While outdoor track and field is viewed by many as “the main season,” opinions vary on how to go about the indoor season. Some treat it just like outdoors, looking to run and win everything, and there are folks like Toms River South boys head coach Brian Decker and his prized distance runner, Indians senior Chris Marco.
The duo got together before the indoor season began and decided that, in Marco’s own words, they were going to “play around with it” and see what happens. What that means is, Marco, the reigning 1,600-meter winner outdoors at the Ocean County, Shore Conference and NJSIAA South Jersey Group III Championships, as well as the Meet of Champions, would run a few select races against elite competition, try and drop a big time at some point and get himself ready for his final outdoor campaign.
“I think it went alright, indoors was okay,” Marco said. “I didn’t knock them dead and I know that. I had a few good races, but I also feel like there were some down races in there as well. I could’ve done better, but we went in with a plan and we stuck to it. Now for outdoors, we’re going to get the whole season under us. We’re starting to get serious now.
This past winter, Marco, last spring’s Asbury Park Press Boys Track Athlete of the Year, faced elite competition on a regular basis for the first time. He ran a 2:31.55 to finish third in the seldom-run 1,000 at the New Balance Armory Collegiate Invitational on Feb. 2 before running a 4:16.51 two weeks later for fifth in the Millrose Games Mile.
The highlight of the season came on Feb. 24 when the Notre Dame recruit dropped a 4:10.43 for the full mile to finish fifth at the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle. That times stands as the fifth-fastest indoor mile in New Jersey history. It also served as a valuable learning experience for Marco, whose racing style can vary depending on his competition.
“That race gave me confidence that I can run with the best kids in the country and I’m right there with them now,” Marco said. “The second lesson there would be that at the end of the race, a lot of people can kick. There’s going to be races where everyone in the field is going and if you don’t go with them, you get left. Just being able to roll with them and knowing I have the ability to react and be there is big.”
Last spring was a breakout season for Marco, who went 7-2 in championship races across all three distances, culminating with a 4:07.31 to win the MOC 1,600 against a formidable field. That mark was a meet record and the 12th-fastest outdoor 1,600 ever run in New Jersey, a state with a proud and lengthy distance running history.
Along the way, Marco won three races at the Ocean 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).
He picked up two second-place finishes at Group III in the 1,600 and 800 before his monster run at the MOC.
The difference between now and this time last year before all those great runs is now, everyone knows who Marco is and the bull’s-eye is on his back for everyone to go after. However, he doesn’t seem too concerned.
“It’ll be a little easier now,” Marco said. “I ran that huge 4:07 and I’ve seen the national-level competition. That was the point of indoors, getting used to the big dogs and being able to run with those guys. I’m ready to roll now.”