Whose woods these are, I think I know…
If you have followed the fortunes of Salisbury’s cross-country team this fall, you already know “whose woods these are” – and whose woods those are, and whose woods most anywhere they run are: Knight runners own the running paths of woods across Western New England this fall. En route to a gaudy 23-2 record, they compiled one of the longest winning streaks in Salisbury’s storied athletic annals: 23 in a row between an opening-week loss to Class A Hotchkiss and a season-ending loss to Williston.
Depth has been this team’s stock in trade. Only once all season did a Salisbury runner actually take first place in an event. That was Max Lampe ’22 three weeks ago against Kent. “I had never won a race before,” confirms Lampe in his French-tinged accent. Born in Paris, Lampe spent the first twelve years of his life in France. His mother is French as are three of his grandparents. His father’s work in information technology eventually brought both father and son to the United States. They have resided in Connecticut for the past four years.
The best part of the first-place laurels for Lampe at Kent? “The finish of their course,” he explains, “is narrow and bounded by trees, but as I closed in on the finish-line,” his voice becomes more animated, “I suddenly saw familiar faces between the trees: Mr. Dudley and a bunch of Salisbury students! I know they were there for the Salisbury-Kent football game,” Lampe acknowledges, “but the football field was a mile-and-a-half away! The fan-support this fall has been incredible. Outside of the runners’ families, we never had students coming to our races last year. So to see crowds now at our home meets and then see a group at an away meet has really inspired us.”
One of two co-captains along with sixth-former Robert Luo, Lampe has been the team’s stalwart all fall, pacing the Knight-brigade in virtually every race. Lampe and Luo, in fact, are the only two returners from last year’s aggregation. Usually running second to Lampe has been Ford Cousin, a member of the 2017 team who switched to rock-climbing last fall but who was enticed back to cross-country, as Lampe understands it, by hints during the pre-season that this year’s team might be the best Salisbury had fielded in a long, long time. Vying with Cousin for the second spot in the line-up, Charlie van Beuren played soccer last year. His coach noted van Beuren’s endurance on the soccer pitch and suggested that he had the potential to become an outstanding distance runner. Sure enough.
The team has been further bolstered by Asher Sedlin and Utah Bryant, two incoming juniors who are expected to have an impact as varsity players in other sports. And sophomore Paul Ling has shown potential, mustering several finishes in Salisbury’s top-five to contribute to the team’s scoring.
While depth accounts in no small measure for Lampe and his teammates’ success, there are other, important contributing factors. “[Head coach] Mr. Huber brought in a new regimen last year,” Lampe notes, “with new courses for practices and the addition of hill-training. This year, [first-year assistant coach] Mr. Morris has refined the training program even further.”
Lampe elaborates: “We follow a carefully devised weekly schedule. On Mondays, we take a long run of eight or nine miles, where last year we never did more than five, and those were usually repetitive loops. The lower runners are not held to the same standard, but Mr. Morris has steadily increased their distance during the season. Let me tell you a story,” Lampe says, unexpectedly. “Daniel Cho is one of the team’s bottom runners, but he has pushed himself to the point where last week he completed eight miles! He didn’t get back to campus until after 6:00! It was sheer perseverance, courage, and grit,” Lampe attests, “and I could not have felt prouder of him.
“On Tuesdays,” Lampe continues in his explanation of the training regimen, “we jog down Wildcat Hollow to River Road” – a hard-dirt road alongside the Housatonic River – “where we then do three, one-mile sprints, with two-minute breaks in between. But some Tuesdays, we will vary the training by doing one, two-mile sprint. It is tough,” Lampe helps an interested fan understand, “to go beyond ‘race-pace,’ even on a flat surface like River Road, but it is one of the practices where everyone tries his hardest to push each other to run our best. Our meet times have definitely improved as a result.
