Donn Cabral was a track star at Connecticut’s Glastonbury High School, about two hours northeast of New York City. After that, he was a track star at New Jersey’s Princeton University, about an hour southwest. Never all that far from the Millrose Games, but never quite close enough, either.
He’s only been to the meet once. As a fan. Who would have much rather been racing than watching.
When Cabral lines up Saturday night at 9:50 p.m. for the NYRR Wanamaker Mile, the signature event of the 106th Millrose Games, the wait will be over, and the timing is as good as it gets. Not only will he be competing at a venue where he’s enjoyed huge success, but he’s also coming off his first sub-four-minute mile, set just last weekend.
Cabral, a 2012 U.S. Olympian in the 3000-meter steeplechase, clocked 3:56.41 on the oversized track at the University of Washington Husky Classic, slashing his personal best by more than 3.5 seconds.
“I hadn’t really thought too much about the four-minute barrier,” said the 23-year-old in a telephone interview yesterday. “But now that I did it I’m surprisingly proud of myself and excited, because I think in a race like Millrose with the crowd going crazy, and being on my favorite track and with a faster pacesetter, I have to think I can run faster.”
Among Cabral’s triumphs on that track—at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory—are a pair of national titles: In 2007 he anchored his high school distance medley relay team to a Connecticut state record and a victory at the National Scholastic Indoor Track Championships there, and in 2008 he won the 5000-meter national crown at the same event.
“Every time I’ve been at the Armory,” he said, “it’s always been a positive experience.”
Another positive experience for Cabral is a recent move to Bellingham, WA, with its city trails, wooded outskirts, and nearby Cascade Mountains. The weather is great for distance running, he said, and it doesn’t even rain as often as he’d been told it does.
The purpose of the cross-country move was to reunite with his high school coach, Peter Oviatt, in whom he says he has “complete faith. He’s absolutely brilliant and is a very good motivator. My first priority is to have the best coaching and direction that I can access, and the second priority would be the training partners. Right now I’ve got my first priority covered.”
Never one to race or work out well on his own, Cabral hopes that the second priority will take care of itself, one way or another.
“When things get intense, I’m going to have to either develop the ability to work out on my own or find some athletes who are willing to join me. Hopefully with some success this year I can find some people who would be interested in training with me. Maybe it’s a leap of faith for them, but I think [Oviatt] is going to be a really successful coach, and I think I have big things in store as long as I stay with him.”
Cabral hopes the next “big thing” will come on Saturday night in Upper Manhattan, where he should have quite a following. An eight-time All-American, Cabral finished his 2012 season at Princeton undefeated, setting the NCAA steeplechase record of 8:19.41 and winning the first NCAA individual track title for Princeton since 1934. He said he expects, in addition to his parents and sister, about 20 Princeton guys in the stands—though with Wanamaker rival and New Jersey native Robby Andrews now an assistant coach there, the cheering section may have dual loyalties.
Maybe, Cabral says, instead of splitting their cheers, the Tigers will just cheer more in total.
He is hoping to give them plenty to cheer about.
“I’d say a conservative hope would be to PR,” Cabral said, when asked about his Wanamaker goals. “I hope to run 3:55 or faster.
“And if that’s my conservative hope, I shouldn’t tell you what my extreme hope would be.”