Tam Gavenas ’25 clocked a 16:33 in his first time racing on Andover’s cross country course, marking the 28th fastest time ever recorded on the course in program history and setting a new Junior record.
According to Gavenas, the support of his teammates played a major role in this achievement.
“I think I ran really well because there was such a good positive attitude. When I was in the race, my whole face was focused. You’ve probably seen photos, but it was like completely zoned in. I was laughing in my head a little bit because my teammates were shouting… at Heartbreak [Hill]… It just felt super smooth because I felt like we were really being lifted up… because everybody was cheering for each other,” said Gavenas.
Gavenas has been running for fun ever since he was little. His competitive running journey first started in great part due to the encouragement of his mom and the extensive running history of his home country, Ethiopia.
Gavenas said, “It was basically because my native country is one of the strongest long-distance running places in the world. I was born in high-altitude… I used to run in the playground constantly when I was little, and my mom was like, ‘Okay, he has a lot of energy. I need to get him to his naps and make sure his energy is out.’”
When joining the team this fall, Gavenas not only brought his talent, but also his passion for the sport, natural compassion for other people, and lightheartedness, according to Captain Matthew Ottenbreit ’22 and teammate Nolan Goldthwaite ’22.
“Tam as a teammate is extremely energetic. I think that he is a really wholesome part of the team. At the start of the season, he was really eager to get to know everyone and I think he brings a lot of passion to the team,” said Ottenbreit.
“He adds a youthfulness to the team. He goofs around a lot, sometimes doesn’t listen, but when I’ve talked to him in deeper conversations, he’s very caring. He runs with a lot of heart, and he cares a lot about the team and the team members,” added Goldthwaite.
When racing, Gavenas’ focus shifts from his teammates to running as fast as he possibly can, according to Head Coach Patrick Reilly.
“When he’s running and competing, it’s not that he loses that energy, it just is transferred into a real focus on what he’s doing. I think he has real toughness and real intensity. When he’s running, it’s incredible to watch,” said Coach Reilly.
On race day, Gavenas has recently adopted a new ritual to keep his mind in the zone.
“[Girls Cross Country team member Charlotte Whitehurst ’22] and I, in the first race of the season, did a walk where we were completely silent…I feel like that helped us focus, and before and during the race, I put my hand to my lip and we go like, ‘Shhh,”’ said Gavenas.
Since Gavenas is still early in his high school career, Coach Reilly believes the most important goal is to maintain Gavenas’ love for the sport and overall health.
“For Tam, the biggest thing is that again, cross country stays a place of success for him, just that he feels good about being there, and he’s happy to be part of the team. I think that’s kind of the major goal… In terms of competitive goals, we want to get him as fast over 5k as we can while keeping him healthy and strong,” said Coach Rielly.
Right now, Gavenas chooses to focus on more specific aspects for improvement; he hopes to work on maintaining control over his own mind and body when racing.
Gavenas said, “I have goals, but my main goals are just to make sure to stick with a positive attitude, be always focused, and just not wave my arms… You know, completely focused, perfect form.”
Gavenas will be looking to improve upon his early success in the remaining three home meets of the season.