Charlie Stock has rapidly emerged as a strong candidate for the biggest breakout star in the state during this abbreviated indoor track and field season.
The junior at Westfield, who came into the season with PR's of 2:00.94 for 800m and 4:37.06 for 1600m, has crushed those PR's with a pair of very impressive victories.
Stock sliced a whopping 17 seconds off his 1600m PR when he used a big kick over the final 100 meters to run 4:21.3 and finish first at a Union County Pod Meet on Feb. 21 at the Bennett Center.
He came back last week at another Union County Pod Meet at the Bennett Center to run 1:57.0 to capture the 800m.
Stock, who gave up baseball after his freshman year, showed signs that he could have lots of great potential when he ran 2:00.94 to place second to Plummer at the county meet last winter. He followed that up with a strong XC campaign this past fall when he placed fifth at the county meet (16:41), and ran 17:07 at Holmdel Park.
NJ MileSplit recently tracked down Stock for an in-depth Q and A where Stock shared his thoughts about his big PR's, his decision to focus on running year-round, how he got started in the sport, his big goals, and a whole lot more.
So, lean back in your recliner, or stretch out on your couch and enjoy our latest installment of Feature Friday as we shine the spotlight on Westfield junior Charlie Stock.
Charlie Stock Interview
NJM: First off, congrats on your big PR's of 4:21 and 1:57 to start this season! Your previous best times were 4:37 and 2:00 from last indoor season, so that's obviously a huge drop. What's your reaction to the times you've run? Surprised or did you sense this was coming?
After my first two races, I was definitely surprised with my times. I didn't have too high of expectations going into them because of how long it has been since my last race and I was just trying to race my race. I was hoping to maybe go around 4:30 for the 1600m race so when I crossed the line at 4:21 I was very surprised and my first reaction was if I still had one more lap.
Going into the 800m race I definitely had some more confidence because I already had a fast time under my belt. I just went into that race just trying to win and not worry too much about my time.
What has been the biggest difference between yourself last year compared to this year? What do you feel has enabled you to drop your times so much?
The main difference between this year and last year is in my attitude going races, where last year I was trying to run for time and this year I have more confidence in my ability to stick with the front pack in races where I can go for the win.
I try to focus on running smart races and then the times will follow. I have also incorporated a lot of more strength training and core work on my own after practices, It has helped me feel much stronger during my races.
With these new PR's come new goals? What kind of times would you like to hit the rest of this season and this outdoor season?
With my past two races, I have almost hit my goals that I have set for the end of spring. With these already out of the way, I had to come up with some new ones. Some of my big goals for the end of spring would be around 1:53 for the 800m, 4:15 for the 1600m and 9:15 for the 3200m. But more important than times, I would really just like to stay healthy for the rest of the season. I would also like to make it far into the championship season and possibly medal at the MOC's.
I know you played baseball as a freshman? What's the plan this spring? Are you sticking with track or playing baseball, and what made you decide to choose the sport you've decided to go with in the spring?
Last spring was going to be my first season of spring track and first year that I wouldn't be playing baseball. After my sophomore cross country season, I started thinking about the idea of running in college and I knew that I would need to go all in on running to do so. I am very much looking forward to having my first season of spring track this year.
How exciting was it to finally compete again after missing the whole outdoor season? It was very exciting to get back on the track after having almost a year between track races.
After missing many cross country meets from our school getting shut down, it is nice to have some high quality meets this winter. I wasn't really expecting much of a winter season besides some time trials and maybe some dual meets, so getting these county meets have been really fun running against some great competition.
Unfortunately, there wasn't an outdoor season last spring because of COVID-19, so you didn't get a chance to run outdoor track last spring. How challenging was that and how tough was it mentally to deal with?
It was very disappointing not having a spring season last year because we were in the middle of building up our fitness and the team was looking good going into the spring. It was also very hard to see the seniors on our team miss out on their last chance to run in high school. Training during the spring by myself was also very challenging mentally, it almost felt like I wasn't working toward anything because I had no races to train for and nobody to train with.
What type of things did you do to stay sharp since last indoor season? What kind of training did you do?
Since last indoor season I have tried to stay consistent with my training and made sure to get my runs in every week when we had to run on our own. I also tried not to take the training too seriously because I didn't want to burn out and wanted to enjoy the process. Most of my summer training would consist of easy longer runs to build a strong base and when the season rolled around we would start to implicate more and more workouts. We made sure to take a long break after XC because we knew it would be a long build up to spring, taking indoor as almost a base building season so we would be ready for outdoor.
