Photos by Geoff Heath
Newark's Jesse Nguyen steadily improved all 4 years of high school to find himself at his first DIAA Meet of Champions individually this past spring in the 3200 meter run after just missing out on a sub 10 minute race at the New Castle County Championships a few weeks prior.
Nguyen was able to improve over a minute and a half in the event over his four years of high school. At the Blue Hen Conference Championships this spring, Nguyen also clocked a 1600 meter personal best of 4:40, which was a 6 second PR and capped off a 47 second improvement since his freshmen year.
Name: Jesse Nguyen
School: Newark High School
What was your most memorable race/throw/jump/vault/moment?
When I broke 12 minutes for the first time my freshman year in the 3200m. My coach set a goal for myself and told me I couldn't call myself a 2 miler until I pushed through that barrier haha.
Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?
My biggest competition would have to be myself every single year. As I improved, I jumped tiers and faced different competition, but the only person to consistently challenge myself was me as cliche and lame as it sounds.
What was your greatest accomplishment?
My senior year track season I practically worked out and trained by myself not including a few days I'd do a distance run with my old teammate or friends. But, day in and day out, I had one goal in my mind and that was to qualify for the state. That demanded me to wake up before the sun rose on workout/race days and run about 50 miles a week on my own. The moment I ran 10:19 and realized I dropped 19 seconds, I was stunned and saw myself getting closer to my destination. A few weeks later, I knocked off 18 more seconds and got down to 10:01. That race was a testament of my hard work, consistency, and determination to prepare and then execute as great of a race I could possibly run.
If you could do it all over again what would you change about your running career in high school?
I wish I was less afraid to be alone and not run a hard pace on an easy day if the purpose of the day was solely to recover and prepare myself to run a great workout.
What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
I struggled with not improving and executing races in the past 3 years because I felt like I wasn't confident enough in myself to be in the races I was entered in. Getting over the hurdle of feeling like you are not good was one of the most difficult mental challenges I had ever faced. Once I conquered that fear this track season, the times changed, my demeanor changed, and I was fired up and ready to have fun and compete with whoever I was racing on the track that day!
What will you miss the most?
I'll miss the teammates and coaching staff of course. But, I'll also miss the Delaware high school running scene where it felt like such a small world where everyone practically knew everybody. I loved making new friends across the other teams and getting to know some of the older generation of Delaware runners. That will always be special to me because I've met some of my closest friends through cross country and track.
What advice would you give to younger athletes?
Trust the process. The whole monotony of running is run hard, recover, run hard, recover, then race. It took me a while (3 ½ years) to figure that out. I constantly found myself cheating my body and lying to myself about me running a certain pace and it feeling easy when in reality, it was too quick and I was just not recovering fast enough to run the next workout right. It sounds incredibly simple and stupid easy to do, but the truth is it is and it works haha. I ran the same amount of mileage as I had in the past, however I did it in a more controlled and easy manner. All in all, you gotta love and enjoy what you do everyday and if your goals mean that much to you, the sacrifices you make along the way are quite worth it.
What are your college plans?
I'm going to the University of Delaware to study Entrepreneurship with a concentration in Nutrition and run club XC and Track.
Who would you like to say 'thank you' to?
I would like to thank Coach Mooney, Thomson, and Braxton at Newark for putting their time and effort to guide the running program in the right direction all these years I've been in the program. Their efforts are beyond what is asked for and I'm really grateful to have met such great people along my journey. I also had help from Parker Stinson this spring in terms of managing my workout schedule and just giving me great advice and wisdom in general. He's great guy and who knew you could feel so close to somebody so far away (Boulder, CO). Thank you to all the runners who have ever run with me at any point in my high school career. It's a lonely and gruesome process, but with great company, the long miles just feel like brief moments of joy and happiness. I love you mom and dad for nourishing me and supporting me along this hectic, exciting experience. I would not be where I am today without your kindness and love.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Focus is an incredible gift that God has given us. With focus, confident, consistency, and dedication, you can practically achieve almost anything in your life whether it is running related or not. I ran my best 3200 races when I thought about the whole process every day and how the work I put in that day will all be worth it and paid off on race day. I ran my worst races when I didn't care about what I ran or if I was simply afraid of my competition. This would experience taught me to believe in myself and my natural abilities to make the most of any situation. It's all a mindset. It doesn't matter if we start slow, we will always finish fast.