“On Wednesdays, following our toughest day, we have our easiest day. We go around our course, not too fast but at a good, sustainable pace. Then, the team’s top ten runners do the two miles down to Curtis Boathouse and back up to Route 44. We finish back at our meeting spot to retrieve accessories we left there.”
Why not just keep them in your pockets so you don’t have to go back for them? an inquisitive fan asks. “You could,” Lampe concurs, “but they can start feeling chunky over time after running with them. It’s easier to pick them up later.”
The regimen continues. “Thursdays vary,” Lampe picks up the weekly schedule again. “We typically meet in front of Priestman and do sprints on Reeves Field. Last week, for example, we ran six 400-meter sprints followed by two 800-meter sprints. Then…”
Whoa. “Then”? “THEN”?? Didn’t you just sprint FOUR THOUSAND METERS?!
Despite the interruption, Lampe calmly proceeds. “Then,” he repeats, “we work on ‘core training,’ a series of exercises over 45 minutes that includes ‘bicycling’ on your back, flutter kicks, ‘planks’” – Huh? – “You’re face down on the field,” a patient Lampe describes, “arms in front of face, feet extended, and your stomach doesn’t touch the ground. The core exercises focus on correct posture, crucial to effective running. Eventually, the posture becomes second nature, and all power generated by the body goes into the legs.
“Fridays,” Lampe nears the finish, “are another ‘easy’ [editor’s quotation marks] day: a three-to-four-mile run, varied routes, usually off-campus.”
Readers who just completed a week’s worth of vicarious training might want to pause at this point for a water break or, perhaps to check with AD Tim Sinclair ’91 to see if it’s too late to switch vicarious fall sports.
Lampe’s fall academic curriculum is every bit as daunting as the rigors of cross country. His seven-course schedule includes two AP classes and two Honors classes. And he currently sports an impressive A- average. Despite his success on both sides of the quadrangle, Lampe sees himself as more of a Centennial guy than Wachtmeister-Bates material. “English is my favorite class,” he notes, “and both of my APs this year are in world languages.”
Outside the classroom, Lampe has been actively involved in the Chess Club, the Investment Club, and the Outdoors Club. Mountain biking is a particular enthusiasm. “I’d like to compete,” he laments, “but I can’t find time for events.”
Lampe grew up skiing in the Alps from age four. From age seven until he came to America, he attended ski camps every summer. He joined the varsity ski team last winter for one race and expects to play a larger role in the upcoming season. In the spring, Lampe, clearly a glutton for punishment, rows.
But running remains Lampe’s focus. He comes from running stock: his father competed for Northfield Mount Hermon in the 80s and went on to The Citadel, where he was the cross-country team’s MVP for all four of his undergrad years. At age six, Lampe watched his father race in the Paris Half-Marathon. A broken shoulder cut short the elder Lampe’s preparations for this fall’s New York Marathon, so his first full marathon will have to wait.
“I definitely want to keep running through college and beyond,” affirms the younger Lampe. “My goal is to improve my time every year and crack the top-ten in New England by my senior year. I also want to complete a half-marathon before I finish high school.”
Last November, Lampe was in the field of 1,500 runners for the Ridgefield (CT) Turkey Trot, roughly the same distance as a cross-country course. Impressively, he finished 25th overall, in 12-degree temperatures, and took 1st place in his age group (13-15). “I’m aiming for a top-ten finish in this year’s Turkey Trot,” he acknowledges.
At this time last year, heading into the New England Championships, Lampe’s top time was 19:05; this year, heading into New Englands, he is down to 18:15. “I am shooting for a sub-18 time at the Championships,” the goal-oriented Lampe shares.
Whatever Lampe and his mates achieve in the Big Show upcoming, they have already had a season for the ages. And this is a young team: six of the top seven runners are under-formers, with the top runner, Lampe, a mere fourth former. The future could not be more promising for these babes in the woods:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep….
- Procter Smith, with a tip-of-the-hat to Robert Frost