Newcomer leads team, breaks school running record


Photo Credit: Ms. Stacie Gallo

Breaking a school record during his first season on the Cross Country team, Owen Davitt sets his sights on running at the collegiate level.

by Michelle DeMaria, Staff Writer

A lone runner came out of the clearing and around the last curve of the Darlington County Park Course as spectators from all over the county looked on. Owen Davitt, a senior in his first season on the Cross Country team, finished his 3.1 mile race in 16 minutes and 37 seconds, setting a school record. Davitt hit his 2 mile mark in just over 10 minutes.

Not only did Davitt’s recent time at the dual meet against Harrison and Garfield break the 18 year standing school record for Darlington, but he also surpassed the fastest times ever run in Glen Rock history on both the Holmdel and Garrett Mountain courses. 

“During the race, I was not conscious of how far behind everyone else was and, after finding out, I was shocked. I assumed that a few of my teammates wouldn’t be far behind,” the now record-holding rookie said.

“My time that day was much faster than my previous times,” Davitt said.

Yet Davitt had humble beginnings.  He had played soccer for most of his high school athletic career and didn’t envision himself as a cross country runner, especially not a record holder.

“My times weren’t even close to the school record,” Davitt recalled, referring to times from earlier in the season. They had fallen in the 17:20 to 17:30 range. 

For the past three years, Davitt played soccer in the fall and ran track in the spring.

“Owen came out for cross country to help improve his 800 meter time,” said Ms. Stacie Gallo, the cross country coach who convinced Davitt to give distance a go. “In his one year of cross country, [he] will probably set every record on every course.

Past runners have come close to breaking the school’s record, including alumni Ryan Vandervalk (’15), who was shy by only three seconds. Vandervalk was known by his teammates and coaches as someone who lived to train and loved to run.

“Ryan always worked his hardest and pushed himself, not only during practices and meets. He would run and ride his bike on his own in order to compete to the best of his abilities,” said Hannah VanderWall (’17), member of the cross country team.

Davitt, on the other hand, takes a different approach.

“Outside of cross country, I do not do extra workouts or training,” he said. “I trust my coaches with the training they give me and do not want to overwork my legs.”

Had Davitt not waited until his last year to take up the sport, who knows where his speed and endurance in addition to his natural abilities could have taken him.

“If he had run for four years, or even just two years, he would have been the best runner we’ve had,” said Gallo, who predicted his time would have been sub-16 by now.

She compares Davitt’s natural ability to that of Ryan McCann, Glen Rock cross country team alumni, who got a scholarship to Duke University after setting the record at Holmdel in 2003.

Following in McCann’s footsteps, Davitt also intends to commit for running.

“I have been talking to many coaches and have an idea of where I would like to commit,” Davitt said in light of his recent win.

Although setting a new school record won’t single-handedly allow Davitt to qualify for any upcoming meets, Coach Gallo said this accomplishment “gives us a pretty good idea of where he’ll end up at counties and the state section.”

Where he’ll end up on that course, though, is still to be seen.

“The only thing that could hurt him would be his inexperience on the course,” Gallo said. “But in a foot race at the end, Owen has the speed to beat anybody.”

As for the Cross Country team as a whole, the varsity girls’ team finished undefeated, making them league champions, and boys’ varsity tied the league with Lyndhurst.