PLAINSBORO: Teoh, Knights finding top gear

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
Shu-Ming Teoh had hoped to run better at the Brian Magee Memorial Class Meet on Saturday, but he knows that top times don’t come at this point in the season.
“It’s the same every year,” said the West Windsor-Plainsboro North senior. “You never feel that good early in the year.”
Teoh has been a varsity contributor for the Knight boys cross country team since he was a sophomore. He understands the way that the season is laid out. There is plenty of mileage early and then the team gears up for the end of the season when the championship meets hit.
“At some point, you feel you’re not going to come out of this slump,” Teoh said. “Your legs are dead. You have to trust in your coach and trust in your plan and then in the end you run well.
“You hear from past (WW-P North) runners, when they tell you trust in the plan you know you’re going to do well. You don’t get too worried about it.”
Teoh knows that his best races are ahead of him. The Knights were new to the Greystone Park course in Morris County, but they wanted a look at what will be their new sectional site. WW-P North was moved out of Central Jersey Group IV, and into North Jersey 2, Group IV this year.
“It was different,” Teoh said. “It wasn’t too bad. A lot of the guys, we had different race plans going into each of the class races. Some of us did well and some of us didn’t do as well as we wanted to.”
Teoh, who had been the top finisher for the Knights in previous races this year, was the second finisher for North on Saturday. He ran 17:28.7 for 17th place in the boys senior class race.
“I had a pretty tough week,” he said. “My legs were not as good as they have been. I didn’t race as fast as I wanted to.”
Fellow senior Nicolaus Stalzer placed 12th in an encouraging 17:08.8. Nathan Santamaria placed 69th in the field. Jonathan Logan led the way for the Knights in the junior class race in 17:20.4 for 13th. Shaun Robinson was 20th and John Mundia was 21st. Vincent Chan was 34th. The sophomores did well with Matthew Santamaria finishing fifth, Atharv Kulkarni 11th, Evan Hughes 12th and Pranod Gottipatti 14th in the sophomore No. 2 race. Arsh Shah was 50th in the freshman race.
“I thought we did fairly well,” said Knights head coach Brian Gould. “We’ve never been there before so we didn’t have in terms of times any history to measure it against. We’re working hard. It was blazing hot as the day went on, but we did well.”
Teoh and the Knights will be looking to go faster when they return for the sectionals in another month. WW-P North was able to see the layout of the two-lap course that features a few inclines, but nothing they can’t handle. It was a useful meet for the Knights to measure where they are at early.
“Definitely knowing the course was one thing we got out of it,” Teoh said. “We got a glimpse of what we’re going up against in sectionals. Some of the guys that ran well, it gave them a confidence boost and showed them the course isn’t bad at all. A couple teams came that were in our section and we got to see how they race.”
The county batch meets have been useful too as WW-P North sorts through a revamped lineup that has some impressive newcomers.
“One thing is we got a couple guys out that have never run cross,” Teoh said. “They’re very talented and show a lot of promise in workouts and races. We lost some of our top guys last year, but also kept a lot. That adds to our depth.”
The depth of this year’s team is its strength. Gould is hoping that depth will pay off down the road.
“This is probably the deepest team we’ve had ever in terms of the number of guys who could be in the varsity seven,” he said. “Whatever guys are in the varsity seven also could finish anywhere. It’s a young team besides Shu-Ming and Nic. Besides Shu-Ming and Nic, we have one other senior. And two kids came over from soccer and are new to cross country. We’re high on depth, we’re low on experience. I’m excited to see the rate they improve at as they gain experience. It’s a great group of guys. They push each other. They have common goals.”
Their balance means that it will be a tough choice of the top seven to fill out the championship lineup. The Knights want to extend their season beyond the sectionals, which come after they chase the Mercer County Championship.
“Honestly, I feel like our team is probably the best it’s been in my four years here,” Teoh said. “We have tremendous depth and once we get our pack running down, I feel like we’ll be amazing and run well at counties. We understand the top teams going into counties are Robbinsville, and there are strong returning teams like South and Notre Dame. I feel like we have a really great chance of winning counties and doing well.”
Teoh is building off his biggest base of training to date. He ran more miles than ever over the summer in preparation for his final season. He wanted to solidify his example for the team.
“One thing that changed, I try to encourage the guys as much as possible,” he said. “I try to lead everything and boost everyone up and make guys feel like they can be top man. A good team should be able to push the top one or two guys. I’m trying to make this team more of a team compared to previous years. I’m trying to get the guys close together.”
Teoh shares his passion for the sport with his teammates. He grew up playing tennis, but burned out by middle school. In eighth grade, he took up running and he followed his new sport into high school.
“When I was a freshman, I was the only freshman who came out,” Teoh recalled. “Then came Nic and we had one other guy that joined but he moved to Robbinsville. Nic came and he pushed me. I always strove to be the best I could. I was always striving to be the best.”
He’s an ambassador of the sport now and a dedicated team member. He understands the way that the Knights work, and can lead his less experienced teammates through the year.
“He fits the mold of the West Windsor North runner who came in and was an average runner and worked and worked and worked,” Gould said. “For the past two years, he’s been on a mission to be our best guy. When Kian (Jackson) was our best guy, Shu-Ming was right by his side trying to do his best. He had a great summer of training and he’s still training hard now so he’s not seeing the results yet that he wants. But at the end of the season, in those last four weeks, I think all his goals will be realized.”
Shu-Ming Teoh is confident that the Knights’ plan will work. He is sticking with his training, and proud that he has stuck with cross country, a sport that has given him plenty through his years at WW-P North.
“I see a lot of value in the sport,” Teoh said. “It builds the persona of your character. It was definitely the right choice for me.” 