Sixteen And Scary Fast

Lukas Verzbicas on his way to a Foot Locker Mid-West title. Photo:

Lukas Verzbicas on his way to a Foot Locker Mid-West title. Photo:

Sophomore Lucas Verzbicas has a chance to become a rare underclass boy’s cross country national champion.

Written by: Matt Fitzgerald

It is quite common for freshman, sophomore and junior girls to win the Foot Locker Cross Country Championship. In fact, in the 30-year history of the event, fewer than half of the girls’ champions have been seniors. On the boys’ side, things are very different. Only two juniors have ever won the event, and no sophomore or freshman has broken the tape at Foot Locker. It seems that adolescent male and female runners develop on different schedules.

This year, however, we may well see the first sophomore winner of the boys’ high school national cross country championship. Sixteen-year-old Lukas Verzbicas of Sandburg High School in Illinois is among a handful of the 32 qualifiers for Saturday’s championship race is San Diego who is considered a strong contender for the title.

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The youngster’s credentials are very impressive. He won the Foot Locker Midwest Regional Championship by seven seconds. He won the Illinois State Championship by 21 seconds. In fact, he has never lost a high school cross country race. Injury kept Verzbicas from trying to qualify for Foot Locker last year, and some aches and pains also prevented him from racing against some of the other top boys in the country this year. But he is reportedly healthy now, and a healthy Lukas Verzbicas is undoubtedly faster than any other high school runner in the nation—possibly faster than any other high school runner ever. After all, he set an all-time national high school record of 14:18.22 for 5000 meters indoors as a freshman last year.

In a recent interview for the Southtown Star newspaper, Verzbicas’ coach, John O’Malley, predicted, “Lukas is going to rewrite all of the records in American distance running… Lukas might be the best distance runner in American high school history… I think he could be an Olympic medalist in the marathon some day.”

But that can only happen if Verzbicas chooses to become a professional runner after college. That is no guarantee, however, because running is not his primary sport. Triathlon is. That’s right: Verzbicas is possibly an even better triathlete than he is a runner. He is the reigning U.S. junior national champion and junior world champion in triathlon, and is the world junior duathlon champion to boot.

It is going to be exciting to see this young phenom go about against older talents such as recently crowned Nike Nationals winner Craig Lutz of Texas. Watch the action live at 10:00 AM Saturday here.

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