One of the greatest high school boys races could be run on Saturday at the 2013 Adidas Grand Prix in New York City with 14 runners looking to make history as the next members of the Sub-4 mile club. Mitch Kastoff and Chris Chavez have given thought to some of the possibilities of things that could go down in the race. In history, there have only been five runners that broke the four-minute barrier as high schoolers, so it is tough to definitively say we will see one runner do it at Icahn Stadium... even tougher to predict two new members to that club. Here are the three scenarios scenarios drawn up and who could capitalize for the victory.

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Rank Name Time School Date
1 Alan Webb 3:53.43 South Lakes 2001
2 Jim Ryun 3:55.3 East 1965
3 Tim Danielson 3:59.4 Chula Vista 1966
4 Lukas Verzbicas 3:59.71 Sandburg 2011
5 Marty Liquori 3:59.8 Essex Catholic 1967
6 Donald Sage 4:00.29 York 2000
7 Steve Magness 4:01.02 Klein Oak 2003
8 Rob Finnerty 4:01.09 Burnsville 2008
9 Bernie Montoya 4:01.32 Cibola 2012
10 Gerry Lindgren 4:01.5 Rogers 1964
via Track and Field News

NO. 1 - PACE IS HOT, RABBIT DROPS, SOMEONE HOLDS IT AND GOES SUB-4

In this first scenario, Garrett O’Toole delivers as he takes the field of boys on pace for a sub-4 performance.His job is to go out in 1:57. After he drops out, at least one runner would continue the hot pace and cross the finish line with the first sub-4 mile since Lukas Verzbicas’ Dream Mile on June 11, 2011. 

Chris Chavez
:
In this scenario, I can definitely see Bernie Montoya and Andres Arroyo taking control of crucial third lap. Going into the bell lap of last year’s race, Montoya sat in 8th and then unleashed his kick. He opened up for the win in the final 100-meters. This year, it would seem a bit risky for him to hold off on that kick until that late into the race, so you could see him put it into another gear going into the final turn.

That’s where I can see Arroyo going right with him. Third time will be the charm for Montoya to hold off Ben Saarel and this time Arroyo as well. History made with two guys doing a victory lap. Pretty optimistic situation here. 

Saarel would not be too far behind them either. Running 4:07 at altitude alone for the most part. Mitch will mention closing speed's relation to the 400-meter dash and the Colorado commit closed in 57...and in the past 54. 

Mitch Kastoff
:
I want you to look at this picture. Then at the dream mile field. Then back this picture. If anyone is going to become the sixth high school boy to break four, it’s going to be Montoya. He’s the total package: Strength, speed, and race savviness.

I know what some of you are already thinking. While we all know Montoya has good range, it’s the last two factors that seem to be questionable.

How could I bring up “speed” and not take Arroyo? How could I bring up “savviness” and not take Saarel? Let me explain.

While Arroyo has that incredible 49.09 and 1:47.79 speed (#6 all-time), it doesn’t necessarily translate to winning the dream mile. I’ve always felt that running well at 800m is proportional to 200m speed and running well at 1600m is proportional to 400m.

So even though Montoya doesn’t have an official 400m mark, we watched him split 39-seconds for 300m on the tail end of his Workout Wednesday. If he can split 52-seconds for a quarter-mile in a workout, he can run sub-50 open.

If we look the high school athletes in the Pantheon of Sub-4, none of them had incredible 800m speed.

Jim Ryun
1:50.3 for an open 880y
1:47 (relay split)

Tim Danielson
50.2 for 440y
1:53.2 for 880y

Marty Liquori
1:50? for 800m

In this scenario, there are certainly some qualifiers. Ryun mainly concentrated on the mile (we couldn’t find an 800m mark from his senior year), so his 800m time is skewed. Also, him and Danielson did so many legendary wind sprints that it almost makes my “200m speed is directly proportional to mile success” invalid. I’m talking in terms of more modern training (Danielson would do workouts like 20x220y in 24-seconds and I once read that Ryun split 21.x for 200m on a Sprint Medley Relay). Things have since changed.

The other three high school sub-4 milers, Marty Liquori, Alan Webb, and Lukas Verzbicas, were all over the speed spectrum. Liquori’s best was something around 1:50, Webb is in another ballpark in terms of raw talent (though he ran 1:47.74 at his state meet right after running the high school mile record of 3:53.43), and Verzbicas has no listed 800m PR. To run sub-4, you need a healthy balance of speed, strength, and guts.

