Moorestown High School freshman Peter Simpson recently took the Freshman of the Year award for cross country sponsored by NJ MileSplit.
“It was very surreal,” Simpson said, emphasizing the team aspect of his sport. “I think a lot of people wouldn’t show up to practice if they didn’t want to be there, because the team makes it fun.”
Simpson encourages anyone who wants to run cross country or track to try out, regardless of experience.
“You’re still going to make the team and you’re going to have fun,” he advised.
Simpson believes cross country and track should be offered to students at the middle- and high-school levels.
“I think it’s really important, especially when a school has one program but not the other, because they kind of work off each other,” he explained, “and they keep you fit throughout the whole year, so you don’t lose all your progress once the season ends.”
Simpson’s mother Alison was excited to see him achieve a prestigious honor and praised everyone at the high school for working together.
“It’s a sport that pretty much anybody can participate in,” she said. “Our coaches have been phenomenal in that their whole mantra is, you don’t have to be the fastest runner on the team, in the state …
“The goal is to get people to do better than they did yesterday.”
Challenges that Alison sees Simpson and his teammates overcoming include learning how to run a new course and keeping track of their paces.
“I think just pushing yourself mentally and physically is a challenge, but one that could be one of the most rewarding things you could do,” she pointed out. “I think the feeling that these runners get when they’ve accomplished and made a personal record – it’s exhilarating.”
Alison Simpson enjoys seeing the ties between her son and his team.
“When you’re training for running, you’re literally running side by side with your friends for sometimes an hour, sometimes a half-hour or 45 minutes,” she explained. “So there’s a lot of time to bond.”
Simpson started running after he suffered multiple concussions from playing contact sports. His mother shared advice she would give other student athletes in her son’s position.
“I would say for athletes that want to participate and better themselves physically and mentally, but are not suited for maybe a team … it’s a great option,” she said.
Peter Simpson hopes to inspire other student athletes to never give up.
“ … It’s how much effort you put into it,” he acknowledged. “I think you can’t have the mindset of going into it, you don’t think you can be good at something, before you actually try it.”
Simpson looks forward to potentially winning the sophomore version of his award, and the new season.
“I want to see some of the eighth graders in the middle school step up and join the cross country team,” he said. “See if we can get the whole team to States – and hopefully Meet of Champions.”