Passing the torch

John Crossley, right, recently broke the longtime county high school 1-mile record of Sonny Hyman. The West Carteret senior set a new mark of 4:14 to better the mark of 4:32 that Hyman set as a West runner in 1967. (J.J. Smith photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — Its seems entirely appropriate that John Crossley became the one to finally break Sonny Hyman’s longtime county high school 1-mile record.

He’s a fellow Patriot and one of the few who can match the legendary county runner in the humility department.

Crossley set the new record of 4:14 recently at a South Carolina meet. Hyman set his mark of 4:32 in 1967.

Other runners have bested Hyman’s time before, but those times came in the 1,600 meters, which is 9.3 meters shorter than the 1-mile. Jimmy Fish holds the 1,600-meter record with a 4:28 clocking.

And how does the West Carteret senior feel about breaking a 46-year-old record?

“I’m not gunning for records,” Crossley said. “I’ve just always wanted to push myself as hard as I could. That is all you can do. If you break records, great. If not, you can take pride in the fact you given it all you’ve got.”

Crossley adds the county high school 1-mile record to a long list of accomplishments.

His first foray into record-breaking territory came at Newport Middle School where he broke the county middle school 1-mile record with a time of 5:02.

His first two years at West were nondescript, but the past two have been anything but.

He captured the first of his two state titles as a junior, finishing the 800 meters in 1:54.48 to outlast Chapel Hill’s Chris Reeder (1:57.48).

His time ranked second among the four state meets (1A, 2A, 3A, 4A), trailing only Ronald Reagan’s Craig Engels in 1:54.43 and was just a few seconds off the 3A state record, set in 2010 by Asheville’s Isaac Presson (1:52.07), and the overall state record, set in 1980 by Hillside’s Greg Roseboro (1:51.39).

Crossley is just the fourth male athlete in school history to win a state track and field title, joining Anthony Beamon (2003, 400 meters), Jason Newman (1990, 1991, 800 meters) and Gary Parmeley (1977, high jump).

He then made his mark in the West record book with his cross country performances, becoming the first boys runner in school history to capture an east regional title, doing so in his junior year. He earned another regional championship this season.

He took it a step further this past fall when he became West’s first boys runner and the only boys runner in county history to capture state runner-up honors at the 3A state championships at Beeson Park in Kernersville.

In the process, he set the school record with a time of 15:54. Ryan Toler held the previous record of 15:55, set in 1999 at McApline Park in Charlotte.

Crossley, who has earned a running scholarship to East Carolina, was named the Coastal Conference Runner of the Year as a junior and senior.

This winter, he added a second state title to his collection when he dropped a 2:30.34 in the boys 1,000 meters to set a 1A/2A/3A state record and rank him fourth all-time on the state indoor list. His time was also the ninth best indoor time in the nation this season.

He will look to add more hardware to his trophy case on Saturday at the 3A state championships when he guns for gold in the 400 meters, 800 meters and 1,600-meter relay.

In addition to the middle school and high school county 1-mile and West cross country records, Crossley holds school records in the 400 meters (47.7) and 800 meters (1:51.02) and is the member of two school record relay teams (1,600-meter and 3,200-meter).

Those accomplishments present quite a résumé, one that can rival the list of accomplishments of Hyman, who Crossley met for the first time Thursday afternoon.

“I remember my freshman year, seeing his name on the school Hall of Fame board,” Crossley said. “I wasn’t into the running scene then, so I really didn’t know who he was. But just reading about him, it was pretty apparent he was a star in high school.”

Hyman has been a staple of Carteret County running since his days at West.

He went on to establish the highly respected St. Egbert Track Club. He taught physical education at St. Egbert’s Catholic School for 36 years. He and his late wife, Taylor, were instrumental in starting the Historic Beaufort Road Race, which last year set a record with 876 runners in its 32nd year.

He has competed in all but one of the Beaufort Road Races, often winning his age division. He finished second in the 60-64 age bracket last year with a time of 25:10.

He has run 20 marathons, including the Boston Marathon twice. He once finished third overall in the Virginia Beach Marathon. Additionally, the last time he ran the Boston Marathon, in 1993, he finished within the top 600 among nearly 20,000 entrants.

And, of course, he held the county high school 1-mile record for 46 years.

“It’s crazy, that record,” Crossley said. “For it to last that long, it tells you how good he was when he was at West.”

And how does the ever-humble Hyman, who can still be seen running over the Atlantic Beach bridge a few times each week, feel about his longtime record becoming a footnote?

“Just don’t make too big a deal of it,” he said. “Focus on this young man. I just loved to run. That is why I did it. It’s why I still do it.”

(1) comment


Wonderful article! John is a great runner and very humble. He has the drive and fire once he steps on the track though. He gives every race everything he has, same as Sonny has done. I wouldn't be the runner I am without training under Sonny for all those years. Congratulations John!

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