06/24/11 3:30pm

VICTOR SAILOR PHOTO | Tyler Cardillo leads Myles Andrews of Long Beach Poly with 300 meters to go at New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C. last Friday.

Tyler Cardillo’s 4X800 meter relay team broke the national high school record Friday at the New Balance National High School Track and Field Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. Cardillo, a summer resident of Shelter Island from Punta Gorda, Florida, ran a sizzling 1:50.1 anchor leg for his high school team, the Charlotte Tarpons. Charlotte bested the previous 7:30.67 record with a 7:30.31, but that was not enough to hold off the nationally number-one ranked Long Beach Poly’s 7:28.75.

In one of the most exciting races of the Championships, the heavily favored California team had as much as a 60-meter lead halfway through the second leg. The predicted rout by the number-one team in the nation was unfolding as predicted. But the number-six ranked Tarpons would have none of it.

Charlotte’s Anthony Borrego handed off to Bryan Hilgar after a 1:55.6 leg, Hilgar ran a quick 1:53.2 to close the gap to 40 yards. Junior Ryan Schnulle made up the deficit with a 1:51.4 and gave Cardillo a two-step lead to start the anchor leg.

Cardillo ran a very fast 51.6 first 400 meters with Poly’s Myles Andrews on his shoulder. Andrews made a move for the lead at 500 meters but Cardillo reached down and opened a two-stride lead down the backstretch, passing 600 meters in 1:18. Andrews closed to Cardillo’s shoulder and, with 60 meters to go. Tyler’s legs began to give out from the torrid pace.

Andrews capitalized on the lactic acid build-up in Cardillo’s legs. He inched past the Charlotte senior to the finish, clocking a 1:47.7, the fastest 800 run by a scholastic runner in 2011. Cardilloʼs 1:50.1 was his fastest 800 ever.

CLIFF CLARK PHOTO | Ryan Schnulle (1:51.42) hands off to Tyler Cardillo to anchor the Charlotte High School 4X800 meter relay with a 1:50.08 leg at the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro last Friday.

Cardillo said after the race, “This is unbelievable. We came here hoping to break the all-time Florida record of 7:37 and to make the top six teams to get All-American honors. We only fantasized about a national record performance. It feels like a dream.”

The race closes out a true fantasy high school career for Cardillo, whose father, Gary, has been coming to Shelter Island every year since he was a child. In Tyler’s senior year alone, he led the team to second place in the States and got third individually; made high school All-American, with a third place in the mile at the Indoor Nationals with a 4:13.4; won the outdoor Florida State 1600-meter title with a 4:11.2; anchored a state record 4X800 meter relay team; led his team to its second consecutive overall 3A state team title; and got his second All-American award with the national record-breaking 4X800 meter relay team.

Cardillo will begin classes next week at the University of Florida, where he will study medicine and run track — and it all started here on Shelter Island in the summer of 2008 at Fiske Field, when Cardillo started training with his father’s friend.

Cliff Clark of Shelter Island is the father’s friend who has coached Cardillo throughout his high school career. — Ed.

06/15/11 9:44pm

JON KILB PHOTO | Tyler Cardillo about to break away in the anchor leg of Florida State Championship 4X800 meter relay in May. The team ran 7:40.4, a new state record, ranking it fourth in the nation. His time was 1:51.9 for his leg.

Tyler Cardillo, a Shelter Island summer resident, excelled in soccer when he first took up sports seriously in eighth grade at Catholic school in Florida. But he took part in a Catholic middle schools track and field event just for fun and liked it so much -— maybe because he won the state championship, with no training, soon after inhaling a Cuban sandwich — he started thinking about taking up track and field when he moved on to Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda.

His father Gary has summered at Westmoreland since 1960, and Card’s Cabins before that, and lived on the Island full-time for a while after college. He knew just what to do about his son’s new interest: call his old friend Cliff Clark on Shelter Island for advice.

Mr. Clark, well known on the Island for his high school track coaching and his younger days as an Olympic candidate for the Air Force, took Tyler into his small training group that summer four years ago. “It was clear he was talented,” Mr. Clark recalled.

He would go on to become Tyler’s virtual coach through high school, having hundreds of phone and email exchanges with Tyler’s real coach in Florida, Chris George, and always in person before and during the state meet each year.

