By Dan Guttenplan
---- — Jonn Stansel is carving out a place for himself among Newburyport’s fastest distance runners.
Stansel, a sophomore at Bates College, recently ran a 4:12.98 mile at the Boston University Terrier Invitational, putting him in a class with Buddy Bostick and Travis Landreth as the only Newburyport High alumni to break 4:13.00 at that distance.
Bostick ran at Brandeis University in the 1970s before falling just shy of qualifying for the 1984 Olympic team. Landreth was a Big East Conference champion at UConn before dying while training for the 2002 Olympic Trials.
Stansel’s ascent into the pantheon of top Newburyport runners is somewhat unexpected, as his fastest mile time in high school was 4:21.00, which was not fast enough to earn him a state championship as a senior. He has dropped more than eight seconds in his first two years of college due to increased training mileage.
“The surprise about my time is it’s so early in the season,” Stansel said. “I’ve been putting in the mileage, and having such a great group of athletes to train with helps. Bates has one of the best middle-distance Division 3 programs in all of New England.”
Stansel had an especially strong cross-country season this fall, becoming the youngest member of the Bates team to qualify for Division 3 National Championships. He came into the indoor season in peak condition, needing only some speed work to prepare for the shorter mile distance, his specialty event.
“During cross-country season, I felt like a long sprinter,” Stansel said. “I’m a middle-distance runner, but when I started putting down good cross-country times, it was only natural to think I could switch distances. I built a base for endurance, and now I’m doing interval training with three All-Americans on a daily basis.”
Stansel ran a near perfect race at B.U., settling in behind the lead pack until the final 400 meters, when he began closing a 2-second gap. He caught all but one runner, the winner from UConn, James Agati, who finished in 4:12.94. Stansel was 0.04 seconds behind.
“The guy from UConn set the pace, and I hung in there,” Stansel said. “I took my punches, and closed it down in the last 400 meters. I left a little too late, but I was never really out of contact with the leaders. The goal was to get in contact with the leaders, hang in there, and stay relaxed until the last quarter-mile.”
Stansel will have chances to improve his time several time in the next month. Still remaining on his schedule this season are the Division 3 New England Championships, New England Championships, ECAC Division 3 Championships and NCAA Division 3 Championships.
“I try not to think about a long-term goal time too much,” Stansel said. “So much can happen. I have a roommate who ran a 4:07 mile last year, and he’s currently injured. You never know. If all goes well, the sky’s the limit.”