Write-up by Jim Lambert
On Thursday Night at Monmouth University the second running of the Monmouth Mile, a summer sub-4 attempt following community miles, took place. And once again it was a great event furthering the sport.
Eric Holt put the finishing touches on an electrifying performance with a huge surge over the final 50 meters to break four minutes for the first time and pull off a stunning upset victory in the men's elite mile at the Monmouth Mile on Thursday night at Kessler Stadium at Monmouth University in Long Branch.
Full Men's Elite Race | Full Women's Elite Race
Holt, who runs for the Garden State Track Club and starred at Carmel High in N.Y. (Class of 2013) and Binghamton University, was mobbed by teammates, friends, coaches and fellow competitors after he stopped the clock at 3:58.88 to lead three runners under 4 minutes!
Holt, who said he's been an underdog his whole life, was overcome with raw emotion after the race, calling it the biggest moment of his career and a dream come true. He has been agonizingly close to breaking four minutes in the past, running a previous PR of 4:00.65 at the Adrian Martinez Classic in June of 2017.
Running against a loaded field that featured five runners who competed in the 1,500m at the USATF Championships last weekend and eight guys with sub 4 PR's, Holt stayed right near the front the whole way.
After pacesetter Jesse Garn, who owns a 1:45.04 800 PR and was teammate of Holt's at Binghamton, took the field through 400 (58.4) and 800 in 1:58 and change, Gorman, who starred at Christian Brothers Academy (Class of 2012), Dartmouth and Oregon, took charge with Napolitano (Red Bank Catholic Class of 2011/Columbia University) on his heels and Holt in third with 400 to go.
Holt, a true blood and guts runner, made a huge move with about 250 to go to take the lead, but Gorman quickly surged back in front. Gorman then hit the gas again as they hit the top of the homestretch, setting the stage for a breathtaking sprint to the finish.
With a very energetic crowd that lined the track along the final straightaway in a frenzy, Holt was still in second place and about five meters behind Gorman with 40 meters left. But Holt, who ran a 58.9 last 400, spilled everything he had left, digging down deep one more time as he opened up his powerful stride and willed himself to the front just a couple steps from the finish line.
Knowing he was about to pull off the biggest victory of his life, Holt tossed his right index finger in the air as he crossed the line, setting off a huge celebration on the track.
Holt took down some big names.
Gorman was a finalist in the 1,500m at the USATF Championships last weekend, and Napolitano and fellow former NJ high school stars Chris Hatler, fourth in 4:02.85, Ben Malone, fifth in 4:03.40, and Jeremy Hernandez, sixth in 4:04.59, all ran in the opening round of the 1500m at the USATF Championships.
"I dreamed of something like this my whole life,'' said Holt. "I knew my only shot to break four was to go after the win. It was painful, but I knew I had to pour everything I had into the last 100 meters to have a shot. This is all I've ever wanted, and have some many people to thank. I've been an underdog my whole life, and was again today. But this goes to show all the runners out there that if you want something bad enough and work hard enough, you can make your dream come true.''
In other highlights -
Joe Compagni, who retired last month after a remarkable run as Monmouth University's head XC and track and field coach, was honored during the meet. In his 24 years at the helm, Monmouth won a total of 58 conference titles and Compagni received numerous Coach of the Year awards.
McNair Academic head XC and track coach Matt Hogan won his heat in 5:47.99, nearly 30 seconds under his seed time of 6:15!!!