Witnessing a runner bloom
Recently graduated Weston senior captain James Bloom has had a career for the ages. Over the course of 11 seasons of running, from freshman year indoor track to senior year outdoor, he garnered All-SWC recognition seven timees and All-State honors in six seasons. He won two cross country Class SS titles, three indoor Class S championships, and one outdoor Class M title, along with three indoor SWC titles in four years. The list of accolades goes on indefatigably and the Trojans will be losing a terrific athlete in Bloom, as he joins the University of Rhode Island team this fall.
As a bushy-haired, wide-eyed freshman, Bloom first started running because he thought it would help improve his fitness. "My mom and dad especially pushed me toward doing track because when I had played soccer growing up I they said I spent almost all of the game running around without even touching the ball," he says. He was training for his high school passion long before he realized it, and his love for running would only continue to flourish.
Bloom originally worked as a sprinter, running shorter, quicker workouts and only doing mild lifting. But with each passing season, his mileage increased. Sophomore year he ran 30 miles a week, 40 as a junior, and upwards of 50 his senior year...not to mention the 60-70 miles per week he runs over the summer.
"After seeing results from my minimal amounts of sprinter training freshman year, I felt motivated to train for Cross country," he recalls. "Its 5K races are 4,600 meters longer than anything else I had run up to then, but I did a decent amount of running during the summer before sophomore year and was able to run some average cross country times."
The work he put in quickly paid dividends for Bloom. He was on the varsity Cross country team as a rookie that fall, and was selected to be on the indoor 4x800 relay after he ran a time of 2:09. That mid-distance relay competed in SWCs, Class S, and State Open Championships, giving Bloom his first championship meet experience and launching him to a successful outdoor season. He ran a 2:04 personal record in the 800 at SWCs, and then followed that up with a heat-winning 2:03 at Class M states. "The moment I ran those times, I realized I might actually have some real talent in this sport," he says.
From there his times have improved with each passing season and he has etched a legacy for himself in the annals of Weston track more so than he could ever have imagined. Throughout his indoor career along he has held the 1000, 3200, 4x400, and 4x800 records for the Trojans, along with the outdoor open 800 (1:55.6) and 4x800 ones. He became only the third Weston runner to ever qualify for the Cross country New England Championship when he did so this past fall, and he finished 38th overall before competing at the Nike Northeast Regional soon thereafter. A third place finish in the 4x800 at New Englands this spring got him All-New England honors, and along with Steve Piscatelli, Ryan Gilmore and Stephen Vento he ran in a Weston 4-x-mile at the Nike Outdoor Nationals that was mere seconds away from qualifying for All-American status.
Over the course of his career, Bloom has stayed motivated to work hard because he loves "seeing the progress of my times dropping. I also just plain enjoy working out, and like feeling fit and stronger after tough practices." He knows that his hard work will pay (and has paid) off, and he has no reason to stop doing what he loves most.
Being captain for three seasons was important for Bloom, as he was able to instill the values he learned over his four years on the next generation of athletes -- the underclassmen. "I wanted everyone to know how to warm up by themselves and run smart races," he says, "and to know every drill and exercise they did during practices."
Leaving his fellow captains Piscatelli and Gilmore, who have been his training partners for the majority of the past ten seasons, will not be easy for Bloom. "After routinely competing together on successful relays we have become really close," he says. "Leaving them next year will be the toughest change of going into college. Spending time with them every day for three-plus years has forged a special bond between us I don't think I could have with anyone else."
In addition, the coaches that he has at Weston will always play a big role in his life, and he will keep their insights with him as he continues his running career. "There are no other adults in the world, besides my parents, who I am closer to and more comfortable with than my coaches," he opines. "And I owe almost all of my success to Weston's amazing group of them." Though Indoor head coach Matt Medve treated Bloom like he would any other freshman when he first began, once the latter's passion and appreciation for running became more evident the two became closer. Outdoor coach Lloyd Weinstein "has always been amazing at motivating me and giving me the mental stability I've needed to run fast, and he might just be the nicest person I have ever met," Bloom says.
Yet the one person who has been there day in and day out, each season of running, has been Cross country Coach and assistant track coach Marty Ogden. "I may not have given Coach Ogden the best first impression when I asked him two weeks into freshman year if I could join the team, and then because of my bad grades I couldn't compete in sophomore Cross country for a month and a half because of my bad grades."
However, as Bloom ran faster and his relationship with Ogden improved, he put more effort into his academics and his grades quickly started to rise. "Though some people may not like their coaches, I can wholeheartedly say that after training with Ogden for three years, I love my coach," Bloom says.
If Bloom had to choose one memory in particular that stuck out to him as a Weston runner, it would be the 2009 New England Championship. After he and Piscatelli went up north together the day before the meet, the two of them ran some of the best races ever at the event in one of the most competitive fields they had seen. In addition, he specifically remembers each championship of which he was a part, including this winter's Class S final in which he won silver medals in three events.
Though he enjoys all three seasons, Bloom's favorite is Cross country because he feels that the fall is a great time to run and likes how there are no field events to take peoples' attention away from the running in the meets. There is also a true passion he notes in everyone who runs or follows cross country, so there is nobody to drag the team down in any way.
Hundreds of hours and thousands of miles after he started his epic journey of running, Bloom is moving on to his next challenge. "At Weston we took our training seriously, but we also knew how to have fun on all the teams. I would have to say that staying relaxed at practice times was essential for our team's success, without worrying ourselves too much about the races ahead." He hopes to make varsity this fall for a URI Rams team that has won eight New England Outdoor Track Championships in a row, and he plans to work on a communications or experimental psychology major when he is not training or competing on the track.
"My training over the past four years has been tough and long," James Bloom admits, "but it will be worth it when I hopefully run good times in the future."
Though Bloom will not be competing as a Trojan anymore, his presence will be remembered and the impact he left on the program will not soon be forgotten. The athletes, coaches, and supporters of Weston running have witnessed something special recently -- being able to watch James grow, being able to watch James ecross countryel...being able to watch James bloom.