The best high school distance runner since Alan Webb is Lukas Verzbicas. The criminally underappreciated then-Lithuanian, now-American--who, by the way, turned 18 in January of his final year of high school--won Foot Locker twice and ran 3:59.71 in the mile and 8:29.46 for two miles. He's the only boy in the top ten performers all-time in the outdoor mile and two mile.
Verzbicas better watch the throne, though. When Drew Hunter ran 7:59.33 for 3000 meters--on a flat track, indoors, in January-- it was debatably the best performance since Webb's legendary 3:53 mile at the Pre Classic in May 2001. The time is the best ever by a high schooler in a timed 3K, indoors or out, though the two mile PRs of Verzbicas, German Fernandez, and Jeff Nelson convert to faster 3Ks.
(Here, we pause to bow down to Mary Cain, certainly the best high school distance runner of either sex since Jim Ryun graduated in 1965. This article is about boys. Also, Ryun and Webb are 1-2 in the GOAT conversation on the boys side, and will be until a high school boy runs a 3:52 mile, or like, makes the Olympics before college. These things are all a priori facts. Thanks.)
Hunter's 3K is more of a signal of things to come, though, where the two miles run by Verzbicas, Fernandez, and Nelson were valedictory performances at the end of a season. In the years that Verzbicas and Nelson ran 8:07 indoors, they went on to run 8:29 and 8:36, respectively, outdoors. If the gap between Hunter's indoor 3K PR--assuming he doesn't lower it!--and outdoor two mile PR is Nelson's 29 seconds, he'll run 8:28; if it's Verzbicas's 22 seconds, he'll run 8:21. Both are faster than LV's 8:29 high school record.
And again, that's all on a flat 200 meter track. Though JDL wants to relentlessly brand their track as Fast--even seemingly giving every athlete talking points about how Fast it is--it's still a flat track. (If you want to argue that the NCAA's conversion factors for indoor tracks are hot garbage, though, look no further than that the formula views all flat tracks as created equal, and would convert Hunter's time down to 7:53.82)
|ATHLETE||CLASS||MILE||2 MILE||CROSS COUNTRY|
|Drew Hunter||2016||4:02.36||7:59.33 (3K)||Foot Locker Champ|
|Grant Fisher||2015||3:59.38||8:43.57||2x Foot Locker Champ|
|Edward Cheserek||2013||4:02.21||8:05.46 (3K)||2x Foot Locker Champ|
|Lukas Verzbicas||2011||3:59.71||8:29.46||2x Foot Locker Champ|
|German Fernandez||2008||4:00.29 (1600)||8:34.40||3rd at Foot Locker|
|Galen Rupp||2004||4:01.80||8:03.67 (3K)||2nd at Foot Locker|
|Alan Webb||2001||3:53.43||8:45.19||2nd at Foot Locker|
|Dathan Ritzenhein||2001||4:05.90 (1600)||8:44.43||2x Foot Locker Champ|
|Jeff Nelson*||1979||3:52.00 (1500)||8:36.30||4th at World Juniors|
|Craig Virgin*||1973||4:05.00||8:40.90||IL Course Record Holder|
|Jim Ryun*||1965||3:55.30||9:04.00||3rd at AAU College Meet|
|Gerry Lindgren*||1964||4:01.50||8:40.00||State Champ|
Hunter has checked every box along the way to vanquishing every stud of the post-Webb period. He has five months to check off a few more. He beat Grant Fisher in the 1500 and two mile last June. He won Foot Locker with a dominant performance in December. He broke Edward Cheserek's 3K national record in January.
The 3K time was in particularly rarefied air--Ches's 8:05 was the only time a high schooler dipped under 8:07 since Gerry Lindgren ran 8:06 in 1964.
What does Hunter have to do then, to grab the mantle of the GSW? (Greatest Since Webb) Break 4:00 in the mile indoors--only Webb's done it--and break 8:35 for two miles outdoors, something only Verzbicas and Fernandez have done. Easy enough.
It feels ridiculous to put those things on paper. But Hunter showed on Saturday that he has a pretty elastic opinion on what's possible, and that he'll can keep stretching that limit like no high schooler has in the last fourteen years.
More sweet Drew Hunter content:
-Podcast with Hunter
-Video interview from Camel City Elite
-Photos from Camel City Elite