Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Midwest Distance Gala

I took a short drive out to Lisle, IL this past weekend to check out the annual Midwest Distance Gala at Benedictine University. It is at an amazing facility for this type of event. Great track, green surroundings, great seating, etc. The announcer was excellent, on top of his game keeping everyone updated on who was who. After listening to Carol Lewis announce Track and Field all season it was a pleasure.
The main reason I wanted to go (other than being a distance buff) was to see Lukas Verzbicas (see previous entry) run in person. Lukas was going head to head in the 2 Mile against Footlocker National XC Champ Solomon Haile of Maryland.
I took a seat close to the finish line and waited for the 2 fastest indoor 5000 meter runners (Prep) in history line up. When the gun went off I had to run to the lower level above the track to take in the action. Lukas went to the front right away (behind the pacesetter who took them though the mile in just over 4:20). He looked very smooth, he is one of the most fluid distance runners I have ever seen run in person. Solomon was running behind him the whole time as the 2 had gapped the field. After the 5th lap Haile went to the front, while Graham Bazzell (also MD) starting cutting the gap.

At the bell (which was reached in 7:52) Lukas stepped around and proceeded to run around Haile like he was standing still. It is an exaggeration but it looked that effortless. Lukas tore away down the backstretch hitting 3000 Meters in 8:20.15 (a Freshman National Record) and cruised home in 8:53.98 (3200 in 8:50, both US #1's and National Freshman Records) for the win. Haile fought off a hard charging Bazzell for second (8:56.08 to 8:56.65).

The boy's mile was billed as a sub 4 attempt after Rhode Island's Star Andrew Springer signed up to race the US leader at 1600 Jeff Thode (who had just run 4:05 at the Illinois State Meet) and Michigan's Michael Atchoo.
The pace was quick from the start. The pacesetter took them out in 2 flat at the 800. There was a few still grouped together. At the bell Springer was alone at 3:01 with Thode still close. The possibility of Sub 4 still existed and wasn't out of the question until about 100 Meters left. Springer crossed the line in 4:02.70 (4:01 1600) with Illinois small school champ Peter Callahan second in 4:05.20 (4:03 1600). Springer collapsed to the ground, Callahan had to be helped to stand.

Thode, who had been known to be gunning for the 4 minute mile all season looked completely wiped out after losing a lot of ground in the last lap and coming home in 4:17.62. I was still very impressed with the Iowa recruits season. He gave it all he had but it wasn't to be for him that day.

The girls mile was fantastic also as the 2 Illinois stars Stephanie Brown and Lizzy Hynes ran away from the field. Brown powered to a 4:50.12 (4:48.2 at 1600) to 4:51.91 win. The boys 800 was another great one as well as Ohio's Danny Neff ran the 4th fastest time in the US this year at 1:50.02.

As I stated in my previous blog, I think Lukas's potential is unlimited. After NON (where he will run the 2 mile) he will go back to preparations for the Triathalon while many great runners he soundly defeated this year will go run and do well for major universities. He is not sure yet if he will run the Cross Country season for his upcoming Sophomore year. His Tri-season won't end until September. I will just try and see this great talent run locally when I can. I'm still amazed when a 16 year old (for the record T & F News says he is 15) can run his 1st outdoor race of the year and run the fastest time in the country and make it look easy. Time will tell.

Next up for Lukas, Nike Outdoor Nationals in the 2 mile. This may be his toughest test yet. Fellow Chicago area runner (and US #2 at 3200, 8:51) Jeff Thode will look to rebound after his performance in the Mile at the MDG. US #3 (8:51 3200 and Footlocker runnerup) Trevor Dunbar of Alaska as well as US #1 Miler Andrew Springer (4:02) should all be pushing the race into sub 8:50 territory.
In another Tx/IL story look for both The Woodlands (TX) and York (IL) to challenge (along with North Spokane, WA) the long standing 4 X Mile relay record (17:06.6, S. Eugene, 1976) this weekend. On the Girls side look for Chelsey Sveinsson (TX) to be the favorite in both the Mile and 2 Mile in the absence of Jordan Hasay. It's gonna be another great Prep Track weekend.