Regardless of the sport and the level, one monster performance in an important spot can change the perception of an athlete. In this case, the perception of Chris Marco as a distance runner changed and all it took was 4:07.31 on June 11.
In that span of time, the Toms River South junior went from a very talented distance runner who had yet to reach his full potential to an elite runner capable of defeating almost anyone in New Jersey.
That 4:07.31 won him the NJSIAA Meet of Champions 1,600. That time broke the meet record and left him as the 12th fastest 1,600-meter runner ever in New Jersey, a state with a lengthy and distinguished history at the distances.
That win came 10 days after he finished second in the Group III 1,600, a race where he admittedly fell asleep at the wheel a little bit on the third lap in running 4:12.80.
On June 11, he wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.
“The exact words going through my mind were, ‘I’m not losing the Meet of Champions,’ ” Marco said just moments after his MOC win. “I was hoping to go 4:09, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect it to go that quick. I came into the race knowing I had a chance to win and knowing that I had as good a chance as anyone else.”
A strong sophomore season outdoors followed by several quality runs indoors last winter set Marco up with some momentum and a considerable buzz entering this spring and he did not disappoint.
He began his championship season by winning three races at the Ocean County County Championships, the 800 (personal best 1:52.33), 1,600 (4:23.34) and 3,200 (personal best 9:25.58). That triple was followed by winning the Shore Conference 1,600 (4:14.0), South Jersey Group III 800 (1:53.48) and South Jersey Group III 1,600 (4:12.80).
The runner-up finish in the Group III 1,600 was followed by another runner-up showing in the Group III 800 in 1:53.29 that weekend before the MOC.
When it was all done, Marco went an impressive 7-2 in championship races across all three distances.