I’m really excited for my senior season of cross country, and one of the parts I’m most eagerly anticipating is serving the Wootton Patriots team as a captain. While this position is a huge responsibility, I’m thankful to have had stellar examples of captains in my first three years on the team that are sure to guide me in the upcoming months. As the Riker Administration nears, I want to reflect and highlight the qualities that made the captains that came before me so effective as leaders. In this post, I’ll focus on the ten boy captains that I’ve seen since I’ve worked more closely with them, but it should be noted that I’m equally thankful for the leadership of our girl captains.
Class of 2016
Colin Sybing- Relatability
When I attended captains’ practice the summer before my freshman year, I didn’t know anything about who was the best runner or the varsity pecking order. I knew Colin was a senior and a captain, but his interest in everyone on the team and nonstop humor gave me the impression that he was just one of the guys. It wasn’t until the first race that I realized that Colin, who currently holds our school’s 3200 meter record, was the top guy. To say that Colin was a celebrity on the team was an understatement but would be overlooking his greatest strength as a leader- he connected with everyone on the team and treated his teammates with respect and importance. At the same time, he was also incredibly dedicated and helped shape us into county champions.
Jacob Rushkoff- Intensity
It’s kind of funny to look back at it now, but back when I was going to the practices the summer before my freshman year, Jacob was the senior I was scared of (admit it, you had one too). In contrast to Colin and Sam, Jacob was more introverted and seemed very intense, but this intensity translated well to the course and helped him become a top ten runner in the county. Jacob excelled at endurance, both physical and mental, and was a rock on our team during turbulent times. The best example was regionals, where he placed sixth in the region and made up for subpar races from our top guys. We won the region for the first time in school history by a meager four points. Through the years, Jacob has been a good friend and I’m proud to say that I’m not scared of him anymore.
Sam Blackman- Encouragement
Sam was one of the guys I got to know first on the summer training runs and I remember him telling me on one July evening that I was going to be a varsity runner, which gave me a huge boost of confidence. That encouragement continued throughout the season, to the point that he was yelling good job to me during an actual race. Like Colin, he was a captain that everyone enjoyed talking with and had a team-first mentality.
Class of 2017
Ben Shapiro- Friendship
Ben and I met during the summer before my freshman year and we hit it off immediately. Both of us were baseball fans (though he cheered for the despicable Mets) and found a lot to talk about. He was really caring and supportive as well even though he didn’t know me at all. We ran near each other for many of my freshman year races and he has been one of my best friends on the team since.
Omar Nuñez- Swagger
I went into my states race sophomore year having written a six-page visualization of my race along with an extensive race strategy. Then Omar comes in and Coach asks him his plan, and he replies with a simple ‘wing it.’ He was in the top five for most of the first mile and was able to finish his cross country career with a solid top-40 finish. Omar was the epitome of being cool and collected. He didn’t come into seasons in great shape but always got hot by championship season. As a captain, he was usually soft-spoken but teammates always followed his lead.
Connor Lawrence- Charisma
If you know Connor, then his attribute is no surprise. Connor was the most spirited member of the team my first couple years, whether it was screaming our team’s chant at the top of his lungs or wearing running short-shorts to school on spirit days. He was one of the toughest fighters on the course and collapsed multiple times after he crossed the finish line. His presence on the team was felt by everyone and he really excelled at being a vocal leader.
Class of 2018
Mitchell Fanger- Inclusiveness
Mitch, the founder of the Wootton XC/TF instagram account and creator of the ‘oh we rollin’ catchphrase, was certainly revered by his teammates. He always seemed upbeat and was quick to crack jokes or poke fun at other runners. I always appreciated that he connected with a lot of teammates in all grades and included people in activities and conversations.
Matthew Klein- Personality
Quirky doesn’t begin to describe Matthew J. Klein. The school’s foremost expert on U.S. vice presidents and Public Enemy Number 1 of Cheeburger Cheeburger was one of the most interesting members of the team and was someone the whole team wanted to be around. Aside from his jokes, Matthew was really genuine and cared deeply about his teammates. He was also brilliant as the protagonist in our film The Bum Squad.
Avery Tarwater- Related to all groups
Avery went out of his way to make all teammates feel included and connected to runners from all grades. One of the things I’ll remember was that at the spaghetti dinner he hosted, he talked to seemingly every single person who came, which is impressive with such a big team. He was also one of the most spirited runners to come through the Wootton program and was resilient through injury.
Amir Van Gieson- Gentleness
Amir was usually the target of jokes (probably due to his hilariously angry reactions), but he was really caring and sensitive to the needs of his teammates. I don’t remember him ever being inconsiderate or selfish, and on the course he was a perfect example of a runner giving it his all.
These ten captains really made an impact on me, and as I assume my captain duties, I hope to follow in their footsteps and add to the Wootton legacy.