-country set for Saturday at Holmdel Park. After all, he's the very last Chatham athlete still competing from the 2019 fall season.
"This is a cool week," Gironda said. "I really am the only person still participating in a fall sport. It's kind of interesting. It really doesn't feel that different because I know all the boys on the team are going to be running with me the whole week. And they really don't have to. We're just so close-knit this year. They support me all the way. They're all going to come with me to the meet on Saturday."
Gironda extended his season for another week last Saturday when he ran 16:29 at Holmdel, securing 10th place in the state Group 3 meet and earning the group's final spot at the Meet of Champions.
Alec Gironda is the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week.
"They not only look at him as the first runner, he basically is the one they looked to for leadership," Chatham coach Patrick Barry said.
The fact that the senior has so much support from his teammates is somewhat of a tribute to his performance as one of the team captains this season.
"He's been fantastic," Barry said. "He's gotten better as the season has gone on. He trained the way you're supposed to train over the summer. For his first three years, we've always teased him about his closing speed. Now he has it. He may not be as fast as some, but he has closing speed, which has paid off for him in a number of races. He's the fourth-fastest Morris County runner going into the Meet of Champions."
In 2017, Chatham had two runners place in the Top 20 at the Meet of Champions with Bo Raadam placing 10th in 16:07 and Colin Logsdon 11th in 16:12. Gironda's final goal of the season is to break into the Top 20 at MOC so he can receive a medal and stand on the podium.
"I'm going to try to go under 16:20 to hopefully get in the top 20," Gironda said. "If you're in the top 20 at the MOC you get to go up on the podium, that's the big thing."
Even if he doesn't make it into the top 20, Gironda will look back at his final cross-country season as a successful one. He put in the extra work over the summer to get ready and what he envisioned for this fall has come to fruition.
"I'm very happy with where I am right now," the 17-year-old said. "I feel like my senior season played out exactly how I wanted it to. I knew I wanted to break 16 minutes and I did that in September with a 15:54.21. I also ended up getting to the Meet of Champions, which was my other goal. I just had a really fun season. Everyone has been so motivated and so dedicated. It's exactly how I wanted it to be."
During the season, he has been competing with a number of the top runners in Morris County, including the runners from Mendham who he will be running with on Saturday.
"In our county, there is a group of Morris County kids I've been competing against," Gironda said. "We're all rivals. Once we get into the state meets, we all pack up together during these races. It's awesome. You become such good friends with these kids you've been running against, even though they're not from your town. We'll be pushing each other during the race."
Gironda won't end his running for Chatham on Saturday. He's also a distance runner on the Cougar track team, where he's clocked 9:42.58 in the 3200. He intends to keep running when he enrolls at Middlebury College in Vermont next fall.
In addition to his captain duties, Gironda has been the class president in each of his four years of high school. His final task is to make sure the "Roaring 20s" themed mural that is going up in the hallway in honor of his class gets completed.
"I wanted to be class president because I like talking to people," he said. "I never wanted to fly under the radar."
Editor's note: The Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week is sponsored by the John Hawk Agency. John and his team have been protecting local families and business owners for over 12 years. Call them at 973-635-9494 for a new auto, home, life and business insurance quote this week and if you mention the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week they will make a $20 contribution to the Chatham Booster Club! To learn more, visit the agency website.