Distance running isn’t for everyone. Then again, not everyone can breeze through a sub-5:00 mile like Cale Pirtle.
The East Jackson senior track standout has already set three school records this month as he puts the finishing touches to a stellar high school career this spring.
“I guess since I’ve been doing it for a while, I’m just used to it,” Pirtle said last week. “It doesn’t really bother me. I guess I’m good at it. That’s one thing. I think it’s fun, racing against people. Racing is definitely fun. The not-fun part is putting in all the training.”
But it’s been worth it.
Pirtle’s name stands prominently in the East Jackson record books after clocking a 2:00.36 in the 800 meters (March 20), a 4:38.30 in the 1,600 (March 17) and a 10:22.71 in the 3,200 meters (March 3) — all in a 17-day stretch — to establish new school marks.
“Last year, I didn’t really get to set any records and that’s what I was looking for,” Pirtle said. “But I got to set them pretty early, so I was excited about that.”
Brandon Banks previously held those records at East Jackson.
Pirtle’s contributions have been a welcome sight for veteran coach Tomy Sitton, who has taken over at East Jackson after years in Gwinnett County. Sitton points to Pirtle’s preparation for this year.
“I think he’s figured running out and I think he worked hard in the winter and he’s very coachable, so that helps a lot,” Sitton said.
With Pirtle’s ability in the 800 meters, 1,600 meters and the 3,200 meters, it presents an interesting but good dilemma for Pirtle: Which two of those three events does he choose at a track meet?
“Obviously, the mile is going to be one of them,” Sitton said.
Sitton said Pirtle needs to get his 800-meter time down to 1:57 if he’s going to move forward with that event over the 3,200. The coach believes Pirtle, by the end of the year, will be running around a 10-flat in the 3,200 meters “which is going to score higher at state.”
Pirtle has mixed feeling on which event he likes the best.
“I like the mile because of when I first started running and doing track, but I don’t know, two miles is a little bit easier I guess,” Pirtle said. “Not as much competition.”
While he enjoys the 800 meters, “it’s speed, and sometimes I won’t have speed after running a mile,” Pirtle said.
It should be noted that Pirtle ran his March 20 record-setting 800-meter time on fresh legs, a luxury he hasn’t enjoyed previously this year.
“He’s usually had to run something before the 800, so that gave him the opportunity to go out there and break it,” Sitton said.
Despite already breaking records, Pirtle still has lofty expectations the rest of the way.
“I’m hoping I can get the top in the state in the 16 (1,600 meters) and the 32 (3,200 meters),” he said.
Specifically, Pirtle’s aim is to run a 4:35 or better in the 1,600 meters and hopefully break the 10-minute mark in the 3,200 meters.
“I’m hoping whatever events we decide he’s going to run, that he can qualify from region to the sectionals and then from sectionals to the state,” Sitton said. “We’ve got to take it one step at a time obviously.”
Plenty more miles await Pirtle after this season as he’s signed to run collegiately at Truett-McConnell.
Pirtle said he attended a camp at Truett-McConnell prior to his freshman year and has liked the school ever since. There he’ll reunite with former East Jackson teammates Josh and Kevin Kesler.
“Yeah, I’ll miss high school, but it will be nice to get some more competition and get teammates to help push me along since they’ll be ahead of where I’m at,” Pirtle said.
Until then, he’ll continue leaving his mark at East Jackson. Sitton said Pirtle’s contributions go beyond just setting records.
“I’ve enjoyed coaching him, and I know that he’s been excited because he’s got more distance kids out this year,” Sitton said. “He’s a role model to them. He doesn’t have the official label of ‘captain,’ but I look at him as a leader and as a captain and so do the other guys. So that’s a big testimony to him.”