Then comes the second questionable factor. While we couldn’t list Montoya at the top of “race savviness” based on this season due to his loss to Saarel to Mt. SAC, we felt that this quote from Skip Myslenski’s A Monkey Rides The Easy Runner about Liquori applies here:

Which, with Marty Liquori, is what it always comes down to. There are certainly no extraordinary workouts; he is often beaten by teammates at Villanova. Nor are there spectacular quarter-mile or half-mile times; his best open half is a mediocre 1:50. His most evident qualities are simple: consistency in training ("You have to forget what days like Christmas and Thanksgiving mean," he says) and instincts on a track that make him the smartest distance runner competing today.

Saarel may still be surprised at his astronomical ride to the top, but Montoya is in his comfort zone at the Dream Mile. He knows what it’s going to take to not only win, but break-4.

Also, look at this picture.

NO. 2 - PACE IS HOT, RABBIT DROPS, FIELD FAILS TO HOLD THAT PACE

Let’s say O’Toole gets the job done. The question now becomes who wants to take the wheel? If no one is up for the challenge, the pace could slow down and a winner would just miss the 4-minute mark.

Chavez:
Expectations are high for a sub-4 performance, but if this alternative happens it shouldn’t be considered a total fail if we have a good group of guys in the 4:00 to 4:01 range at the end of the day. When I spoke to Montoya at Mount Sac, he denied the presence of a target on his back as the defending champion and still sees himself as an underdog.

Saarel, Edward Cheserek, and Sean McGorty all passed the buck when I asked them if they wanted to the favorites.

I like the confidence in Arroyo for a race where breaking 4-minutes may seem out of reach, but he would be the guy to lead the charge in making up ground. A race where they come down the final 50-meters four-wide would definitely make up for the lack of breaking four-minutes. So tough to pick one winner in this case, but I’ll go with Arroyo.

Kastoff
: I hate to put a lot of pressure on O’Toole, but the pacing is going to be key. If the first two laps aren’t even, it’s going to take a Herculean effort to #makehistory.

Then again, the last two sub-4 high school runs have rivaled the Greek Gods.


400m 800m 1200m 1600m
Lukas Verzbicas 60
62
59
58
Alan Webb 58.1
59.7
60.6
55.0

Again, we can discount Webb because he went beyond what was imaginable for a high schooler and Verzbicas ran purely on strength (he ran 8:29.46 for the two-mile, after all). Perfect pace has not and may not even be necessary for something very special to happen. Still, an even split opening two laps would be nice.

It’s hard to not take Arroyo in this scenario. If I had to predict every nuance of the race, I’d say that Arroyo is going to be in the lead when the rabbit drops out and he’ll take the bell at 1209m.

Let’s assume that if they fail to maintain the projected pace, and I mean really fall off the bandwagon kind of failure, the winning time will be 4:01 - 4:03. That means they’ll (or in this case, Arroyo) will hit the bell at around 3:04. While Edward Cheserek, Sean McGorty, Ben Saarel, and Ben Malone can throw down a 56-second last lap off a slower pace, but no one has the killer speed like Arroyo.



NO. 3 - MURPHY’S LAW (ALL THAT CAN GO WRONG, WILL GO WRONG)

In the final scenario, the rabbit fails to go through the 800 on pace for a sub-4 performance. We hate to add any pressure to O’Toole’s job but this case shows its importance. Last year’s pacer crossed the 800-meter mark in 2:01.81. 

Chavez:
This is a bit of an upsetting scenario, because the potential was there for a Sub-4 performance to happen and nobody capitalizes on it. It’s tough to compare pros to high school athletes, but maybe we could see something like the 1,500-meter run at Oxy. You’ve got this high profiled race with some big names. There’s a goal in mind. For the pros it was the IAAF A-Standard. For these high school boys its breaking the four-minute barrier. But as soon as the gun goes off, everyone loses track of that and begins racing the competition for the win and not the time.

In this case, the pace becomes irrelevant and I could see someone like Ben Malone with the surprise. Most recently, Malone closed in 56 seconds at the Loucks Games for the win in 4:09.73 over Edward Cheserek’s 4:11.19. He looked great against Sean McGorty at Penn Relays in 4:05.59. 

While Cheserek’s outdoor season was a bit more relaxed with the focus on the Dream Mile right from the start. His last few races have not been too impressive with that loss against Malone. Unless, we’re in for a treat and he has enough left in the tank I’m not too confident in choosing the Oregon commit. I remember speaking to his coach at Penn Relays, who said his workouts and schedule was on pace at that point for a sub-4 performance at Icahn. At the same time, the favorite from last year is no longer a favorite. 

