Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) senior and team captain Jonathan Norton is the first athlete from the school’s outdoor track and field team to qualify for the Nike National Championships during the 2022 season. Norton earned his qualifying time of 9:52.27 during a 3,000-meter steeplechase race held at SUNY Albany. He will race in the 2,000-meter steeplechase race during nationals in Eugene, Ore., on June 18.
According to Don Brown, MVRHS track and field head coach, the steeplechase is not a common race for Massachusetts high schoolers to compete in. The steeplechase is a foot race that includes obstacles.
“We had to find a couple [of races] out of state or on the collegiate level. Places where he can just run kind of unattached, get in there and see if he can get a time to qualify,” Brown said. He told The Times a conversion calculation needed to be made, since Jonathan ran in a 3,000-meter race rather than a 2,000-meter. If Jonathan ran a 2,000-meter steeplechase race, he would need a time of 6:25 or less to qualify, according to Nike Outdoor Nationals, rather than the converted cutoff of 9:55.
Jonathan approached his coach early in the season about participating in steeplechase racing.
“When I first started doing track, I really didn’t know what event I wanted to do, so I had done distance running. When I really started looking into races, I saw the steeplechase, especially at the Olympic level, multiple times, and I’m like, ‘I sort of want to try that.’ So then I went out and tried it for the first time,” Jonathan said. He first ran in an open steeplechase race held at Fitchburg State University, and came a few seconds shy of qualifying for nationals. That motivated Jonathan to really give the sport a go.
Despite additions to running, such as hurdles, Jonathan did not need to change much of his training. The race was still primarily running, and he would jump over hurdles the day before the event.
“He had a really good cross-country season and he’s a really strong runner, so the steeple does play to his strengths,” Brown said.
“It’s really awesome. I never thought I would be at the national level in really anything,” Jonathan said. “Being able to do it so early in the season is looking really good to hopefully placing well at that, and just finally seeing all of my hard work show up in performance.”
Jonathan plans to continue his athletic career after high school when he attends Connecticut College next year, which is a Division III school. Cross-country and track were already in the future, but now steeplechase may be another event he competes in.
“I’m super-proud of him. We talk a lot about ‘the quiet pursuit,’” Brown said. “The distance crew put a lot of miles in, and no one sees them. We get a lot done with very little. We don’t need a gym and all this stuff. You just need a pair of shoes and a watch.”
Brown told The Times “a small crew” from the team qualifying for nationals alongside Jonathan later in the season is a definite possibility.