Hard work paying off for Mohawk Trail’s Dennis Simmons

  • Mohawk Trail’s Dennis Simmons runs to a 14th place finish during last year’s WMass Div. 2 boys cross country championship at Northfield Mountain. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Recorder Intern
Published: 10/26/2020 5:40:26 PM

When Dennis Simmons was entering the seventh grade, a friend suggested joining the cross country team at Mohawk Trail Regional High School.

Simmons thought it would be a good idea. He’s shown no signs of slowing down ever since.

Now a star junior, Simmons has participated in every single cross country, indoor and outdoor track season since seventh grade. In those years, he’s had tremendous success and has made major improvements.

“My biggest jump in improvement in my career is probably when I went from seventh to eighth grade,” Simmons offered.

In seventh grade, he finished 120th at the Western Mass. Division II Championship. One year later, Simmons climbed the leaderboard and improved all the way to 11th place.

During the indoor track season, he started off with a 1-mile time of 6 minutes, 35 seconds. Most recently, he has that time down to 4:38.

Mohawk Trail cross country coach Joe Chadwick said it was not hard to see that Simmons had that kind of skill in him.

“He was young and inexperienced, but you saw the potential,” said Chadwick, who has been coaching cross country for 39 years.

This kind of rapid improvement is not easy, but because of Simmons’ incredible work ethic, his times dropped drastically.

Along with mixing in various speed workouts, Simmons is currently running 50 to 60 miles a week and trains at least once a day, sometimes twice.

“He always had the ability and now he has the hard work with it,” Chadwick said.

The hard work and dedication was tested at new levels when the outbreak of COVID-19 held off races of any sort for Simmons for seven months. Before September, his last race had come in February, right before everything was shut down.

“Ever since seventh grade I haven’t really gone more than two months without racing,” Simmons said.

During this time period, Simmons had to make sure he did the training that needed to be done so that he would be ready for the next season – whatever that was going to be. In the summer, part of his training was to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and run about eight miles.

“I did a lot of random things to challenge myself,” said Simmons.

He did the early wake-up for 30 days and even ran up to 15 miles.

“It was kind of a lot of work, keeping the training going in that time and trying to find ways to work in speed because I didn’t have any competitions to do,” he admitted.

When Simmons finally made it to his first race after the long break in early October, he stated that his “legs kind of had to remember what they were doing.” Running mileage is a lot different than actual racing, so it would take some time to feel comfortable again.

Simmons said running is something that he’s grown to love, and he has admired the individualism of the sport and the fact that what you get what you put into it. He certainly puts everything into the sport, and has quickly gained his momentum back after the long break. Simmons won the first meet of the season and hasn’t lost since.

Before heading off to run in college, he will be trying his best to reach new goals. For outdoor track, Simmons said he is aiming to break 4:20 in the mile, while also dipping below the 9:30 mark in the 2-mile.

With continued hard work, effort and dedication on and off the track, it’d be hard to be against the talented junior.

“He’s been a pleasure to coach,” Chadwick lauded.

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