Kastoff
This isn’t going to happen, right? Right... right? When it comes to predicting high school races, I guess we have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Then again, we thought there was a strong possibility of the fastest 1500m on American soil being run at Oxy HP and we all know how that turned out (no one even got the IAAF “A” standard of 3:35.00).

If this does happen, and we’re already knocking on wood here, you have to watch out for the quiet ones (this is also good advice for life).

The quietest Dream Miler this season? Sean McGorty. Yes, he won the Penn Relay Mile in 4:04.47 and ran 8:46.07 for 3200m a week earlier, but the guy is a sleeper.

While we were reading through Myslenski’s piece on Liquori, we came across a very interesting historic comparison.

As a high school senior in 1967, he had mononucleosis during the indoor season. Yet at the Penn Relays he did a 4:04.4 and began the frustrating quest to break four minutes.

Am I saying McGorty is the second coming of Liquori? No. In his next two races, Liquori went on to to run 4:01.1 in Compton, CA and then 4:00.1 in San Diego (Fun Fact: His father ripped his pants while cheering for him). Then two weeks later, Liquori went on to run 3:59.8 at the AAU Championships. Oddly enough, it was the same race that Ryun ran the world record of 3:51.1 Liquori finished way back in seventh.

We also enjoyed this prophetic quote from GaryCohenRunning.com about Liquori and the historic nature of his run.

I called my coach, Fred Dwyer, and told him my time, and got congratulations. I did say to him though that someone would be doing it every year as this was four years in a row a high school runner had broken the four minute mile so it wasn’t that big of a deal. But Freddy said, ‘No, I think it’s always going to be something special.’ He was right as it didn’t happen again for over thirty years.

I’m taking McGorty here because I think he’ll be the most conservative of the group. It’ll be Montoya, Arroyo, Malone, Cheserek up front, but I think McGorty will hang back in the pack. If the race goes out too fast for the first lap, then slows drastically, it’ll be McGorty who’ll have the best chance to win.

FINAL WORD. WHO YA GOT?

CHAVEZ:
I’m a fan of my first scenario. I think I’ll continue to kick myself for years to come if I predicted no one to break four and someone came out victorious. I’m going with...Bernie Montoya in 3:59.51 with Andres Arroyo right with him in 3:59.77. Ben Saarel in third with a monster personal best. He's surprised himself all season. This won't surprise me. 

BUT... Montoya is skipping his graduation for this. The trip has to be worth it. 

Kastoff:
I’ve been waiting to say this ever since adidas’ Chris Hollis and I started to pick the field for the Dream Mile. This is the deepest high school-only field ever assembled and I’ll be disappointed if a sixth name isn’t added to the sub-4 list.

What I’ve been hesitant to say is that there’ll be a seventh name, too. Over the years, it’s taken someone very, very special to break the four minute barrier. So for not just one, BUT TWO, guys to do it in the same race seems audacious and offensive to those who’ve tried in the past.

But you know what? If it’s going to ever happen, it’s going to be this year. One last thing to note is that before Danielson joined the sub-4 club, he had run 4:06.2 at his state sectional meet and then 4:07 at the California State Meet. He went 3:59.4 the next race and the rest is an unfortunately upsetting history.



Montoya went from 4:07.72 for 1600m to 4:01.32 for the full mile last season, so why can’t guys who are already of that pace do it again? Expect a lot of guys to be close to the 4-minute barrier, but “only” two to go under it. There, I said it.

1) Bernie Montoya - 3:59.20
8:56.30 for 3200 (US#2), 4:05.89 for 1600m (US#2), and 1:50.19 for 800m at his state meet? Yeah, he's ready.

2) Andres Arroyo - 3:59.45
Enough said.



3) Edward Cheserek
4:03 on the Loucks Games DMR, but was outkicked by Malone two days later. Still, we're not worried.

4) Sean McGorty
We'll never sleep on McGorty come championships races (see: Foot Locker Finals)

5) Ben Malone
Two days after taking down Cheserek, Malone ran 3:46.97 for 1500m at the Swarthmore Last Chance Meet. If we’re talking about raw speed, we have to include Malone in the conversation as he just ran 48.94 at the Bergen County Championships.

6) Ben Saarel
I can’t believe I’m putting him this far back after running 1:51.13 and 4:07.95 at the Utah State Meet (roughly 5,000ft). We think Saarel is a pure strength type of guy as evidenced by his Arcadia 3200m domination, where he ran 8:45.74. While he may not have the wheels to hang on to these guys off a record pace, we think that him and Colorado are a perfect fit for the years to come. Then again, he looked really good in Park City, UT...