When the field for the Tommy Cochary High School Mile race was announced last week, you may have noticed a couple of familiar names. Falmouth native Caleb Gartner, and Falmouth summer resident Bobby Carew, will be among the elite field of the best high school milers when the race is held tomorow on Saturday, August 17, at Falmouth High School. The high school races will follow the Aetna Elite Mile, which is being held at 5 PM.
Running with a home field advantage, the local pair feel like they’re playing with house money and want to put on a good show. With that in mind, they said that they’re entering the weekend with an aggressive mindset.
“We have no pressure in this race. We’re not expected to win. Anything that we do, we’re going to be performing well. We’re not going out there expecting to win. The people out there watching, those are my family and friends. They’ve been watching me for years. I want to make it a race,” Caleb said.
“It’d be nice to do really well,” Bobby said. “For me, it puts an impression on who I’m running against in the season because it’s a lot of public school kids and gives them an impression of what I’m going to be like, maybe put a little bit of fear in them. Who knows?”
In order to make things interesting, the pair said that they will work together to push the tempo early, challenging the other elite high schoolers to keep up.
“In years past it has gone out slow because kids don’t want to lead, and also they’re not in mile shape. So, we don’t want a sprint finish. Bobby’s an endurance runner, and I have speed, but not the speed that those guys have, so we need to make it a race and it’s easier to make it a race when you have somebody up there to push you,” Caleb explained. “People watching it, they don’t understand tactical racing. They want to see a fast time. They hate it when guys go out there and just jog three laps and then sprint the last one. What’s the point? Even as a runner, you don’t like to see that happen. When you’re in the race, you don’t really care—you’ll take it any way you get it, but I think that’s what people want.”
Running as a team is something that Caleb and Bobby have done together for years. Pounding out the miles along the back paths and roads can be a lonely endeavor. It’s even more so when you’re an elite athlete because there are fewer like-skilled runners to work out, and push, with.
Gartner found that to be true at a young age. A skilled distance runner, he transferred from Falmouth High School to the Middlesex School last year to run with, and against, top competition in his hope of competing at the Division 1 level in the future. “I need to be challenged. Sometimes being in the middle is good for me, and, running-wise, it’s very good,” he said. “As a private school, they can support more coaches and they have people who really care about how each [of their] people is running. There’s more people to help with the team.”
A part of the reason that he was able to reach a level where he was prepared to make that move was that he was fortunate to find himself a friend to train hard with at a young age.
Like Gartner, Bobby Carew of Milton is one of the premier high school-age runners in Massachusetts. About four years ago Gartner’s father, Ken, realized that Carew’s family summered in Falmouth, just around the corner from the Gartners. They met at the Falmouth Road Race that year and a friendship was born.
“Our dads got together and kind of realized that we were the same speed, and we just started training together,” Carew said. “I remember the first time that we ran together, we did not talk to each other. It was kind of awkward.”
Caleb laughed while recalling the initial outing.
“His mom drove him over and dropped him off, and my dad was like, ‘Okay, go run with this kid,’” Gartner chuckled. “We didn’t talk the whole run. It was a very long, silent run. Then he was leaving, and we were building a fort in the back yard and we started building the fort together. Then he called his brothers to come over and help, and with my brothers, it was just this troop of kids marching down the driveway and they were like, ‘Okay, we’re here.’”
Nowadays the runs are anything but silent. The two friends said that they chat throughout their training sessions about anything and everything and said that being thrown together at that young age has paid huge dividends.
“It was pretty cool because I had never had another person my age that I could consistently run with. When you’re 12, it’s not like you go over to someone’s house to go run every day,” Caleb said. “That first summer, we had no clue what we were doing. We’d ran around Long Pond; it’s six miles from the house, and it still tires us out. When we run Long Pond, we equate it to seven miles on the roads, because it’s so hard. It’s rough running. We did that every day for like three weeks until I got hurt and we realized that’s not how to run. We figured it out ourselves, I guess.”
After the summer of overdoing it around the pond, Bobby headed to Milton High School for his freshman year, where he learned how track athletes were supposed to train. He brought that knowledge back to the Cape when school let out the following June, and the friends began to work out smarter, and better, in their quests to be among the best in Massachusetts.
“We figured out what a scheduled week was like,” Carew said. “It kind of helped us to improve more and make the most out of the days we had in the summer together.”
During the summer they put in lots and lots of miles. The typical week sees them do multiple “short” runs of three or four miles—through Beebe Woods, or on the bike path, or their favorite spot along Surf Drive. On Sundays, they put in 12- or 13-mile training runs.
And, like most Cape Cod kids, they also work summer jobs. Bobby—who plays hockey for Milton High as well—said his summer job is his second workout of the day. He pushes shopping carts at Stop & Shop. Caleb works at The Black Dog on Main Street, which he joked was “not nearly as much of a workout.” He said his other workout has been building a chicken coop this summer, which has had its own set of challenges. “That’s my second job,” he said. “I spent a week digging; it’s tough to run when you’ve been digging.”
On Saturday night Tomorrow night, they’ll be digging in at the starting line with hopes of bringing a title home. Neither will have to go very far if they win.