By Dan Guttenplan
---- — GARDNER – Nick Carleo can safely say he is the fastest cross-country runner in the state.
The Newburyport junior became the first runner in school history to collect an individual All-State championship Saturday at the Mass. All-State Division 2 Championships at Gardner Municipal Golf Course. After placing second behind Old Rochester’s Michael Wyman in the Eastern Mass. Division 5 Championships the week before, Carleo entered Saturday’s race as the fifth seed based on the times at the sectional meets.
Carleo set the pace, surprising Burlington’s Paul Hogan, who had posted a time 20 seconds faster than Carleo at the sectional meets in Wrentham. Hogan spent much of the race tracking down Carleo, only to have the Newburyport pace-setter pull away in the final 400 meters.
“I didn’t even believe it for about a half hour after I came in,” Carleo said. “It’s unreal. I walked around and thought about it for a while.”
The junior took an early lead on the new 2.9-mile course and held off the favorite, Hogan, to capture the Division 2 crown in 14 minutes, 14.07 seconds. Hogan finished second in 14:20.73, and Pembroke’s Christian Stafford was third in 14:31.30.
“I think I figured (Hogan) would take the lead early,” Carleo said. “I wanted to sit on him and make a move late. I ended up leading more than he did. I ended up breaking him somehow.”
Carleo placed seventh at the All-State Championships as a sophomore, and set a goal to collect an individual championship this season. He increased his training volume and intensity last summer, determined to achieve his goal. His dual meet highlight came in September when he broke the Maudslay State Park course record in 14:59.
Carleo’s focus throughout the year was evidenced by the attention he paid to his competition all over the state. He could recite the names of all of the athletes who beat him at the All-State Championships last year, as well as their times. After winning the race Saturday, he can now use those brain cells on other topics in the next year.
“I lost to two or three of the kids who returned this year,” Carleo said. “I beat Hogan earlier this season, but I had never beaten Michael Wyman, who beat me (in the Division 5 Championships) last weekend. It was a big goal to beat him too.”
Carleo’s time was also faster than the winning time in the Division 1 All-State Championships, making him the fastest runner in the state this fall.