Cross Country Seniors And Their High School Success


Durant Cross Country Team

The Durant Cross Country Team celebrates in its win at the Hillsborough County Public Schools 2020 Regionals

Allie Sigl, Design Editor

After months of early mornings, long practices, and hard work, the Durant Cross Country Team’s work finally paid off as they came out victorious, clinching Durant’s first-ever district title in early November.

The team, composed of thirteen members, has worked together for months to achieve their goal.

“We all put in some really hard work over the summer with a lot of early morning runs at the Dover trails in preparation for the season,” junior Jacob Malinchak said.

After making regionals, the team then went on to districts for the first time in Durant history.

“My favorite thing about being on the team is that all of us are like one big family,” sophomore Jayda Reece said.

Composed of five seniors – Haydon Patrick, Quinton Almand, Dylan Lane, Raven Skousen, and Angelo Leiser – for many, districts were the last time they would ever run together again.

“If it was not for them [the seniors], then I wouldn’t be encouraged to run every year. I am really grateful for all of them,” Reece said. “They really brought the team together.”

Haydon Patrick 

Haydon Patrick joined the cross-country team his freshman year and played a pivotal role as one of the team’s leaders.

“I look up to Haydon specifically because he was a team player and one of our best runners,” Reece said. “He had encouraged me to try my best when I was the only girl running with them, and I think that is really important as a member of the team.”

Always motivating others during long runs or on the sidelines, Patrick has positively influenced the team during these past four years.

“Haydon has taught me a lot and is very inspirational and nice to me,” freshman Gehrig Graham said.

“He’s just one of those guys that everybody likes, and he has got everything figured out,” sophomore Mason Ritenauer said.

During his high-school-career, Patrick held a personal best of 17:11. His consistent times and hard work allowed him to become one of the district winners at the last meet.

After high school, Patrick plans to commit to Nova Southeastern University to get his law degree.

Quinton Almand 

Like Patrick, Quinton Almand has been on the team since his freshmen year. Seen as one of the most grounded players, Almand has pushed himself to be the best he can both on and off the field.

“He’s honestly the most caring, genuinely good person I have ever met,” Riteanuer said. “Like no matter what you need, he has always got you, and he is always there to talk.”

“I look up to Quinton a lot because he is a teammate who always keeps a level head. He’s very humble when he wins and is a high-level student at the same time,” junior Aidan Maroney said.

Quinton finished his last year with a personal best of 18:50.

In the future, he plans to get his master’s degree in computer science at the University of Florida to pursue his interests in the research aspects of programs like augmented and virtual reality.

Dylan Lane 

Dylan Lane began running his sophomore year after motivation from his coach, Craig Shimkus, and friend Jordan McClellan. He quickly fell in love with the sport and works hard to motivate others and do his best.

“He is like the glue of the team, always friendly and good for a laugh,” Malinchak said.

“The thing that stands out about Dylan is that he is a jokester; the guy that keeps everything light,” Shimkus said.

Lane finished the season with a personal best of 19:06.

In the future, he wants to attend the University of Florida to become a nurse. He was also recently accepted into the University of South Florida’s medical school.

Raven Skousen 

Raven Skousen joined Durant during his junior year but has been running since he was a freshman.

With a personal best of 18:05, Skousen’s hard work and dedication towards the team have played a primary role in their journey to districts.

“He is the type of guy that goes without quit. Day in and day out, he is always doing his absolute best,” Malinchak said.

In the future, Skousen wants to get into the military academy to later join the United States armed forces.

“He has already been granted his recommendation for the military academy. I am sure he will be pursuing that either in Indianapolis or West Point,” Shimkus said.

Angelo Leiser  

Angelo Leiser started running with Durant his sophomore year. Over the past three years, Leiser has built strong bonds and relationships with his team, and considers them his cross-country family.

“Angelo is a talented student who balances the hustle and bustle of work, school, and running while fixing and decking out his car in only the best gear. He was a true inspiration and friend to me in my first year of high school, and I cannot imagine it without him,” freshman Keira Tabacco said.

“Angelo is someone who has faced adversity during his years of high school but has stuck with everything; he has stuck with everything he has put his mind too,” Shimkus said

Leiser continued to excel in his final year and ended the season with a record of 19:12.

After high school, Leiser wants to attend either the University of South Florida or the University of Florida for neuroscience or aerospace engineering. He also plans on continuing ROTC during college.

The Team

The heart and soul of the team is the coach Craig Shimkus, whose work and dedication guided the team in their victory.

“Our coach, Coach Shimkus, held many summer practices for us and continued to encourage and make sure we were ready for the races,” Malinchak said.

“He has helped me become faster and enjoy the sport; he also gives me workouts to do outside of practice,” Gehrig said.

Shimkus, seen as a mentor both on and off the field, has always encouraged everyone to do their best in all aspects of life.

“Shimkus has really been the rock for all of us. He is there when we need it, but also knows how to challenge us and push us to be better runners,” Reece said. “He is always here to help me out no matter how many times I get shin splints.”

“Mr. Shimkus has impacted my life in a major way. He is always looking out for me when I am having a bad day or a bad week, and he is always looking to help us improve and get better,” Maroney said.

“Coach is probably, secretly, one of the kindest and most caring guys you will ever meet,” Ritenauer said. “[In practice], we were always trying to give him [Shimkus] a hug as a joke, and he would always laugh and back up. Then, when we won districts, he gave me a big hug, and it said so many unspoken things about how much he cares and wants us to succeed not only in track but also in our own lives.”

As a coach, Shimkus has tried to instill a close dynamic between the team beyond just running.

“My favorite memory of the senior class is our trip to Tallahassee last year. Just getting the guys away from campus and seeing a different side of them. I wanted to get them to see some different things that they have not had a chance to see before,” Shimkus said.

The team is seen by its members as a family, with everyone ready to encourage and support each other.

“If it were not for them, I would not be encouraged to run every year. I am really grateful for that and all of them,” Reece said.

“It is not like any other team I have ever been on. It is more of a family,” Ritenauer said.

“We all like hanging out with each other. I have learned a lot, and our team is a really close-knit group. I would like to give props to our seniors as they have taught me a lot and put in a lot of hard work to achieve what we want,” Malinchak said.

From cheering on the sidelines during races, naming a rock as a mascot, and taking pictures on haybales to celebrate their record-breaking victory, the memories made by the team these past few years will never be forgotten.

As they graduate from Durant, if Shimkus could leave one piece of advice to the seniors, it would be consistency.

“Remember, life is about consistency. We talk about it every day in terms of running; you have to be consistent to make gains, and life is that way. You have to do things on a consistent basis. If you are not consistent, you are not reliable, and that is a hard way to be in life.”