Never in a million years did Sawyer Garrett think he would qualify to compete in the prestigious Millrose Games.
Yet on Jan. 27, the Dover-Sherborn senior found himself in New York to compete in the pole vault at the historic high school track and field event. The Millrose Games are the oldest continuously contested indoor meet in the country, steeped in history and legend.
“There wasn’t even a thought that crossed my mind that I would be invited to participate in the Millrose Games,” Garrett said. “So I was pretty ecstatic. It’s a huge honor.”
At the meet, held at the New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory in the Washington Heights section of Upper Manhattan, Garrett finished tied for seventh in the high school division.
“Being a perfectionist, I wasn’t too happy as you can imagine,” Garrett said. “I was hoping for a bit better and felt like I definitely could have done better. I had some pretty close attempts at the next height, but it was pretty cool to sit there and watch the other guys compete.”
Perfectionism is not new to Garrett. In addition to track, Garrett is also a level 10 gymnast. Gymnastics helps Garrett with the pole vault.
“The gymnastics piece is everything,” said Ann Mann, Garrett’s pole vault coach at DS. “When you take a gymnast and combine that with pole vaulting, it’s the perfect way to transition from gymnastics season into track and field season.
“He has this athletic skill where he has a sense of body movement and position when you’re in the air and that doesn’t come with everyone…but the gymnast who is trained that way…knows where he is. in the air and can make those adjustments.
“It’s the sixth sense of athletic ability.”
Garrett’s mother and two of her aunts competed in collegiate gymnastics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her father, Sean, competed in hurdles at MIT and her two sisters, twins Isabella and Marigold, are first-year gymnasts at the University of Pennsylvania.
Garrett started gymnastics when he was three or four years old to stay active.
“One day we were sitting around while his sisters were practicing in the gym and he was one of a handful of little boys who were playing video games while their sisters were exercising,” his dad said. “I said ‘It’s ridiculous, you’re going to do gymnastics too’, and of course he didn’t want to but after a few years of doing it he realized it was more fun than playing. Got video games.”
The 6ft 1in Garrett soon realized that despite his 14 years competing in the sport, he was “too tall” and didn’t quite have the “gym body”. So he started to think about how he could transfer the skills he had learned and acquired in gymnastics.
Enter the pole vault.
“We found Doug Lange, who works at Westborough High School and runs the Patriot Pole Vault club,” Sean Garrett said. “Thanks to Doug, we really started to learn the pole vault. He supported it, we had access to poles and training facilities and Sawyer had success very, very quickly, which gave him confidence that (the pole vault) is his event.”
In addition to pole vaulting, Garrett also competes in his father’s specialty: hurdles. Since Dover-Sherborn does not have a pole vault pit, Garrett practices pole vaulting during the outdoor season at Westborough and Natick High School. In the winter, he practices at Brandeis University.
“At first, I don’t think he really understood what it meant,” his father said. “But once we finally figured it all out, it was like, ‘Wow! This is the culmination of all the hard work and having a chance to really compete with some of the best in his age group on a very big stage.'”
Hopkinton’s Kate Powers wins at the Millrose Games
Garrett wasn’t the only local track and field athlete to recently compete in the Millrose Games.
Hopkinton High senior Kate Powers competed in the shot put. the Daily News MVP for Women’s Volleyball came first with a throw of 14.66 meters (48 ft 1/4 in).
The shot put is like the shot put, but a 25 pound steel ball is attached to a chain around which the athletes swing before throwing the shot. During high school season in Massachusetts, athletes don’t often compete in the shot put.
“I was really excited,” Powers said. “I don’t think at the time I realized what a big deal it was. I was just excited to have another opportunity to compete.
“Honestly, I didn’t go there thinking I had a chance to win, so I was really excited about the whole experience.”
At the national level, Powers will return to the armory to compete at the national championships on March 11.
Ethan Winter is a senior multimedia sports reporter at the Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @EWints.