On the surface, the Simon family, led by current Seton Hall senior cross-country runner Jake Simon, seems like a typical running family.
Three of the six Simon children are year-round runners and Jake’s father, Daniel, runs marathons as well. However, the story of how the Simon’s fell in love with running does not start on the track, but on the soccer field when Jake was in middle school.
“I started running in sixth grade and it was mostly because I was playing soccer and I sucked at it,” Simon said. “I was the only one who could be on the field the whole time, so my dad told me to try out.”
His father recalls Jake’s stamina always being a strong suit and something that led him down the path of pursuing running as opposed to other sports.
“Jake loved every sport he could play and even though he excelled in all of them, the one area he always excelled in was speed and stamina,” Daniel Simon said. “It was logical for him as he entered middle school to focus his efforts on where his God-given talent was most evident.”
From that point on, running became the focus for Simon, as he went on to run for Freehold Township High School in the competitive Shore Conference, which featured one of the top cross-country programs in the country in Christian Brothers Academy.
Going up against CBA was always a challenge, but when Simon was a senior and realized that he was neck-and-neck with some of the top runners in the country, he knew that he had what it took to not only run at the collegiate level, but be successful.
“Senior year when I first cracked the 16-minute mark in the 5K, that’s when I realized I could do it,” Simon said. “There was one meet where I was coming down the stretch with two CBA kids and I out leaned one to get second in the mile and the other just barely out leaned me to win. That’s when I realized I’m up with CBA’s top guys right now; that was the first time where I realized ‘holy crap, this is something I could do.”
After graduating high school, Simon went on to Seton Hall where he has become the team’s best runner in his senior year, setting records and winning almost every meet that he has taken part in. With the success that Jake has had in college, Daniel Simon believes his son has become a role model for his siblings when it comes to their own running careers.
“Without a doubt, Jake paved the way for his twin siblings, particularly with his training regiment,” Daniel Simon said. “He has also been able to offer some sound advice, especially when disappointment hits around an individual performance that doesn’t meet expectations.”
As Simon’s Seton Hall career winds down, both Daniel and his wife will be making the trip to Wisconsin for the Big East Championship on Oct. 28 to watch their son run in his final chance to bring home some collegiate hardware with his teammates.
“I had been debating whether to splurge for the tickets to Wisconsin, but when he opened the season by winning the Monmouth Invitational, I knew that it was a divine message that we had to be there,” Daniel Simon said. “To be able to get away with my wife for a weekend and watch Jake and his teammates compete for a Big East title, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
While becoming a “running family” was never necessarily in the cards for the Simons, running has become a big part of their lives. All of the Simon children have used running as a tool to stay physically active and healthy. Even Daniel himself has immersed himself in running, having a sprint triathlon and two half marathons under his belt to this point.
“When I first started running, we weren’t a running family,” Jake Simon said. “Nobody in my family ran actively and once I started doing it and they saw me getting fit and enjoying it, they decided to do it so now, we consider ourselves a running family. I hate to say that I started the trend, but I kind of did.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvarsuo.