Gaining Lessons from 1st Season of Running at Penn, PHS Alum Hare Aiming to Make Impact for Quakers
WILL TO SUCCEED: Will Hare competes in a race last spring during his freshman year with the University of Pennsylvania men’s track team. Former Princeton High track and cross country standout Hare is heading into his sophomore year with the Quakers. During his first year of collegiate competition, Hare scored in one cross country race last fall before setting a personal record of 8:21.47 in the 3,000 meters indoors in the winter and then taking 10th in the steeplechase at the Ivy League Heptagonal Outdoor Track Championships. (Photo provided by Penn’s Office of Athletic Communications)
By Justin Feil
On a drive to Colorado this summer, Penn distance runner Will Hare and a teammate stopped in Terre Haute, Ind. to look at the NCAA championship cross country course.
“It’s kind of funny how it’s this off in the middle of nowhere town and you take this side road and all of a sudden you’re at the NCAA cross country course,” said former Princeton High cross country and track standout Hare.
“It was cool seeing it with no one there, nobody around. I think there was one other person walking around. We talked about how cool and meaningful it would be a part of a team to qualify to go there to the biggest race in the country. As a team that’s our goal.”
Hare is no stranger to big team goals. As a junior, he helped the PHS cross country team make school history with its first Meet of Champions (MOC) title in 2016. A year later, he placed first individually at the state Group 4 cross country meet on the way to helping PHS finish fourth at the MOC.
Now Hare is hoping he can help make some history at the next level as he heads into his sophomore cross country season at Penn.
“To win the conference title, we talk about having four runners in the top 15 or top 10,” said Hare, looking ahead to the Ivy League Heptagonal Cross Country championship meet that takes place in late October.
“If it comes down to I’m one of those people vying for one of those spots, that’s the goal I’d like. But if that’s not in the cards this season, I’ll be racing to do the best for our team. If that’s hanging off the top group and catching people as bodies fall off the top pack, that’s what it’s going to be. I’m trying to have as much of a team-oriented philosophy as I can. We had, as a team, a great summer. It would be really meaningful to be a part of a team that is contending to do all those big things.”
For Hare, developing a good bond with teammates was a big draw for him to compete at the college level and he is happy to have found that at Penn.
“The biggest thing was I wanted a continuation of being on a team,” said Hare.
“It’s obviously not the same as high school, it’s a whole different group of people. It’s a whole different place. It’s kind of hard to put into words what having a group of people that you spend an hour or two every day running with and being with, and the long slow grind of a season, what that means. I wanted that community.”
Hare and three Penn teammates lived and trained at elevation in Boulder, Colo. this summer in preparation for this fall. Hare comes off his first year of collegiate competition in which he scored in one cross country race last fall before setting a personal record of 8:21.47 in the 3,000 meters indoors in the winter and then taking 10th in the steeplechase at the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal Championships.
“For cross country, it was a little more of a learning period of adjusting to a whole different set of workouts and a different training philosophy than we had in high school,” said Hare.
“It was definitely a good opportunity working with some of the guys who were already at an elite level in Ivy League and NCAA cross country. It was a learning experience. Maybe I didn’t get to put all the racing and competing together, but it was a good block of training so I could have the winter and spring seasons I wanted to.”
Hare credits PHS track coach Jim Smirk for helping to set him up for success in college. Smirk allowed Hare to run the 2,000-meter steeplechase three times in high school, and gave him hurdle work and as much training as he could for the nuances of the event.
“It was not a structured thing,” said Hare. “I’d do some light hurdling and then he’d let me run the 400 hurdles in dual meets sometimes as well just to practice the hurdle form. The high school facilities are very restrictive. There wasn’t really a great way to do water jumps; we’d kind of make makeshift water pits. We’d break down the actual motion of it where we’d do one for going up and another thing for pushing off. I have to give Smirk credit. He found good ways to simulate it. It was good to run a couple in high school and know what it feels like to do the water jump and get wet. I remember falling on my first one junior year. I jumped off and the next thing I knew I was on all fours in the water. It was quite the experience.”
