Tuesday, May 19, 2020

An interview with Quimes DelaCruz

His full name is Arquimedes Jesus DelaCruz. On that basis alone, back in the late 2000s when he was a two-sport star at Wantagh High School (where we have a lot of history, by the way), I thought to myself, “I gotta recruit this kid.” It may have been the smartest recruiting move of my collegiate coaching career. He goes by Quimes, or just Q, or when he was here, the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). Whatever the name or the nickname, Quimes was perhaps the most consistent high-level performer we’ve ever had the honor to coach in 30 years. Quimes was durable. I don’t recall his being in the training room for any reason during his four years. I don’t recall his ever missing a meet – or even a workout -- in which he was scheduled to run. And consistent: He probably had some bad races in his 12 seasons, but I don’t remember one of them. Not one. In my mind’s eye, they were all really good or really great – because they were! Consistent. Tough. Very fast.

Whenever I’m asked “that” question – who’s the greatest distance runner in school history – Quimes is always on the short list. Thus, the GOAT. His answers to my Pandemic Papers questions are short and to the point. Just like he was as an athlete. Consistent. Show up and do what’s asked. Yeah, he could be a little wild and crazy (not in a partying way, either) with his teammates and coaches – especially when he got comfortable in his situation here. My youngest son, James, idolized (still does, actually!) the GOAT during his time here. In fact, Quimes came to one of his kids’ only birthday parties, held the pinata as the boys whacked away at it. James loved Quimes and still talks about him, and really likes it when we get together with him at Citi Field (James and Quimes are HUGE Mets fans!). We’ll miss that this summer.

Other than the immature hijinks – and trust me, there were many -- Quimes was a pure joy to coach. He would literally do whatever was asked of him, and he wanted to be told EXACTLY what to do. And he would do it. EXACTLY as told. The results showed. And those fantastic results were the product of a well-honed toughness, an inner strength forged through his wrestling background – a very basic instinct to beat his opponent, which is often lost in our chasing-PRs culture of racing. He had a strong willingness to get the most out of his body. Again, we don’t like to talk in superlatives, but Quimes may have been the single greatest “in-game” racer in school history. He had an innate ability to beat the competition. Quimes set big, monstrous goals. In falling short of them, he still set the bar high for others to follow. The summer before his senior year of cross country, his good friend from home told him he should do high mileage if he wanted to make it to nationals. He reached out to me, saying “Drew told me I gotta do 100-mile weeks.” I said, “Q, you’ll get hurt. How about every other week?” Of course, he agreed. He never disagreed with anything I told him regarding training. Complete trust. Like clockwork, every other Sunday night, I would get a text from Quimes: “100!” While he didn’t get hurt, I do believe it left him in an overtrained state and that fall XC season was a bit flat. Until the NCAA Regional meet at Hammonassett in Connecticut. Quimes in the lead pack at 1km and barely faded, coming within an eyelash of top-25 (he was 26th), leading the team to a strong showing there (13th place). I could fill up this blog post with other great Quimes race memories, but then my intro would be longer than the Pandemic Papers interview. We thank Q for doing this, and we continue to yearn for his winning presence at the beginning of each and every new season. He was a winner. And still is.

Take us back in time to your high school career. What were some of your highlights – both in XC/track and in wrestling? How do you think being a wrestler helped you as a runner?

I only started running to stay in shape for wrestling. My wrestling team was very good, and I was pretty good. We won counties almost every year and states my senior year. I was very lucky to be on a great XC team well in high school with a bunch of guys in my grade. We all became great friends and this helped me shift my focus from wrestling to running. Making it to states as a team three years in a row was a highlight for my high school career. I have so many great memories from those meets.

Take us back in time to your recruitment process. What made you choose Marist and what other schools were you considering?

My visit to Marist was very interesting. I visited Marist with a bunch of guys that were on the team already straight from watching the Millrose Games. I already knew most of them from high school, which made my choice very easy. Also, one of my coaches in high school was a former Red Fox, Matt Walsh. I was considering Binghamton and Lehigh, but Pete was really the only coach that showed any interest in me. The other schools actually said it was a possibility I wouldn’t make the team.

You had an outstanding career as an athlete at Marist – often referring to yourself as the GOAT! To what do you attribute your great success? What are some of your most notable athletic career highlights and memories?

I was fortunate to stay injury free during my career as an athlete at Marist. I definitely contribute that to my wrestling background. It toughened me up. Also, being smart about training. Always taking easy days easy and hard days hard. My favorite memories were traveling to Cali for races and Disney my senior year. Notable races I had were regionals and a couple of BU races.

Talk a little about your academics. What did you major in and how did it prepare you for your career? What are you currently doing?

I majored in Digital Media -- or Arts and Crafts, as everyone else on the team would refer to it. Currently, I’m a graphic designer for Heineken USA (aka I sell beer). I’d say Marist really prepared me for my career by helping me become well acquainted with the programs I would be using every day for work.

You just ran the LA Marathon – without any training! Tell us how that came about and how that went for you?

Heineken was one of the sponsors for the LA Marathon because they recently released an alcohol-free drink, Heineken 00. They asked a week before the race if any employees wanted to run because they had open spots. They offered to pay for everything, so I figured why not! I’m regretting that decision today because my knees still hurt. My goal was to finish the race before the finish line was gone and I did just that. It was definitely a great experience and I think I probably ran the last marathon that’s going to be held for quite some time.

Soon after the marathon, you began experiencing a lot of Covid-19 symptoms. Walk us through that, how you felt, how long you were sick and how convinced are you that you had the virus?

I had a fever for a few days with a very annoying headache behind my eyes. I really didn’t move that much for a week because my whole upper body was sore as well. After those symptoms went away, I couldn’t smell or taste anything for another week. Living in NYC, I heard how impossible it was to get tested and I figured I wasn’t someone who was at risk of dying so I didn’t bother. I’m about 99 percent sure I had the virus, though. I wouldn’t be surprised if I caught it while running the marathon because I was surrounded by thousands of people.

What advice would you give to anyone who has your symptoms and/or tests positive for the virus? Other than that, how else has the virus affected your life – personally and professionally?

For anyone showing symptoms, the only thing I can recommend is rest. Fortunately for me, I’ve been working from home since the beginning of March. I traveled down to North Carolina a couple of weeks ago, so I’ve been staying here. The weather here is much nicer than New York and it’s nice to be outside. There wasn’t much of an opportunity for that in NYC.

As you know, our senior student-athletes lost the ability to compete in their final season of competition as well as enjoy their final few months as college students. What message can you send them about what they are going through?

I remember missing BU Valentine my senior year because of a snowstorm and I thought that sucked. I can’t imagine how it is for all the seniors missing their final season of competition. All I can say is it sucks but it’s not everything. Life goes on but the friendships you created at Marist with your teammates are all that really matter.

What message would you give to any returning or incoming student-athletes on our team?

For all the returning and incoming student athletes on the team I hope everything returns back to normal for you guys so you can really enjoy the Marist experience. Right now, is all about building that base so you’re ready to roll when the time comes.

Where do you see us going in the short- and long-term with regard to Covid-19?

I really have no idea. I don’t think things are going to return to normal for a while. It’s going to be interesting to see when people start returning to work and schools reopen in fall.

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