In track and field, the 800-metre run is a hybrid, a race that is definitely not a dash but can’t quite be considered an endurance event.
“It’s kind of just a relaxed sprint,” regional high school senior Jeremy Alley-Tarter said last week, in between warming up for a workout. “You go out fast, but you don’t really decrease speed.”
The same could be said of Alley-Tarter’s own running career. On Saturday, the track and field captain made his third straight appearance in the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletics Association all-state meet, competing in the 800. He was the lone Vineyard athlete participating this year. The field is determined by placement in divisional meets, and just 26 runners in the entire state high school track pool qualified for the 800.
Alley-Tarter finished the race in 1:54:94, the sixth-fastest time in the state. It was his career best time, smashing the regional high school record, which he has now broken no fewer than four times.
Not too bad for the last high school race he’d compete in—and given his history of breaking records, the only way to go out, really. He graduates holding not only the regional high school record but the meet record for the New Bedford Sunset Invitational (which he set this year) and that of the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association freshman/sophomore meet (which he set two years ago, earning Athlete of the Meet honors).
Alley-Tarter’s success is all the more given that his competition has only gotten better throughout high school. Last year, he was the division four champion in the 800, with a time of 1:58.07. And this year, though he bested his own time (1:57.70), it was good enough only for third in the meet. The competition knows he’s the one to mark on the track.
“They’re kind of expecting you to be right out there,” Alley-Tarter said. It can create pressure, he said, especially given that his preferred style is to sit back (relatively speaking) and wait to make his move in the last 200 metres.
“It’s a very difficult distance because your body is battling with itself,” said Joe Schroeder, who has coached Alley-Tarter for four years in both track and cross country. “It wants to switch over to different systems- the race is demanding mentally and physically.”
Alley-Tarter, Coach Schroeder said, has “always been able to train on his own.” This past winter, he organized a group of Vineyard runners to compete off-Island in indoor track, which made for a demanding schedule but “definitely paid off,” Alley-Tarter said.
“He’s a true team guy,” Coach Schroeder said. “You wouldn’t think that with the one-event speciality.”
In the fall, Alley-Tarter competes in cross-country, a sport he has a “love/hate relationship” with, according to Coach Schroeder, but one that is invaluable training-wise. “He’s grown to like the distances—where the amount of work you put in equals the what you get out of it. It’s a good base for track and field.”
It was with the longer distances that Alley-Tarter got his start as a runner. As a fifth-grader he entered the Oak Bluffs Memorial Day fun run, knocking out a mile in a brisk 5:58, nearly a full minute faster than any of the other kids in the race. The time caught the attention of one of the race timers, who encouraged Alley-Tarter to participate in the Junior New England Olympics. Two months later, Alley-Tarter was running in the national junior Olympics championships, where he posted a 5:01 in the 1500 meter run, good enough for first place in his heat (“I was in the slower one,” he said).
Alley-Tarter joined an off-Island running team and continued with track as a middle school student in Oak Bluffs, coached by his father Richard, a former middle-distance runner himself who competed for Iona College.
Once he entered high school, Alley-Tarter switched to the 800 full-time, partially because there were barely any runners in the event.
“I was used to the event, and we needed someone to run,” he said. Between freshman year and senior year he had a growth spurt of about seven inches. “That would slow a lot of guys down,” Coach Schroeder said. “And we had some issues early on, but worked it out.”
Alley-Tarter said that as a younger runner, he “trained a little too hard,” and now would stress to incoming teammates that “you have a lot of time.”
And his own running career will continue, as he suits up for the cross-country and track teams at Assumption College in Worcester in the fall. There are more records to chase.