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Three of the nation's top high school distance runners made the best of a tough situation on Saturday after the cancellation of New Balance Nationals Indoor (NBNI) earlier in the week. Loomis Chaffee's (CT) Matthew Farrell, Manchester High School's (CT) Aidan Puffer and Conard High's (CT) Gavin Sherry all raced a 2-mile at Conard High.
After finding out late Wednesday evening that NBNI was canceled due to the spread of COVID-19, Farrell reached out to Sherry and Puffer the next day to see if they still wanted to race.
"At first it seemed like all these months of hard training were in vain," said Farrell, "but then I remembered why I run. It's not just about the racing, it's about the love of the sport and seeing the limits of the human body. For me, I truly believe the journey is the reward. I was still interested in testing my fitness, so shortly after I got the news NBNI was canceled I texted Gavin and Aidan. I just asked if they had any interest in getting together to race, then things started to snowball from there."
The senior was scheduled to race in both the 2-mile and 5K at NBNI while Puffer and Sherry, both sophomores, were entered in the 2-mile.
Farrell, a University of Princeton signee, keeps in touch with two-time Olympian Donn Cabral who went to Glastonbury High School (CT) and graduated from Princeton University in 2012. The Olympian offered to come out and pace the group through six laps.
"The running community and culture in CT are so strong and supportive," Farrell said. "A lot of that culture for me is built around Donn Cabral. The fact that a two-time Olympian is not just willing, but eager to come out to pace some high school runners says a lot about his character."
Puffer (left) and Sherry (right) battling down the final stretch.
The trio finished the unofficial race with Sherry taking the win in 8:52, Puffer placing second in 8:52, and Farrell placing third in 9:02.
For Puffer and Sherry, this just continues a friendly rivalry which has only just begun. "[I'm] very lucky to have fast guys in CT around my same speed," Puffer said. "Especially Gavin, as I will be racing him for another two years of high school."
For Farrell, with the future so uncertain and many governing bodies canceling events and whole seasons, this could be his last high school race.
"I hope this 'race' isn't the last race of my high school career," Farrell said. "While I feel truly blessed to have been able to accomplish what I have in high school, there is still a lot left that I feel I am capable of on the track before I graduate. If this does end up being my last high school race I will still be able to hold my head high. I will be grateful my last race brought people together during a very tough period of time and helped us forget, even for just a little while, about all the current hysteria in the world."
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