ANDOVER — After holding the record for 40 years, former Methuen star John Janowski knew he had to be in attendance to watch another Ranger, record-setting Mike O’Donnell, take down his mark.
“My high school track coach, (Roger) Fuller is still the coach today and he called my father,” said Janowski. “He said, ‘I think Mike is going to break your record. How would you like to come down for the race?’ I thought it was fantastic. I was hoping, if he broke the record, he was going to beat it by a large margin, and he did.”
O’Donnell certainly did not disappoint.
The star Ranger senior blazed to victory in the mile in 4:17.76 yesterday, shattering the Andover Boosters Meet record of 4:24.5 set by then-Methuen senior Janowski in 1973.
“It was definitely a very special day,” said O’Donnell. “Coach has been talking to me about this record since last year and I really wanted it. So to do it today, with John — who didn’t have to come — here and coach Fuller here is definitely big.”
With O’Donnell firmly established as a star — he is a three-time Eagle-Tribune Player of the Year — Fuller knew the chances were good yesterday was going to be a memorable day.
“I called John up to say, ‘How about this scenario?” said Fuller, now in his 43rd year coaching the Rangers. “It’s been 40 years since he set the record, and now we have Michael that can break it. I asked John if he could come, then I presented it to Michael. He knew how much it meant to me. It was a great setup as long as it worked out.”
The UConn-bound O’Donnell answered the bell, and after winning was embraced by both Fuller and Janowski.
“Mike is a fantastic runner,” said Janowski, who also ran at the Lowell Technological Institute (now UMass Lowell) and now lives in Reading. “I think the sky is the limit. He has the mindset, he has the build. I just told him to run as fast as he can and have no regrets.”