By Rohan Rai, Windham ’21
With the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 starting in March 2020 came many new challenges. Thankfully, the Windham School District did a phenomenal job with the transition from in person to remote learning. Coming off of an indoor season filled with sickness and poor performances, at this time, all I cared about was running fast times on the track with hopes of impressing college coaches. In early April, I got devastating news from Coach Fox, the long distance Coach at Windham, that the 2019 Outdoor Track and Field season had been cancelled. Frustrated and realizing that my dream of running collegiately was slowly running away from me, I came up with a plan with Coach Fox to run time trials and treat April-June like an ordinary outdoor track and field season. Weekly, I would meet up with fellow New Hampshire Cross Country runners at tracks around the state and race. I would record these races and send them to college coaches as a way to show them my improvement and progress on the track. When things went wrong and the unexpected happened, NHXC always found a way to be there for us and for that I am incredibly blessed to have been a part of the New Hampshire Cross Country family.
My college process was a long and unique one. With COVID-19 protocols in full swing, official visits, touring campuses and ordinary recruitment trips were not happening. Thus, I often found myself on zoom calls with coaches and other recruits. If I have advice to offer to all the current seniors and future college applicants, go where you want to go. At the end of the day, it is your decision and not anyone else’s to make. You will be happiest knowing that you made your own decision to attend a certain college. I looked at a variety of different schools, however I knew my heart was always at the United States Naval Academy. Graduating from USNA and commissioning as a Naval Officer has always been a lifelong dream of mine. The application process to get an offer of appointment was very long and consisted of interviews, essays, and obtaining a congressional nomination. Thankfully, I started my whole process early in July 2020 and had about everything submitted by October 2020. On December 11th, 2020 I got the best phone call of my life. Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster called me to inform me of my acceptance to the United States Naval Academy. Pure bliss.
Getting ready to step on an indoor track and run a legitimate race for the first time in about a year, the New Hampshire running community gets news that the 2021 indoor track and field season has been cancelled. Realizing that this meant I had one last chance to prove myself on the track, I began to grind for the outdoor track and field season. With practices being cancelled, I owe my training these next few months to Coach Fox, Logan Carter, Trey Gonzalez, Matt Griffin, and Ryan Young who I ran with and worked out with almost everyday. As the track and field season went on, we were all running the best we had ever run and having so much fun while doing it. It was great to see the boys accomplish big things throughout the season and make a name for ourselves at the state meet.
As high school running slowly came to an end, it was time to begin the next journey of my life and prepare myself for June 30th, 2021. Induction Day at USNA. I spent June cranking out pushups, body weight exercises, swimming, and lifting weights. June flew by and it was finally the day I had dreamed of my entire life. As I stood up with my right arm raised echoing the oath of office, I felt a sense of pride I had never felt before realizing that I was about to become a part of something bigger than myself. A true honor.
July 1st – August 18th, otherwise known as “Plebe Summer”, is a seven week training period for the new plebes (freshman) where the academy “turns civilians into Midshipmen”. For me, this was the hardest seven weeks of my life. Day in and day out I was challenged mentally, physically, and reached limits I truthfully did not know I had. An ordinary day of plebe summer would look something like this:
0530: Wake up, hygiene, make our beds.
0600: Morning workout with the whole 2025 class.
0700: Shower, study our “reef points” (The Plebe handbook of the United States Naval Academy), more physical training.
0800: Morning meal formation followed by breakfast.
0900-1200: “Greyspace” (time where our trainers could do whatever they wanted to us) if we did not have any evolutions scheduled. Some evolutions over the summer included the obstacle-course, confidence course, endurance course, rifle/pistol shooting, sailing, damage control, wrestling, honor lectures and swim tests.
1205: Noon meal formation followed by lunch.
1300-1600: Greyspace or scheduled evolutions.
1600-1800: Cross Country practice.
1800-1900: Evening meal.
1900-2100: Class of 2025 wide meetings, greyspace, physical training, rifle drill practice.
2100-2120: Personal time (write letters, shower, etc)
2120-2150: Company recap of the day, sing “Blue and Gold” the alma mater of USNA.
All of this while continuously being yelled at, and being told to do push ups whenever our trainers instructed. Some days we would do physical training for 10 hours
a day continuously only stopping for water and food. Remembering those back home and everyone supporting me would always give me the motivation to complete any given task. Though this was a challenging time for me, I learned a lot. I learned the importance of time management, teamwork, and effective leadership.
Now that plebe summer has come to an end and we are four weeks into the academic year, I have settled in and loved every second of being here. I will be choosing my major in the spring and currently have my eye set on Chemistry, Cyber Operations or Computer Science. The academics are significantly harder than high school and I have hours of homework daily; however the available resources at USNA have helped to ensure that I am understanding the material. I love the daily grind of just being here. Time management is key to success.
Coming off of a summer filled with 20 miles a week around a 9 minute pace, I was not in great running shape. I have raced two times this season. On 9/4, I ran my first 8k in a time of 26:33 on a flat Salisbury course. On 9/10, we raced a 5k on the extremely tough and hilly Navy course where I ran a 16:41. As you can tell, there is a LOT of work to do. Coach Lanzel has us currently building up to around 60 miles with very intense workouts and very easy recovery runs. Being teammates with absolute studs including Rory Curran (Nashua North ‘20) has helped a lot. The atmosphere on the team is unreal. The team is hungry and motivated with some big goals to accomplish such as qualifying for nationals. This makes it so easy to get out there everyday. College training is truly another beast. My next race will be an 8k on 10/1 at Paul Short Invitational in Pennsylvania. Being able to put on the Navy singlet in front of such a large crowd is an honor and dream come true.
To all the teams racing this cross country season, I wish you the best of luck. New Hampshire is on the come up and you all are the reason for that. A big thank you to the New Hampshire Cross Country community for helping me get where I am today and for the endless support.