Jack Terwilliger found a way to stay in front of every pack he ran against in every race he ran this spring, and finished his high school career by establishing himself as the state’s top boys’ distance runner.
Could it have gotten any better? To the naked eye, no. But Terwilliger took the perfectionist’s approach when he evaluated his season.
“My top goal, which I didn’t get, was the state record in the mile,” Terwilliger said.
Nevertheless, the Cheverus graduate set this season’s standard for high school distance running. Undefeated in every regular-season race, Terwilliger, the Maine Sunday Telegram boys’ outdoor track and field MVP, won three events at the Class A outdoor championships: the 800 (1 minute, 59.03 seconds), the 1,600 (4:17.04 — Portland’s Sintayehu Taye set the Class A record of 4:09.69 in 2005) and the 3,200 (9:39.06).
In past years, Terwilliger was part of a cluster of talented distance runners, joining former standouts Will Geoghegan and Liam Cassidy of Brunswick, Henry Sterling of North Yarmouth Academy and Luke Fontaine of Cony, runners who typically led the pack Terwilliger ran in. He took a distinct approach to being one of the state’s standouts this season.
“I kind of knew the competition in the state wasn’t what it was last year,” said Terwilliger, who will run at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. “Last year there were a lot of guys that broke 4:20 (in the mile), and I ended up being the only one this year. I knew I’d be alone in the races I ran, but it was about getting the times for myself and trying to maintain my focus.
“It was harder than last year. This year, it was about staying ahead of the competition. Last year, it was about reaching for the competition ahead of me.”
“If I led, it was because I was going faster than the guy behind me.”
Terwilliger competed in the Class A cross country championships despite missing most of the fall as a result of iliotibial band syndrome (an inflammation of the tissue that runs between the knee and hip, down the side of each leg), then won two events at the Class A indoor championships. Terwilliger dominated in outdoor track, fighting off the lingering effects of an illness that nagged him through most of May, as well as a hamstring injury from the end of indoor track season.
“It wasn’t a big problem,” Terwilliger said of the hamstring injury. “But I don’t think I took as much time as I could have off. I was a bit irrational about it and I went into outdoor training too hard.”
During the indoor and outdoor seasons, Terwilliger trained on a schedule designed to reduce his mileage. He also did a lot of cross training. The regimen was designed by Coach Steve Virgilio and was aimed at helping Terwilliger remain healthy over the course of the spring.
“Most of my mileage was low, but I did it quickly at about a 6-minute-a-mile pace,” Terwilliger said. “Once I decreased my mileage, I was fine and I didn’t want to risk upping my mileage again.”
What stood out to Virgilio about Terwilliger more than his physical capacity was his psychological makeup.
“Some athletes battle with competition anxiety and fears, and that doesn’t bother Jack,” Virgilio said. “That’s what’s so impressive about him as an athlete and as a competitor.
“Everyone knows he’s one of the best runners in the state. Other athletes don’t have the competitive edge or the focus he has, but he also has the humility.
“The way he came into his own this season was having that approach, that character and that mentality. And he knows that if he does lose, it’s not the end.”
Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: