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Avon’s Jack Martin runs virtual national cross country race on home course – The Collinsville Press
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Avon’s Jack Martin runs virtual national cross country race on home course

Avon’s Jack Martin crosses the finish line of his virtual race for the Nike national cross country championship race Saturday in Avon. (Photo courtesy Lori Riley)

AVON, Nov. 21, 2020 – With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the nation, it wasn’t feasible nor safe to hold a national championship cross country meet. So, Nike is holding their national championship meet virtually and Avon High junior Jack Martin got his opportunity to race on his home course at Fisher Meadows on Saturday.

Martin, Hall’s Walker Beverly and the Southington High girls cross country team each ran their own respective races.

A large finish line was set up with a finishing chute. Flags were set up at the start line, cones were set up along the course every quarter mile so the runners could monitor their pace and one coach even took a portable leaf blower into a wooded section of the course along the Farmington River to clear leaves from the tree roots to help the runners not turn an ankle.

Thirty-six teams and 90 individuals across the nation qualified to compete in the virtual event, racing 5,000 meters or 3.1 miles.

“It was great,” Avon High boys cross country coach Courtney Fusco said. “We’re always looking for opportunities to make the most of this season wherever we can. Obviously, we are restricted in what we can do but the fact he qualified for the nationals even though he had to run alone with no one to compete against. We’re just happy for the opportunity (to race).”

Martin qualified for the race with his winning time of 15:53 against Farmington on October 7 at Fisher Meadows, a flat course that winds around the spring pond and along the banks of the Farmington River before moving onto the numerous soccer fields.

Martin and Beverly each ran their respective races by themselves. That was by design. Nike doesn’t allow other runners to pace each other in these virtual events.

Martin finished the race in 16:14.56 although his time on the Nike race website is 16:23.30. Runners race with their cell phones and they have to keep racing until the app on their phone rings, which is why Martin and Beverly continued running through the finish line.

Martin wasn’t fazed by running by himself on the course. “It’s not as hard as it seems,” he said. “If you’re winning a race, it’s the same idea with people behind you. (Today), there were no people behind me. It’s not that big of a difference.”

Avon High cross country coach Courtney Fusco and Jack Martin work on submitting his time for the 2020 Nike virtual cross country championship race Saturday.

Martin, who won a title last February in the mile at the New England indoor track and field championships, checked his time every quarter mile.

“You look at the time to see if your ahead or behind (your pace),” he said. “You pretend as if you’re chasing ghosts.”

Martin had hoped for a little better time but he had a good time. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was just four weeks of cross country competition in October and he missed two weeks because he was in quarantine due to contact tracing.

This provided him another opportunity to race at Fisher Meadows with his Avon High teammates and a few parents – all in masks – cheering him on.

Beverly finished with a time of 16:20 in his race while the Southington High girls were led by junior Jacquelin Izzo with a time of 19:09.35. Senior Grace Michaud was second in 19:18.60 with freshman Jessica Lombardo taking third in 20:02.

Avon’s Jack Martin crosses the finish line at Fisher Meadows for the 2020 Nike virtual cross country national championship race. (Photo courtesy Lori Riley)

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Last weekend, Avon junior Carver Morgan ran an impressive 15:49.91 for 5,000 meters on the track at the Garden State Track Club’s High School Showcase meet in Edison, N.J. Morgan is just the second Avon High athlete to run under 16 minutes in the 5,000 meter race this century. Martin was the other Falcon runner to do this.

NOTE: Martin does own the course record at Fisher Meadow of 15:22.3 that he set against Glastonbury on Sept. 25, 2019.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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