Athlete of the Week: Gwendolyn Lam


Maria Monaco, Center Editor

As spring sports begin drawing to an end, Mendham is preparing itself not only for another conclusion to a season but for the leaving of the seniors that have grown to become an integral addition to the community. Although Girl’s Spring Track team will be saying goodbye to only a small number of girls when compared to the entirety of the team’s numbers, the seniors that will be departing are both top runners within the team but within the county. Gwendolyn Lam, senior, captain, and star hurdler, has unfortunately met the ending to her Mendham track seasons but has taken the time to reflect on the time she shared with the coaches, her peers, and the sport.

In an interview with The Patriot, Lam’s candid and humorous nature was seemingly easy to highlight as her responses were characterized by the same endearing spontaneity she brings to practices. When asked about why she decided to join Winter Track her freshman year, she answered without hesitation, “I liked sprinting,” only to add alongside dramatic hand movements, “But only short distances.” Lam recalls her first practice with the team as “chill,” even continuing to joke that she could swear “we [girl’s team] were going to pass the boys by the end of the season.” Prior to joining track, Lam was no stranger to athletics; having played soccer for the school during the freshman fall season and playing for West Morris Soccer Club since her middle school years. Despite her prior involvement, Lam never envisioned herself becoming a vital addition to the team. She admits that she never really thought of herself that way and continues to deny the claim. When asked if her inability to see herself as ‘vital’ was a product of humility, Lam humorously responded, “No, just because I’m so lazy” as she ate her second bag of vending machine snacks in the hour.

At the beginning of every season, either the coach or the athlete will determine the events they wish to attempt- including both track and field events. Although Hamblen is notorious for knowing which members to recruit for an event, Lam’s freshman year experience was coordinated by Quinn as Hamblen was away due to a recent heart surgery. Quinn made the process entirely dependent on the athlete’s decisions and Lam decided to start with hurdles, admitting her reasoning being that “it looked cool and there was a hard workout that day and the hurdlers were just jumping over baby hurdles.” Lam wasn’t necessarily discouraged when she first began hurdling as one might expect but instead when she developed Osgood-Schlatter disease in her knees after a growth spurt. Osgood-Schlatter disease where the bone grows faster than the muscle which facilitates muscle irritation interrupted her ability to practice and compete and augmented her discouragement as she no longer was performing at a level she once reached easily.
Lam’s first hurdle race was at a prestigious meet- Winter County Relays. Not only was the meet itself of significance but it was the “first day Hamblen came from his bed to watch since the surgery.” Hamblen’s first impression of Lam was, unfortunately, seeing her on the ground after falling during the hurdle race- but that first impression didn’t prompt Hamblen to lose his hope for Lam but instead heightened it after seeing her perform under such pressure with a lack of experience. Since that first race, Lam has improved and grown to medal in State races and compete in the New Balance Track and Field Nationals, both indoor and outdoors. Although Lam’s time with Mendham has ended, she is ecstatic to continue her track and field career running for Swarthmore. Near the ending of the interview, Lam returned with her candid personality to admit that her excitement comes mostly with the “routine and constancy in college” that will come from being on the team alongside the Swarthmore coach’s emphasis on “mechanical and technical stuff which equals less running but instead building up my little chicken legs and building abs from these flabs.”

Lam’s ending career with Mendham track and field will definitely leave a gap in the team’s lineup yet Lam’s accomplishments, endearing personality, and athletic leadership will make filling that gap and even more difficult task to do.