WEST CHESTER, PENNSYLVANIA -- Gary Martin made his intentions known almost a year ago to the day.
When he placed second to Germantown Academy's Robert DiDonato in the 3,200 meters at the 2021 Henderson Invitational -- in a race where DiDonato took down a 14-year-old Pennsylvania state record in the event -- Martin quipped that he was gunning for his friend and competitor's newly set record.
"That'll be the goal next year," Martin told us after the race.
363 days later Martin accomplished that very goal, breaking DiDonato's record by three seconds with an 8:41.57 3,200m on a rainy afternoon back at the Hewlett Memorial Track at West Chester Henderson High School.
"It's pretty special," Martin, an Archbishop Wood senior, said about taking down the record. "Me and Rob joked about it after the race (last year). That was such an incredible race -- I would say one of best races in PA history. So to come back and claim the record, it's pretty special and it means a lot."
With steady rain in the forecast for much of the evening, meet director Kevin Kelly moved up the 3,200 meters to earlier in the meet when the rain was less heavy. Ultimately, it created fairly good conditions -- at least according to a number of athletes and coaches -- for the eight-lapper.
Unlike last year's edition of the Henderson Invite 3,200 that saw five boys dip under 9 minutes, it would have to be a solo effort for Martin. He took the race out through the opening 400 meter by himself in 1:04.83. He came through 800 meters in 2:10.01 and the 1,600 meters in 4:20.08.
He slowed marginally in laps five, six, and seven, but was still well under record pace as he hit one-to-go. Martin closed his last quarter in his fastest split of the race, 1:03.50, to easily break DiDonato's record time of 8:44.98.
"I felt really confident in my ability going into it," Martin said. "I just wanted to go out and click off 65s and go from there. I was pretty consistent with my game plan going in and I think with some more competition and on a better day, I can hopefully have a little faster of a kick."
Behind Martin, there was an intense battle in the chase pack for second. LaSalle College junior Drew Brill went 9:12.08 to nab that second place finish. Downingtown East's Brendan Flynn ran 9:12.11 for third, just behind Brill. Hempfield's Aidan Hodge (9:14.82) was fourth and Northeastern's Cole Perry rounded out the top five (9:16.66).
Martin had sub-8:40 on his mind, but in some chilly rain and in a solo effort, it wasn't to be on Friday. It was Martin's first "longer race" in a bit. The senior ran a fast 800 earlier this season before a pair of historically quick mile races, the latter of which coming at last week's Penn Relays, where he broke the meet record.
His last race of a similar distance to the 3,200 came back in early March when he clocked the outdoor PA state record in the 3,000 meters at the Polar Bears Champs on the same Henderson track.
Martin added another Pennsylvania state record to his resume on Friday. His 8:49.96 from last year's Henderson Invite put him at No. 3 on the all-time PA list behind DiDonato and 2007 Unionville graduate Paul Springer. Now he sits atop that list with some room to spare. He's also currently US No. 4 for the 2022 season, trailing three Newbury Park (CA) teammates Colin Sahlman (8:33.32), Lex Young (8:35.72). and Leo Young (8:39.57).
Martin also noted after the race that he is one of two future Virginia Cavaliers that broke PA all-time state records this week. On Tuesday, Hershey's Justin Rogers cleared 17-01 for a new pole vault record.
Now begins the postseason for Martin, who will race at the Philadelphia Catholic League Championships and PIAA District 12 Championships over the next two weeks before the PIAA State Championships on May 28 and May 29. After that, there will be some opportunities for Martin to chase some more records, and, of course, the sub-4 mile barrier.
What races he'll run and run are still to be determined, but Martin proved on Friday at Henderson that he just keeps getting better.
Watch the 3,200m from the Henderson Invitational above and check out the top 10 from the race below.
|1||Gary Martin||12||Archbishop Wood||8:41.57||2|
|2||Drew Brill||11||LaSalle College High School||9:12.08||2|
|3||Brendan Flynn||12||Downingtown East||9:12.11||2|
|4||Aidan Hodge||11||Hempfield (3)||9:14.82||2|
|8||Zachary Brill||12||LaSalle College High School||9:22.21||2|
|9||Andrew Mcgonigle||11||Owen J. Roberts||9:22.48||2|