What has practice been like at Westfield this indoor season? Did you guys shovel off the track or did you have to run in the school parking lots and hallways etc?
We just got a brand new track and we are not allowed to shovel it. Since the start of winter, we have been warming up in a parking lot and doing all of our runs and workouts on the roads. We had to cut down the millage a little because of all of the hard surfaces to make sure we stay healthy. Now that the snow is finally almost gone, it feels good to be back on the track.
You've competed in the 800m, 1600m, and the 3200m? Which race is your favorite and why?
I enjoy all of the races on the track but if I had to choose one, it would probably be the 1600m. The 1600m is very challenging because you need to incorporate lots of speed as well as you need to run a smart and efficient race. You've shown great race tactics and a strong finishing kick in your two victories this season.
What do you consider your greatest strength as a track and field athlete?
I think one of my greatest strengths as a track and field athlete would be my consistency with my training and my love for the sport. These two things go hand in hand in order to become a successful distance runner. In order to get yourself out the door every day, you have to love what you are doing. You have to make running everyday something you want to do and not something you have to do. If running starts to become a chore then the process is a lot less enjoyable so I try to make running as fun as possible.
Let's get into some background, Charlie. Can you tell me how, when, and why you first got started competing in track and field? How did it all begin?
Going into my freshman year, I was planning on playing baseball in the spring and didn't have anything going on in the fall. My step brother ran cross country for one year and talked about how awesome the team was so I decided to give it a shot.
I didn't have any running experience going into the season and had no idea what would come from it. After my first season of cross country, I decided to run winter track and had a blast and kept improving every race. I would still play baseball freshman year but in the back of my head I knew that I would eventually need to run spring track if I wanted to become a better runner.
I would ultimately make that decision after running in my first championship cross country race my sophomore year. I knew that running was something I really enjoyed and wanted to do for all three seasons.
When would you say you had your first huge breakthrough moment when you realized you could be a very good track and field/XC athlete?
The first time I really realized that I was improving was in the summer of cross country season my sophomore year. After playing baseball in the spring, I went into the summer out of shape but very motivated to train. One of my big goals that season was to make the varsity team, with not even being a top 7 JV returner this was a lofty goal for not running spring track.
That summer, I was very dedicated to building a strong base and staying as consistent as possible. When the season started, I would quickly see all of my hard work paying off as I was running with people who were much faster than me the previous year. I would ultimately become the 8th man on the varsity team and after a devastating injury to one of our teammates, I had my chance to run during the championship season and even score during the group meet.
Who is your favorite college/pro runner to watch and why?
I have many college and pro runners who I follow, and my favorites would have to be the runners from New Generation Track and Field and WesFly Athletics. It is fun to watch runners such as Cooper Teare, Cole Hocker and Everett Smulders tearing up the NCAA and setting records almost every time they step on the track. The thing I respect about them the most is that their goals aren't just to run fast times, but to grow the sport. They are providing quality content and races that are accessible to all, ultimately making track and field more popular.
What do you love the most about being a track and field athlete?
One of my favorite things about being a track and field athlete is the process of improving and how much work it takes. Distance running in track and field is not one of those sports where you can just join and instantly be good at it. You have to be consistent and train all year round to make improvements. Seeing your hard work over the years pay off is also one of the most rewarding things about Track and field.
Westfield has one of the greatest traditions in the state when it comes to distance running. What does it feel like to be part of one of the top programs in NJ, and how motivated are you to help carry on the rich legacy?
It is great running at Westfield, having great coaching with Coach (Chris) Tafelski and amazing teammates to train with every day makes practice something I look forward to every day. Not many teams in the state have the size of Westfield XCTF, having over fifty teammates travel on their own to go to championship meets and cheer everyone on is always a great feeling and not many teams can experience. It is also amazing having a strong training group to run with, it is great having a top training group of 6 or 7 guys who all have similar goals and get along well during and after practice.
What's your biggest long-term goal in track and field in college and beyond?
I would really like to just stay healthy and never lose interest in the sport of running, I want to make it a part of my daily life for as long as I can. Another goal similar to most track and field runners would be to break 4 min in the mile at some point in my life. I feel that a sub 4 mile is a staple achievement for many serious runners.
What type of things do you like to do when you're not practicing, racing, or doing schoolwork?
Especially with COVID, there is not much I am able to do outside of practice and school. One thing that many members of the team have been a part of is the Environmental Conservation Club at our high school. Teammates Will McGlynn, Ben Hacker, Zach Ashare and I all having positions in the club. It is a great way to help out our local parks and have some team bonding. Although with COVID restriction, it is very challenging to make the club interactive this year.