Above: The fast section of the 1,600 at the Whippet Invitational, where ten boys broke 4:20 led by Gary Martin's 4:07.20
In one of the deepest 1,600 meter fields ever assembled for a regular season meet in Pennsylvania, Gary Martin came out on top running one of the fastest times ever by a PA boy over the distance.
Martin, an Archbishop Wood junior, ran 4:07.20 to take the win in the boys 1,600m at the Whippet Invitational hosted on Saturday at Downingtown West High School. The time is the fastest in PA this season and the fifth fastest in the nation so far this outdoor campaign.
The time is also the second fastest 1,600 in Pennsylvania high school history, trailing only Paul Vandegrift's 1987 state record of 4:03.22. Two others -- Ken Lowry of Wissahickon and Craig Miller of Manheim Township -- have run full mile times that convert to a faster 1,600 time than Martin's time on Saturday.
The field was very strong overall, as ten boys broke 4:20 and the state's top three times were produced in the same race.
Despite the strength of the field, Martin wasted no time going right to the front to set the pace and already put a gap between him and the field as he came through 400 meters in about 61 seconds. He came through the halfway point at 800 meters at about 2:03 and then crossed 1,200 meters at an unofficial 3:05.
Two boys -- the Downingtown West duo of Aiden Barnhill and Declan Rymer -- closed well in the final 400 meters, but it wasn't enough to catch Martin, who stayed relatively even throughout to finish with the win and a time of 4:07.20.
"I knew it was going to be a fast race and I knew there was going to be some guys with some good kicks," Martin said after the race. "So I was kind of hoping to draw it out fast."
Martin said he had 2:02 in mind as his target for the midway point; he came through in 2:03.
"It worked out pretty well and I was able to create enough of a gap to hold on," he added.
Barnhill, with his strong finish, crossed in 4:09.29. That's the second fastest time in the state and a top ten PA all-time performance in the event. Rymer was close behind to take third in a PA No. 3 time of 4:10.59.
After those three a big pack of fast finishers followed. Garnet Valley's Eric Albright placed fourth in 4:15.79, Greencastle-Antim's Weber Long was fifth in 4:16.16, and Jenkintown's Luke Miller took sixth in 4:16.79. Kennett's Gavin Maxwell went 4:18.27 for seventh, Exeter Township's Alex Holbrook was eighth in 4:18.39, Downingtown East's Caiden Leen was ninth in 4:18.75, and Holden Betz of Downingtown West rounded out the top ten, running 4:19.28.
|1||Gary Martin||11||Archbishop Wood||4:07.20||6|
|2||Aiden Barnhill||12||Downingtown West||4:09.29||6|
|3||Declan Rymer||12||Downingtown West||4:10.59||6|
|4||Eric Albright||12||Garnet Valley||4:15.79||6|
|8||Alex Holbrook||11||Exeter Township||4:18.39||6|
|9||Caiden Leen||11||Downingtown East||4:18.75||6|
|10||Holden Betz||12||Downingtown West||4:19.28||6|
Martin noted after the race that he's happy with how things played out on Saturday, but he's still looking for more this spring.
"The takeaway is that it's a good season opener and it's good to feel those paces again, but I think I can shave off a few seconds and next time I run it I, hopefully, cut it down even more and just keep getting faster," Martin said.
He added there's a possibility he goes after the 3200-1600 double at the state meet next month.
Saturday's race sets the stage for what should be a thrilling next month-plus of distance running in Pennsylvania. The Henderson Invitational in two weeks time should bring together a number of these same boys, and then the PIAA State Championships should supply plenty of fireworks as these top milers from eastern and central PA matchup with some of the stars from western PA like Butler's CJ Singleton and General McLane's Dylan Throop, among many others.
The times are proving that this is one of the deepest years Pennsylvania has ever seen in the 1,600 and the calendar is yet to flip over to May. The rest of the outdoor season is going to be fun.