BILLERICA -- It's hard not to take notice of P.J. Garmon's running style during a race.

Billerica High's senior standout possesses an inner drive and finishing kick that has propelled him to the head of the pack among the area's distance runners.

But when Garmon first went out for indoor track as a freshman he caught the eye of his coaches and teammates for his attire, not for his effortless stride.

"I didn't even have track shoes the first two weeks of practice," said Garmon. "I used to skateboard a lot and I was used to wearing skateboard shoes. That's what I ran in. I thought it was normal.

Billerica High star P.J. Garmon, 17, goes for a run at a recent cross country practice at Vietnam Veterans Park.SUN/JULIA MALAKIE
Billerica High star P.J. Garmon, 17, goes for a run at a recent cross country practice at Vietnam Veterans Park. SUN/JULIA MALAKIE

"The seniors on the team were like, 'Who's this kid wearing the skateboard shoes?' They were wondering what I was all about. Then one day we had a time trial and I beat a lot of them wearing skateboard shoes. After that a few of them said, 'I like the kid in the skateboard shoes.' "

Billerica's coaching staff certainly liked what they saw in Garmon. Although Garmon was told to lose the skateboard shoes, he hasn't lost much else over the course of his stellar high school running career.

Garmon, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 135 pounds, has evolved into a dominant three-season runner who is an MVC All-Conference selection in cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track. He is willing to take on all terrains and all comers in his quest to run the perfect race.


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"He's a hard worker," said Billerica boys cross country coach Devin Hagan, whose brother, Cullen, is the Indians' girls cross country coach. "He puts in all the work that is expected of him. He's very dedicated.

"Running is a full-time commitment on his behalf. It's every day of the year. He does everything he's supposed to do. He's doing all the right stuff to reach his goals. He has a lot of natural ability. But he doesn't just lace up his shoes and go for a run.

Billerica High star P.J. Garmon, center, and other members of the boys and girls cross country teams return from a long run at practice at Vietnam Veterans
Billerica High star P.J. Garmon, center, and other members of the boys and girls cross country teams return from a long run at practice at Vietnam Veterans Park recently. SUN/JULIA MALAKIE

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He puts forth the type of effort that's needed to be successful in this sport."

And Garmon certainly has the resume to prove it.

In cross country last fall, Garmon posted an undefeated record in dual meets and was named the MVC Division 2 Runner of the Year. Garmon placed fourth at the MVC Meet, finished second at the EMass. Division 2 Meet and was 11th overall at the All-State Meet.

During last winter's indoor season, Garmon was a force at 1,000 meters, posting first-place finishes at the MVC and EMass. Division 2 Meets. He was third at All-States and came in fifth at the New Englands.

He had a brilliant spring track season, finishing first in the 800 meters at the MVC, EMass. Division 1 and the All-State Meets. Garmon capped off a brilliant junior campaign by teaming up with Felipe Freitas, Steve Fulgoni and Kevin Harris on a 1,600-meter sprint medley relay unit that placed sixth at the New Balance Outdoor National Championships in Greensboro, N.C., to earn All-American status.

"Cross country and running on a track are completely different races," said Garmon, whose older brother, Chris, was an outstanding track performer in high school. "Cross country is more of a mind game where you focus on pacing yourself the whole time, making sure you have something left at the end of the race. In track, I like to go out hard.

"The thing these races do have in common is that for even the best of runners it's all a mental game. The minute the gun goes off you want to make sure you focus."

Garmon thrives on thinking on his feet, typically making the necessary in-race adjustments to stay at least one stride ahead of the competition.

"He's a strategic runner," said Hagan. "He has particular goals for every race. Not just for what he's hoping to do, but more importantly, what the team goals are that day.

"P.J. is talented enough to kick out with the best guys and give them a run for the money. But he is also asked a lot of times to do something for the team, and be about the team, and he is all about that, too. He sets a great example for everyone in our program."

Garmon will be running for a cause this fall. He is determined to turn this most individualistic of sports into the ultimate team game.

Garmon and fellow senior Alex Healey spent the summer training with teammates in preparation of making a run at the top spot in the MVC Division 2 standings.

"I really think we have a special team this year," said Garmon, who estimates he's run 600 miles this summer. "We have a lot of talented runners. But in order for us to reach our goals we have to work together."

Garmon hasn't decided where he will be running in college. He's been contacted by several Division 1 coaches, including members of the staff at the University of Oregon and the University of Texas San Antonio.

"He's a life-long runner and he knows that," said Hagan. He knows everything he's doing now is a building block.

"He's working toward weekly goals, monthly goals, season-long goals, team goals and career goals. He's bought into this system. To have a runner of his caliber and character in your program is a coach's dream."

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