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Archbishop Wood’s Gary Martin runs for final time as a high school student

It's been a dream season on the track for Gary Martin and it ended with a win.

Archbishop Wood’s Gary Martin, positioned in first on the third lap for the one mile run championship at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Sunday, June 19, 2022.
Archbishop Wood’s Gary Martin, positioned in first on the third lap for the one mile run championship at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pa., on Sunday, June 19, 2022.Read moreTYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer

The return of Gary Martin to Franklin Field was a big day Sunday for family and friends but most importantly, it was a chance for his coach to see him finish what will go into the history books as a legendary high school season.

Archbishop Wood coach Paul Streleckis watched his star pupil race the mile for the final time as a high school athlete with a clocking of 4 minutes, 3.57 seconds in the New Balance Outdoor National Championships. It wasn’t Martin’s third sub-4-minute performance of the season, but it was a victory.

Streleckis might have been the happiest person inside Franklin Field on this breezy, but otherwise delightful day for running. He underwent surgery on June 9 for prostate cancer, an affliction that he had kept secret from his team from much of the spring. Sunday was the first time he has traveled anywhere.

“Mentally it feels great,” he said. “I’ve been doing nothing, just sitting on the couch, so it’s been great to get back out and do something, at least feel somewhat productive.

“Watching his last race is bittersweet, obviously. I’ve got to thank God that I had the ability to be here today. But then the thought about it being his last race, I got to see it up close and personal like this and be involved in it. He won a national championship.”

Martin said having his coach watch his last race “meant a lot” to him.

“This means the world having him here in my last meet,” he said. “My family, my friends came out. That’s the benefit of being so close to home. You can have all your loved ones and your friends and family here, so it means the world to have them all here supporting, especially my coach who’s been here for me for the past four years.

“It’s incredible that he’s out here after having surgery almost two weeks ago. It’s amazing to have him here.”

Martin, whose previous mile race was a personal best 3:57.89 on June 2 at the HOKA Festival of Miles in St. Louis, broke out immediately behind a runner who was to set the pace for the first two laps before dropping out. But he was only at 2:03.25 at the halfway point, and realized sub-4 was possibly out of reach on this day.

» READ MORE: Gary Martin runs a second sub 4-minute mile to set a personal record, as history is made at the Festival of Miles

“We went out a little slower than intended,” he said. “I couldn’t run a 56-second lap after that to get myself back on pace because them I’m going to blow out. I ran 59, which was pretty fast, but at that point I’m thinking I was pretty well off.

“I would have had to close spectacularly fast to go under. So I was like, let’s just run a smart race and get the win. It’s a national meet. You want to win.”

Rocky Hansen of Arden, N.C., a high school junior who ran a career best 4:00.76 last month, took second in 4:06.21.

In his first mile at Franklin Field a little more than seven weeks ago, Martin ran pretty much by himself aiming at going sub-4 but posted a time of 4:01.04, a Penn Relays record. He reached the coveted mark on May 14 running 3:57.98 at the Philadelphia Catholic League championships, and slightly lowered that total in St. Louis.

He thought about another sub-4 going into Sunday but he adjusted given the slow early pace.

“I came into this race with the idea of, I’ve got nothing left to prove,” he said. “I’ve run 3:57 twice, I’ve run a fast 800, I’ve run a fast 3,200. This is just kind of the cherry on top. I wanted to take a shot at one of the faster PR. But I’m not upset about it. I’ve just got to adjust and run my race and that’s what I did. I’m pretty happy about it.”

So was his coach.

“He beat a real quality field, it just wasn’t his day to run a really fast time,” Streleckis said. “It wasn’t a plan, but a win’s a win.”

» READ MORE: Top high school milers Gary Martin and Colin Sahlman will race in the 800 meters. Why not the mile?

Notes. Seth Clevenger of Haddonfield, who won the 3,200 meters at Saturday’s New Jersey Meet of Champions, captured sixth place in the mile. … Sanaa Hebron of Neshaminy took seventh place in Sunday’s 200-meter girls’ final in 24.24 seconds. The PIAA champion in the 300-meter hurdles, she finished second in Saturday’s 400-meter hurdles. … Two-time state champ Joey Gant of Pennridge notched fifth place in the boys’ 200 final. … George Washington High School’s Shaun McCoullum posted a double in the freshmen 100 (10.96) and 200 (22.17). … Olivia Cieslak of Haverford Township won the freshman girls’ mile in 5:01.70. … Jason Nwosu of Delsea Regional took third place in the boys’ shotput with a toss of 63 feet.