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Stahr has been thinking about the Millrose Mile since the TAC Championships in Bloomington, Ind. last June. "I'd like to break four minutes," he says. "I don't know if I ought to say it. There's a lot of pressure." Stahr is thinking of a 57-second opening quarter, 1:58-1:59 at the half, perhaps three minutes at the three-quarters. "We're constantly talking about the four-minute mile," says Collins.
"I'm going for 3:54 outdoors," adds Stahr quietly. "I have to put the goal out there." That time would break Ryun's American high school outdoor mark of 3:55.3 set in 1965. (In that amazing race, Ryun not only won the AAU Championship and set a U.S. record but also defeated the world record-holder. He was 18 years, two months old.) In fact, only three U.S. schoolboys have ever broken four minutes for the mile: Ryun, running for Wichita East, Wichita, Kans., did it five times; Tim Danielson ran a 3:59.4 for Chula Vista, Calif. in 1966; and Liquori did 3:59.8 for Essex Catholic, Newark, N.J. in 1967.
Asked whether Stahr's quest is realistic, Dellinger offered this: "I think that a lot of the barriers we have are mental barriers. Good competition makes for a good time."
Stahr also dreams of breaking the schoolboy 800-meter record of 1:47.31 by running 1:47, and doing 47 seconds for the 400. "I think about the other high school runners a lot," he says. "I think Carlotti and I will help each other produce better times for both of us. I'm sure any series of races we have won't be onesided. I don't want to lose. I really believe I can get my goals. If not winning, a near second. It's hard to say second. The mile is my favorite distance because everyone says, 'The mile, the mile,' but I'm better at the 1,500."
It would be difficult to underestimate the still-reverberating excitement from Stahr's win in the last Millrose and the remembered noise of nearly 20,000 fans. He has his victorious Millrose photo hanging on the wall at home and he plays a video tape of the race, over and over. On the last lap, he says, he suddenly heard the shouts from dozens of Carmel supporters, high up in the balcony. "It's the final turn," he recalls, smiling at the memory, "there are 30 yards to go, I'm going to win. By the time Millrose comes again, I'll have run that race 3,000 times."
On his wall, Carlotti has a blown-up, poster-size Associated Press photo of his Fifth Avenue Mile win—himself lunging at the tape, airborne, anguished and triumphant—beating a straining, dipping Stahr by inches. He thinks of the Millrose and Stahr incessantly; the photo is there for "incentive." Carlotti is 5'9½", 148 pounds, but he runs much bigger than the 5'11" Stahr. He overstrides, running with long, powerful, graceful steps.
Carlotti's coach is Edward Mather Jr., 52, an intense former half-miler. Mather has created a middle- and long-distance running empire in the fox-hunting and corporate hills of west-central New Jersey. His cross-country teams have won 130 straight meets since 1969, and he claims a 19-year cross-country record of 190-3. Seven years ago the taxpayers paid $60,000 for the installation of an outdoor black and white synthetic Reslite 400-meter track at the high school. Mather and Bernards High's track and cross-country dynasty were such lures, in fact, that Carlotti's family moved into the district from Cedar Grove, 20 miles away, after John's sophomore year so he could participate in Mather's 11-month training program. "This is not our first great runner," says Mather. Indeed, he hopes to have five competitors under 4:20 for the mile this spring and to challenge national high school relay records in the 4x1,600, 4x1,500 and distance medleys. "Awesome," a word track coaches love to use to connote excellence, fittingly describes the depth of the Bernards squad.
Another likable kid, brimming with confidence, Carlotti got into running in the 6th grade through his mother, Laurie, who took him along to her fun runs on the road. She's now up to the marathon. Like Stahr, Carlotti won some short races early on and enjoyed the medals; his times plummeted and he won state titles. Thriving on Mather's big-mileage program (80 to 90 miles weekly during the late summer, including a 20-miler once a week) and strong training partners in his teammates, Carlotti even won the state cross-country championship at 5,000 meters this fall. (Stahr was second in his state cross-country meet.) Carlotti's best times on the track are 4:09.89 for the mile; 1:51.2 for 800 meters, and 48.7 for a 400-meter-relay leg.
"I coach eyeball to eyeball," says Mather. "Very personal. I try to get into a boy's soul. I don't kid them. They know I'm very serious about running." Ignoring traditional interval workouts for speed during the cross-country season, Mather reserves Tuesday afternoons for team time trials at various distances—3,000 meters, 1,500,800.
At the tail of the cross-country season, Carlotti's mileage drops to about 60 miles a week. He's out daily at 6 a.m. for an easy jog and then does the longer quality stuff with the team in the afternoon as he zeroes in on the Millrose, Stahr and becoming the fourth high-schooler to break four minutes in the spring.