Tyler would go on to become a track star who will run Friday at the New Balance Outdoor National Track and Field Championship at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. It’s the reason why Mr. Clark will be out of town and missing the Shelter Island 10K race this Saturday for the first time in 13 years. Mr. Clark is a co-founder of the annual event.

Tyler, who is graduating this year with a 4.10 GPA and starting the University of Florida in Gainesville next week with track and academic scholarships, is the Florida State 3A champion in the mile with a time of 4:11.1. According to Mr. Clark, he is “incredibly fast,” running the 5,000-meter event in 15:10 and the 800 meter relay in 151. He was third in the nation at the New Balance Indoor Championship in February at the New York Armory, for which he was named to the high school All-American team.

COURTESY CLIFF CLARK | From left, Tyler Cardillo’s father Gary, mother Gail, coach Cliff Clark; Tyler’s girlfriend Sarah Spahn, the 2010 Florida State Cross Country Champion; and Tyler Cardillo at the 2011 Florida state championships in Winter Park on May 6.

“He’s just an amazing kid,” Mr. Clark said, crediting Tyler with helping to create a strong track and field program at Charlotte High School. Mr. Clark credited Tyler’s coach for his willingness to let him take part in Tyler’s training. “I couldn’t do it and wouldn’t do it without a coach’s complete support,” he said. “Chris George has been just fantastic.”

For Tyler, Cliff Clark has been an inspiration. “He has been a tremendous help to me,” he said Monday of Mr. Clark. “I wouldn’t be anywhere if it weren’t for Coach’s training mentally, physically and spiritually. He definitely brought me to a place I couldn’t be without him.”

Tyler, who was on the Island this week with the Clarks ahead of his big meet in North Carolina, grew up in Florida, where Gary and his wife Gail are experienced and successful realtors. He said he had worked out four times at the East Hampton High School track, “just some light stuff, strides and miles.”

His father thought it was just like Mr. Clark to credit Tyler with building the track and field program at Charlotte. He said Mr. Clark had a lot to do with it himself. The first year Tyler ran there, he was the only athlete to make it to the regionals and the states. But “the coach met with Cliff and came away with two-and-a-half pages of notes,” Mr. Cardillo said in a phone interview, brimming with plans and ideas for workouts and training regimes. Charlotte is now the two-time defending state champion.

Mr. Cardillo, like his son, said Mr. Clark’s coaching was about more than athleticism and strength. “The life lessons he has taught along the way go way beyond running,” he explained. “He trains psychologically as well as physically.”

05/18/11 9:37pm

JON KILB PHOTO | Cardillo finishes the anchor leg in the 4x800 relay, helping his team to win the state championship.

Shelter Island summer resident Tyler Cardillo officially became Florida’s fastest high school miler  on May 6, when he took the gold at the Florida High School Athletic Association championships at Showalter Field in Winter Park, Florida. He broke the tape with a time of 4:11.27, his personal best.

He also ran the anchor leg for his 4×800 meter relay team to help win the state championship in that event for the second year in a row.

Cardillo’s relay teammates are Anthony Borrego, Bryan Hilgar and Ryan Schnulle. The boys finished in 7:40.44, about 3 seconds shy of the state record, 7:37.76. Cardillo also ran an individual 800 meter race, in which he finished in 8th place with a time of 1:56.05.

His performances helped his school win the boys overall team title, awarded to the team with the most points. Cardillo is a senior at Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Florida, and plans to continue his running career at the University of Florida, which he’ll be attending in the fall.

He said the mile victory was a more satisfying accomplishment than the relay victory, because his defending champion relay team had been heavily favored to win again. He said that in the relay, “We won by 16 seconds — that’s over 100 meters. I love running with the team, but winning the individual title was what I’ve been trying to do all four years, and I finally got it.”

Cardillo has been training with Islander Cliff Clark, a family friend, since 8th grade. Clark is a running enthusiast who has helped train other champion Island runners including Janelle Kraus and Alexis Hamblet. Cardillo is currently gearing up for the New Balance Outdoor National Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina on June 18.

He placed third in the New Balance Indoor National Championships at the New York Armory in Manhattan on March 13 with his 4:13.48 mile performance.