During his junior year at PHS, Hare made a big jump in his dedication and understanding how far running could take him, and he remained motivated through the remainder of his scholastic career.
“In high school, I didn’t realize it nearly as much at the time, but what coach Smirk wanted to do more than anything was to set up me and Alex (Roth) and the other guys up to be strong runners for the next level,” said Hare, referring to Roth, who is also running at Penn and is entering his junior season.
“He had us for four years. We didn’t really touch a lot of speed, we didn’t touch a lot of race simulation. A lot of it was laying the
groundwork and foundation for the next level. Instead of doing a lot of 200s and 400s fast, we’d do a lot of mile repeats, 1,200 repeats, and 1,000 repeats at a slower, grinding pace so when we got to college, we’d have that big base under us. Depending on what different events we’d run, we could add the speed. And then add in hurdling and stuff for myself to run the steeple. All the pieces were in place for that.”
While Hare brought a good fitness level into freshman year at Penn, his cross country results weren’t up to his standards.
“Last summer was much more about hitting workouts and hitting paces,” said Hare.
“I don’t think that’s necessarily the best way to go about training over the summer. I got to camp and the racing season pretty exhausted. I’d been trying to go to the well almost every day, every workout. I learned that probably the best quality you can have as an endurance athlete is patience.”
Believing that living in Colorado with teammates gave him an edge in getting ready, Hare feels better about his training this summer.
“We lived together and trained up there,” said Hare. “It was really fun. It was great to have a group of people to train with every day. That’s something I didn’t really have last year just because all the kids from high school, we all had different training plans and different workouts on different days, so it was hard to work that out. Training with Ray Sellaro, Anthony Russo, and Noah Cary, it was really great to have people to run with every day, people to talk to about workouts and training.”
Learning from last year’s experiences, Hare fine-tuned his workouts and comes into preseason practices fresher and ready to contribute more.
“Instead of focusing on the pace I was running and hitting the workouts this summer, it was much more of an effort based system,” said Hare.
“If we woke up and we felt great and had a workout, we’d go after it and attack it. Or if we got up and the legs felt bad or it was hot or it hurt to breathe, then we’d back off a little bit and let our bodies recover. That’s something really valuable that I learned from freshman year. You don’t have to go out and win every day to win the races you care about. You have to pick and choose the spots, let your body recover and adjust. More importantly than coming in really in shape, we set ourselves up well to have a sustained run of good workouts and good races. We’re all coming back healthy, we’re all coming back excited for the season and we’re all coming back in very good shape as well.”
Hare hopes that his conditioning will carry through to the track seasons where last year’s training did pay off handsomely. He benefited from training under the direction of Penn coach Steve Dolan, who trained Olympian Donn Cabral at Princeton University before moving to Penn and has coached eight of the last outdoor Heps steeplechase champions, and with the likes of teammates Will Daly and Colin Daly.
“It’s hard to find a coach who has accomplished more than him in that event,” said Hare of Dolan.
“Obviously Colin and Will Daly were just unbelievable their freshman and sophomore years at it. The opportunity to train with them and do workouts and runs with them in the spring, it’s a really fun dynamic.”
Heading into his sophomore campaign, Hare is looking to be a bigger contributor in cross country and track, utilizing his freshman experiences and a solid summer of training as he tries to lift his college team to historic success.
“I remember talking to coach Dolan at the end of cross country season last fall; he said that although not everything got put together, I had a lot of good training and good workouts,” said Hare, who will look to get off to a good start in the cross country season as Penn competes in the Fordham Fiasco in New york City on September 7.
“Maybe they were too good where I wasn’t able to have good races but the training is still there. It’s part of how we build as runners. It started paying off almost immediately in indoor season. We finished cross country and went home and the first race back at the end of winter break, I had a big PR in the 3000. That was a really good validation that everything that I’d been doing the last six months was still there. I wasn’t doing the wrong thing; I just wasn’t doing everything as well and smartly as I could have been. Coming back this year, I have a much different attitude. Instead of going out and training almost blindly, there’s a lot more insight. Being with other guys on the team all summer and hearing different perspectives, I have a much better view of the long-term effects of what everyday training can do.”