By Tom Pedulla—
There is no peeking in track. Or at least there should not be.
Coaches warn runners that even a furtive glance can cost them precious time while emboldening opponents to think that perhaps they are faltering.
Still, despite frequent reminders from Irvington Coach Chris Barry, Miles Demarest peeks. Even during a recent stiff workout in preparation for the Penn Relays, Demarest could not help but take a quick look back, even though he owned a comfortable lead and no teammate was threatening to overtake him.
It was a sign of how brightly the competitive fires burn within the Bulldogs’ star senior.
“I’ve always been incredibly competitive. Seeing someone beat me is my worst nightmare,” Demarest said. “Even if it’s a workout, I don’t want to lose to my teammates.”
So, he peeks. “For me, it spurs me on so much to see someone chasing me down,” he said. “It just makes me go quicker.”
Demarest scouts other teams and charts the performances of opponents on a spreadsheet. “He’s a fierce competitor. He’s very, very determined,” Barry said. “That’s not coaching. He just has that.”
The 6-0, 150-pound Demarest has come far since he joined the track program as a freshman and was a hard-working but raw talent. He finished eighth in the state last year in the 400-meter hurdles, his best event. He is the powerful anchor of the current four by 400-meter relay team that has Tristan Falk, Marcus Canton and Taoig Cypher performing capably ahead of him.
The relay team advanced to the prestigious Penn Relays at Franklin Field in Philadelphia by easily beating the qualifying standard of 3:40. They ran a season-best 3:34.98 at the Penn Relays and Demarest, in a tremendous effort, outleaned his opponent in a desperate finish to secure fourth place in their heat.
Demarest’s athleticism is not limited to track. He was a standout goaltender on the Bulldogs’ 13-2 soccer team and drew Division 1 interest in both sports.
He decided early that his college choice would be based on academics, not athletics. “It’s beautiful to go Division 1 and have that brand name, but I think there are more important things than to have that Division 1 appeal,” he said, reflecting a maturity beyond his 17 years.
Demarest has a 4.3 grade-point average. Barry, who has also taught him, describes him as “brilliant.” Demarest ultimately chose renowned liberal-arts college Claremont McKenna in Claremont, Calif. He plans to major in economics and is eager to work on Wall Street someday. He is committed to playing soccer at Division 3 Claremont McKenna.
“For me and my family, it was always up to the academic part rather than the athletic part,” he said. “You love playing your sport and that’s what you do. But, at the end of the day, very few people are going to be pro athletes.”
Demarest has thrived in every way during his time at Irvington, a small school that delights in knocking off foes with much bigger enrollments. The Bulldogs celebrated their first boys’ state cross-country championship last year. Then the girls’ soccer team rolled to a state title.
“For me, there is a culture at Irvington, whether it’s academic excellence or athletic excellence, that everyone shares in,” Demarest said.
He has embraced track because of the element of time. There are instances in which he has won but was disappointed because he failed to run the mark he had targeted.
“He’s very hard on himself, which is a double-edged sword,” Barry said. “It makes you better and it makes you set goals and never be satisfied.”
Still, that approach has undeniably worked for Demarest. “When you go out there and you run a good race, there is no better feeling,” he said, content that he has done everything possible to excel.
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