By Dan Guttenplan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Nick Carleo can now say he is the fastest high school runner to compete at Maudslay State Park.
The Newburyport junior broke a 23-year-old course record yesterday on his home course, finishing in 14:59. Carleo crushed the previous mark of 15:12, set by Hamilton-Wenham standout Darin Shearer in 1990.
“(Newburyport coach Don) Hennigar and I decided I’d go for it before the race,” Carleo said. “He told me to stay relaxed until the mile mark. If I felt good enough, I would take the last two miles really hard. I ended up going out fast enough to go get it.”
Carleo was within a half minute of setting the all-time record for the course. Professional runner Joseph Ekuom ran the 3.0-mile course in 14:32 at Trav’s Trail Run in 2009. Carleo also broke the school record of 15:16, which was set by the namesake for Trav’s Trail Race, Travis Landreth, in 1993.
Carleo’s standing at the top of all-time list of high school times at Maudslay puts him in good standing. Shearer twice placed fourth at the United States Olympic Trials in the steeplechase, meaning he fell one spot shy of qualifying for the Olympic Games each time. Landreth was an All-America selection at the University of Connecticut.
“To run faster than those kids did is significant,” Hennigar said.
“It’s something I really wanted him to have the opportunity to do. He did it. It’s a great thing for him.”
Carleo placed seventh at the Massachusetts All-State Cross-Country Championships last year as a sophomore.
His fastest time at Maudslay before yesterday was 15:21.
“I didn’t see a (time of) 14:59 coming,” Hennigar said. “I knew he had a chance to break the record, but before the race, I thought if it happened, it was going to be by two or three seconds. To break it by that significant amount is pretty impressive, considering he was all by himself.”
Carleo beat the second-place finisher by a minute and 29 seconds.
“It was definitely more painful than if I had people running with me,” Carleo said.
“The best thing was how relaxed I felt, and how much it didn’t hurt. Obviously, it hurt, but not as bad as it could have.”
While making the final climb at Maudslay, Carleo heard his spectating teammates say he was on pace to break the record. After crossing the line, he waited a few seconds before asking the timer for his result.
“I think I knew I could do it,” Carleo said. “I’m surprised it ended up happening this early in the season. It does kind of blow away my expectations. It’s good to know I’m in good shape this early.”