Haverhill High School senior Pat Fullerton celebrates after winning the mile run at Saturday’s 31st annual John Ottaviani Haverhill Invitational.

Halfway through the one-mile run in Saturday's 31st annual John Ottaviani Haverhill Invitational, Haverhill High senior Pat Fullerton — running in first place — looked over his shoulder and saw "no one" close.

Having passed 800 meters in about 2:10, Fullerton led the chase pack by about half the length of a football field. But instead of pursuing the 13-year-old meet record of 4:21.9, Fullerton eased up and cruised the final two laps to win the race in 4:32.27, about six seconds in front of runner-up Chris Brown of Chelmsford, who finished in 4:38.70.

"I actually wanted to break the meet record of Coach Mortimer (former Londonderry High runner John Mortimer, who holds the meet record, coaches the distance runners at Boston College)," said Fullerton, who met Mortimer last year when he went on a recruiting visit to Boston College.

"But when I looked back and didn't see anyone close, I decided not to kill it. I want to save it now, and focus on running fast later in the spring."

No doubt as the weather improves, fast times will come for Fullerton, who has run the second-fastest mile time (4:16.45) in Haverhill High School history, trailing school-record holder Mike Walukevich's time of 4:14.4 set in 1980, and who recently committed to attend Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., next fall.

While Fullerton was the runaway winner in the mile on Saturday, he probably will not be the leading man at Iona, which finished third in the NCAA Division 1 cross country championship. The Gaels are a distance running juggernaut and return their top five runners — three of whom hail from Kenya — and six of their top seven runners from the squad that took third at the NCAA cross country meet.

"Yes, Iona is loaded," said Fullerton, who won the mile at last year's Haverhill Invitational and who, three years ago at this meet, set the Haverhill High freshman mile record of 4:40.

"But I am very excited about going there. I had a good recruiting visit in the fall and they have a good program in what I want to major in (education)," Fullerton said. "I liked the campus. It's only about 10 minutes from New York City. I am excited about running in Van Cortland Park, where they have a lot of their home meets. I liked the coach and think I will improve by training with top runners. Also, they gave me a good (financial) package."

Iona has offered the equivalent of a two-thirds scholarship, said Fullerton, noting it was a better financial deal than was offered by the University of Louisville and Georgetown University, both of which had also expressed interest in Fullerton.

On Saturday Fullerton's first-place finish led the Hillies to fifth overall (46 points) in the 20-team meet, which is regarded as one of the most competitive early-season meets in the area. Reading High captured the team title with 67 points.

Haverhill High senior Corey Gobbi blitzed a fast early-season time of 50.88 to place second in the 400 meters. Junior Kyle Cruz finished third in the shot put (49-9.5) as did Dan Wang in the 2-mile (9:58.31), and the 4 x 100 relay team (45.67) of Peter Early, Dan Triplett, Andy Powell and Gobbi.

In addition, the Hillies 4 x 800 relay squad of Steve Cardarelli, Fullerton, David Odenwelder and Wang finished fourth in 8:36.58, and senior Early, who recently committed to attend the College of the Holy Cross next fall, where he will play football and compete in track, took fifth in both the high jump (5-8) and 100 meters (12.12 seconds).

While Fullerton was pleased with the early-season win, he has set his sights on fast times, including breaking school records in the 800, mile, and 2-mile, later this spring.

"That's the goal," Fullerton said. "Right now I feel like I am ahead of where I was last year at this time, so that's a good sign."

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