NEWBURYPORT — Newburyport sophomore Nick Carleo crossed the finish line first during a dual meet at Maudslay State Park yesterday, only to be met with confused glances from the spectators in attendance.
There wasn’t another runner in sight. Carleo had blown away the competition in a meet between the top two teams in the Cape Ann League.
Thirty-seven seconds passed before the next finisher, Newburyport’s Joe Santo, came across the line after Carleo. In the time between when the two top runners finished, the captain of last year’s state-champion Newburyport team Chris Suprin, who is now running at UMass Lowell, jogged over to the finish line to deliver the news to Carleo that he had run the fastest time of any high-schooler at Maudslay State Park in 19 years.
Carleo’s time of 15:21 for the 3.0-mile course is the third-fastest time ever recorded by a high school runner at Maudslay, behind only Hamilton-Wenham’s Darrin Shearer in 1990 and Newburyport’s Travis Landreth in 15:16.
The Newburyport sophomore’s previous best was 16:54, a time he ran at the end of his freshman season last fall. He dropped one minute and 33 seconds off that time yesterday.
“I wanted to run a fast time here for the first time in a long time,” Carleo said. “I almost wanted to stay back and help out other people on the team. But it didn’t work out like that.”
Carleo’s breakout performance overshadowed Newburyport’s 25-30 victory over Masconomet, the team widely considered to pose the biggest threat to the Clippers (7-0) in their pursuit of a fourth consecutive CAL title. Both teams entered the meet undefeated, although Newburyport could face another undefeated team Monday in Pentucket (5-0). The Sachems will face off with Masconomet (5-1) first tomorrow afternoon.
“I’m not saying we’ve won it by any stretch,” said Newburyport coach Don Hennigar. “Pentucket hasn’t lost a meet all year, either. But it’s been a good day — a good two days since the girls beat Masco (Tuesday), too.”
Carleo’s first-place finish was the one expected outcome of the meet, particularly after he placed first at the Mass. State Coaches Frank Kelley Invitational earlier this month. The unknown heading into the meet was which runners would follow Carleo through the line, and in what order.
Santo “ran a fabulous race,” according to Hennigar, finishing second in 15:58. Masconomet’s top runner, Harry Kent, placed third in 16:10. Newburyport’s third runner, Chris Orlando, finished fourth in 16:18, giving the Clippers a nearly impossible lead to overcome.
Masconomet’s Jake Morman (16:38), Jay Polakiewicz (16:39) and Marco Caserta (16:40) followed in a group, finishing fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively. However, when Newburyport took two of the next three places with Sawyer Updike (8th, 16:44) and Joe Molvar (10th, 16:56), the meet was effectively decided in the Clippers’ favor.
“Their top two or three runners are really, really good,” Santo said. “Going 1-2 was a big achievement for us. Nick took off because that’s what he does. The top two Masco runners and myself were shoulder and shoulder for the first mile. I made a break for it then, and luckily, they dropped because I didn’t have the energy at the end to kick with them.”
Carleo, who qualified for Nationals during the indoor and outdoor track seasons as a freshman, has to be considered a contender for an individual state championship after his performances over the last 10 days. He had the fastest time among all Eastern Mass. runners at the Frank Kelley Invitational, a meet that typically draws most of the top teams in the state. Then, yesterday, he distanced himself from what will likely be at least five of the top 10 runners in the CAL.
“My plan is usually to go out hard,” Carleo said. “I expected the Masco kids to go out hard, but they didn’t, so I went out by myself. I think if I had people up there with me, I could have run faster.”
Carleo may be waiting a long time for someone else to set a pace for him at Maudslay.