Diana Tapper and her husband, Jason Gorevic, are runners. Tapper has done a full marathon and numerous half marathons. Gorevic has three full marathons to his credit.
But after their son, Jonah, who’d garnered the nickname “Dash” after the faster-than-light, animated Incredibles character, ran a 5K faster at age 7 than his mother ever had, Tapper asked her husband when he thought Jonah would beat him. The former Penn soccer player speculated it would take three years.
It took one. Last year, Jonah set the world record for 10-year-olds in the mile at 5:01.55 at the Adidas Grand Prix.
That performance earned him a, “Way to go boy” Twitter mention from Olympic silver and bronze 1,500 medalist Bernard Lagat.
Earlier this month, Jonah, who just completed sixth grade at Hackley School, broke the mile record for 11-year-old, clocking 4:51.85. That record had stood for 38 years.
And last weekend, the Rye resident won the 800-, 1,500- and 3,000-meter races for 11- and 12-year-olds at the USATF NY Junior Olympic Track & Field Championship.
“He’s extremely competitive and goal-oriented,” Tapper said. “When he sets his mind to something, he pushes through.”
“He runs these races primarily by himself,” his coach, Carl Curran, said, referring to the distance Jonah puts between himself and the rest of the field. “He runs on motivation and training.”
Jonah, who finished fourth at the AAU Nationals 2-kilometer race for 8-year-olds with little training, doesn’t consider himself a freak of nature but, rather, a product of it.
“My theory is my dad played soccer and was good at sprinting. My grandfather was a really good long-distance runner,” he said. “I think the genes kind of mixed in me.”
Curran, who has coached Jonah for three years, this past year with the Tailwind Track Club, credits genes and hard work. He also characterizes Jonah as a “student of the sport.”
Jonah works with Curran three days a week, logging a maximum of 15 miles in all.
That doesn’t include his running on the soccer field, where he plays left middie for the Mamaroneck Tornados.
Indeed, the 11-year-old is very much a normal 11-year-old, who, his mother noted, misses track if he has a soccer game. This summer, he’ll attend regular sleep-away camp, like he always does, his focus more on being a kid than on the clock and finish line.
“Track is not his full focus. Today I feel like kids specialize (in a sport) so early and he’s 11,” said his mother, who noted Jonah also enjoys taekwondo and video games.
Jonah’s parents first registered him with a track club three years ago simply because he loved to run.
“I used to run everywhere I went and I just would not stop running,” Jonah said. “I was just running to run. Now that I know that I can run that fast, I have goals.”
While Jonah has run right into the record books, his parents make sure things are kept in perspective.
“We always take everything with a grain of salt,” Tapper said. “Is there a kid in Kenya who can run faster? Potentially. Maybe. We tell him it means you have the fastest recorded time. Our job is to bring him down to earth, so he does not have a big head.”
Curran, whose club includes 42 kids, ages 6-14, thinks Jonah has a good shot at the world mile record of 4:43 for 12-year-olds.
He said promising young kids often end up dropping out of track or not doing well probably because they are “overworked, over-trained or injured, or both.”
“Jonah and I have an agreement that he will stay motivated and healthy,” though that would go “against the odds,” he said.
But, if he makes it, Curran believes Jonah will run for a top Division 1 college.
“Our goal is for him to be an elite runner. I think he’s got super potential,” Curran said. “I’ve got five or six national-caliber racers on the team. Jonah has something extra, something special.”
Jonah doesn’t seem to think of himself as special, in part wondering how long his mile records will last.
“There’s some fast kids out there, so we’ll see,” he said.
But he’s intent on continuing to pursue his favorite sport and on getting faster.
His goal is to run in high school and college and then at even a higher level.
“Beyond,” he said, “is sort of what I’m going for.”