* Gary Martin earns the win in the boys mile at New Balance Nationals Indoor
Photo Credit: Kyle Brazeil/MileSplit
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By Dan Beck - MileSplit
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK -- Gary Martin knew the field was bearing down on him.
He heard the in-house announcer say that his his competitors were swinging wide around the final bend.
Martin was leading the championship boys mile at New Balance Nationals Indoor on Sunday, and looking to hold off a hard-charging field that included a number of the nation's top milers.
But Martin found the gear he needed in the final meters and managed to hold off Zane Bergen of Colorado, James Donahue of Massachusetts and Gavin Sherry of Connecticut, in a who's who of remarkable distance talent.
It was nearly four abreast down the stretch, though Martin never surrendered the lead, lifting his arms as he broke the tape to earn the win. The Archbishop Wood senior and University of Virginia recruit won it in 4:02.34.
The next three also ran 4:02, with Bergen second in 4:02.64, Donahue third in 4:02.66, and Sherry fourth in 4:02.69. Officials remarked that it may have been the fastest mile featuring exclusively high schoolers in indoor history.
"I don't think we've ever ever seen a high school race with this much talent," Martin said after the race. "There were a lot of times that probably would have won it in year's past."
The 4:02.34 moves Martin up to U.S. No. 11 all-time in the boys mile indoors.
It also breaks his own Pennsylvania state record, which he set two weeks ago in a great race with Butler's CJ Singleton. Singleton was in the field again on Sunday, and he improved on his PR and PA No. 2 all-time performance with a 4:04.89 to take sixth and make the All-American podium.
The race featured a surprise rabbit with another Pennsylvanian, Jacob Puhalla, who was scheduled to take the field through the first half in 2-flat. Puhalla, the 800-meter PA state champion from two weeks ago, was right on setting the field up at 2:01 at 880 yards before stepping off the track.
From there, Martin seized the lead and it was a free-for-all as the boys battled for the final half of the race. Donahue took the lead from Martin as they came up on 400 meters to go, but that was short-lived as Martin powered himself back into the lead on the ensuing backstretch.
"It was crowded, and early on, I found myself getting bumped around a little bit," Martin said. "But I worked my way up to the front, which I know a lot of guys don't like to be, but I kind of like being out there in space."
But Donahue, Bergen and Sherry were all still right there.
Bergen looked to make a move on the outside on turn 1 with 200m to go, but Martin responded and closed the door on that attempt.
All three challengers were still looking to make one last move as they approached the homestretch.
Sherry went way wide and Bergen swung to the outside, bumping Donahue slightly, who forced Sherry all the way out to lane four.
But in the front the whole time was Martin, who finished it out to take the victory.
"I saw some guys in my peripheral vision and I knew I was going to have to dig deep and pull out everything I had," Martin said of the last lap.
Martin's confidence was high the whole race.
With a the competitive state championship race and an additional two weeks of training under his belt, Martin felt ready to roll. Even when it started to hurt in Sunday's race, he never wavered.
"It was a mix of emotions and feelings," Martin said. "I felt tired and I felt sore, but I felt good and I felt strong. I felt like I had another gear left and I could kick and respond to any move."
When Bergen made his move to the front, Martin didn't hesitate and took the lead right back. He noted his confidence has been higher than ever, as he's chosen to focus more on the process instead of goals and times.
But regardless, the times Martin has produced this year have been remarkably fast.
It also marked the first national title of his career.
"I knew I could run (4:02)," Martin said. "More importantly, I proved to myself that I can win not just at the state level, but at the national level.
"It's a big difference going from a state meet to a national meet, and I wanted to be able to have that same mindset of leading from the start and going for the win."