By Tim Lima
---- — NEWBURYPORT – Call it an inherited gift from his father. Or, call it the will to win. Whatever you call it, Nick Carleo has what it takes to exceed expectations and further cement himself as one of the best runners in Massachusetts.
When asked to think of an accomplishment from this cross-country season other than winning the All-State Championship, Nick Carleo hesitated.
“An accomplishment ... other than winning All-State?” he asked.
After a brief pause, Carleo remembered that he set an all-time course record at Maudslay State Park in mid-September. His record-setting season and cementing his spot as Massachusetts best high school cross-country runner in 2013 evidently allowed for a course record to slip his mind.
Carleo is the son of Tom Carleo, the current Vice President of Running and Outdoor at New Balance. Other than working in the running industry, Tom also enjoyed a largely successful career as a competitor that peaked when he ran in the 1,500-meter race in the 1988 Olympic Trials.
Tom’s life in running, both present and past, has allowed him to bond on a different level with his son.
“I think the biggest thing is that it gives us something in common to talk about at home,” Tom said. “Over the years, I would bring him to elite meets in Boston. When he was a kid he used to want to go home or go to McDonald’s or something, but over time he grew a very general understanding for running at the elite level.”
Nick also had the ability to witness track and field events at the recent Olympic Games in London. Tom was at the event conducting business, and brought his family with him to make a vacation out of it. As a result of all his exposure, Nick knows that he owes much of his passion about the sport to his father.
“He definitely helped me get into it,” he said. “I grew up around it and even before I was running I was thinking about running. It made the whole transition into running easier because I have family members who are really into it.”
Growing up in racing and learning first-hand from someone in your own house can only get you so far, though. Winning state races and setting course records is not something that comes without commitment, dedication and hard work.
“I think winning a race is the most rewarding feeling ever,” Nick said. “After all that hard work, when you win you’re like ‘Wow, that was really worth it.’ It’s that mind set of winning a race that drives you to running. Training sucks and it hurts but once you win that race it’s all worth it.”
As a junior in high school who has already won an all-Massachusetts competition, what more can Nick possibly aim to achieve in his senior year?
“One of my goals is to make it out to Oregon for the national meet,” Nick said. “My goal this year is to qualify for it and compete in it. My goal for next year is to go to it and try to win the thing.”
Whether or not Nick makes it this year is dependent upon how he performs today in New York at the Nike Invitational. Only five or six runners will advance to Oregon, and Nick hopes that list includes him.
“He has a good shot at making it,” Tom said. “Once you’re in those big meets, anything can happen. But he has two feet and two legs and runs like all the other kids. Anything can happen.”
Tom also credits much of his son’s success to the philosophies employed by his cross country coach, Don Hennigar.
“I do a really good job not trying to be Nick’s coach,” Tom said. “I trust Don 100 percent. I’m proud of this because I give very little advice to Nick other than to listen to his coach. Don and I share the philosophy that it’s not all about running a bunch of miles. I believe in running moderate amounts of miles while also keeping yourself in the proper shape to beat other runners at the end of a race.”
Keeping yourself fresh and not being overworked at the high school level should keep Nick on the right path to compete far past his graduation next year.
“I want to run in Division 1,” Nick said. “I have a few schools in mind, but I don’t want to say where yet.”