Friday, March 20, 2009

Another year, another Illinois star.

A lot has happened since I last blogged here. Footlocker and NTN came and went. Reed Connor (The Woodlands) and Chelsey Sveinsson (Greenhill Academy) both made Texans proud at Nike Team Nationals. Jordan Hasay won her 2nd Footlocker National Championship over a loaded field while the controversial Soloman Haile (MD) took the boys title.
NCAA action indoors has been exciting to say the least. Oregon's Galen Rupp has silenced his critics as he has dominated his races. The big 3 (Fernandez, Derrick and Puskedra) Freshman have more than lived up to the hype. German has a 3:55 mile to his name already and Chris Derrick was a 2-time All-American at NCAA Indoor. Months into his Freshman year and Chris has 3 (including XC) All-American certificates to his name. It will be very interesting to see how these 3 perform for the US Junior team at the world XC meet in Jordan.
Here in Illinois the future (and present) High School distance running looks great as usual. Lukas Verzbicas (who I mentioned back in an XC blog) just made the nation take notice after his double (2 mile/5K ) win at Nike Indoor Nationals. The Lincoln Way (New Lenox, IL) freshman set a new US High School record in the 5000 meters of 14:18.42 beating the short lived 14:22 US Record that Soloman Haile had just set at NSIC hours before. He smashed the 14:29 Brad Hudson mark (that prior to Haile's 14:22) had stood for 25 years. He also won the 2-mile in 8:57.44 a couple days later. Not bad for a kid who had his XC season end prematurely with an injury.
There is a big debate raging on as people talk about his age. He is a 16 year old Freshman. Fine, I say. It doesn't matter as he set the All-Time HS record in the 5k regardless of grade or age. It doesn't change that fact. His 8:57 2-mile is currently the fastest 2 mile in the nation, indoors or out, by ANY high schooler. Period. Grades 9-12. End of story as far as I'm concerned.
What is really going to be interesting over the next couple years is to see where he puts his focus. Lukas has previously stated his future to be in the Triathlon. In May he will compete for the US at the Pan American Junior Championships. He has stated his goal is to win an olympic gold in the Triathlon. He does seem to be a little more open to just running after his great indoor wins this year however.
It's going to be a disappointment not to see him at the Illinois State Meet this year. He has stated he will concentrate on the Triathlon for the next two years but will run outdoors in 2011 and 2012. If he keeps improving he will join the ranks of many of the all-time great out of Illinois (ie. Virgin, Sitko, Merrick, Graves, Spivey, etc) or some of the greats from the last 10-12 years (i.e. Torres brothers, Sage, Withrow, Jager, Havel. Derrick). At this point he can't even claim to be the fastest 2-miler out of Lincoln Way (the great Dave Merrick went 4:05 and 8:43.2 almost 40 years ago). It will be quite an accomplishment just to break the Lincoln Way records.
I will be watching his progress closely. I think his potential is unlimited. He is running the Shamrock Shuffle this Sunday in Chicago. It will be interesting to see how he mixes it up with some of the big boys in the 8k. He ran 25:31 to finish 11Th overall last year as an 8Th grader. Pretty impressive stuff. I hope after his May Triathlon he "dabbles" in Track at the Nike Outdoor Nationals.

1 comment:

Pete Trujillo said...

Great article, I try to keep up with distance running, there is so little info out there. T&FN magazine is awesome but the info is always old by the time it is in print. I have not checked the T&FN web site lately but it usually sucks. Keep up the great work.