There may come a time when a high school boy breaking 4:00 in the mile is no longer a big story. Heck, if Connor Burns was an 18-year-old senior who just snuck under the barrier with a 3:59.8, we probably wouldn't be talking about him right now.
But Burns, who ran 3:58.83 at the HOKA Festival of Miles last night in St. Louis, is more than just the 15th US high schooler to break the barrier. He's the first junior to do it in 58 years -- since Jim Ryun all the way back in 1964. And he wasn't even the top high school finisher in the race -- Gary Martin ran 3:57.89 to finish one spot ahead of Burns in 4th, making this the first race in history to feature two US high school sub-4:00's.
So yeah, it's okay to get excited about this one.
Six years ago, LetsRun interviewedAlan Webb after Drew Hunter broke his high school indoor mile record. We asked him whether, due to athletes like Hunter, Matthew Maton, and Grant Fisher (who had broken 4:00 the year before), the high school sub-4:00 mile was losing its prestige. Webb said that maybe it was, yes. But that was a good thing.
"I think that that can be Drew’s legacy, breaking that mold," Webb said. "To finally, with authority, say that, 'Hey this is a thing that’s gonna happen and it’s gonna be part of track and field.'"
We have reached that point now. Between Burns, Martin, and Colin Sahlman (3:56.24 at Pre), it's clear that the bar has been raised in high school running, and it's not going to be lowered moving forward. Not with Burns coming back next year alongside athletes like Rocky Hansen (4:00 pb) and Lex Young (4:01 pb). To be the top high school miler in America, you are going to have to be a 3:57 guy or faster.
The mystique of the high school sub-4:00 may be fading, but it's been replaced by something else: a beautiful sense of camaraderie. It has been a collective effort to reach this point. Sahlman and Martin have inspired each other to push themselves from across the country this season, just as athletes like Hunter and Hobbs Kessler inspired them by showing them it was possible to run well under 4:00. One of the best moments of Thursday night was when Martin grabbed Burns from behind and shook him with joy, welcoming him into their ever-growing club. It was a special way to end a special night.
On Tuesday, best-selling author and huge track fan Malcolm Gladwell wrote, "[Matthew Centrowitz] doesn’t even belong in the same conversation as, say, Nick Willis, who never won gold but nonetheless was a threat to win every big race he entered for a good 10 years." What a ridiculous statement. We had to set the record straight.
An amazing Prefontaine Classic took place at an amazing new Hayward Field. We break it all down and ask where were the fans? Plus, recaps of the USATF 10,000m champs at Pre, and talk of the 9.86 by 20-year-old Oregon sprinter Micah Williams.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Sinclaire Johnson, Berihu Aregawi, Michael Norman, Sha'Carri Richardson, Michael Norman, Paul Chelimo, Emma Coburn, Courtney Frerichs, Laura Muir, and Josette Norris all make the list. Plus do the low attendance numbers prove that TrackTown USA is a myth? And watch out for Oregon's Micah Williams.
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