Ryun Continues To Inspire

By Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (11-Jun) — As the inaugural Jim Ryun High School Dream Miles are set to be run at tomorrow’s IAAF Diamond League adidas Grand Prix meeting here, the attention has shifted to how American running has grown in recent memory, especially at the prep level.  High school running, over the past 50 years, has blossomed into something few could have ever imagined.

And it all started with Jim Ryun.  Ryun, at the age of 17, broke the four-minute mile barrier as only a junior in high school, running 3:59.1 to become the first prep runner ever under the four-minute mark.  As a senior, he set the then American Record at 3:55.3.  The flat-topped Kansan would go on to inspire runners for decades to come, still to this day known for these achievements.

Here we are, 45 years later, celebrating his accomplishments by bringing the top high school milers of the nation together.  A field which includes state champions, World Junior team members, and a sub-four minute (downhill) miler have arrived here, ready to run their best and attempt to be the next one under the barrier.  As adidas’ slogan goes: “Jim was first.  Who’s next?”

There is a great chance we could see a sub-four minute performance tomorrow at Ichan Stadium.  The best shot will be with Lukas Verzbicas, the Illinois triathlete who was the winner of the 2009 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships last year.  Running a 3:56.88 downhill road mile in St. Charles, Ill., on Memorial Day, the sophomore is primed to make a stab at the mark.  This time it would be official.

“I can’t say 100% that I will do it tomorrow,” said the lanky Verzbicas.  “In the near future, I can promise you I will, and before I graduate high school, I will definitely do it.  But is it going to be tomorrow?  we’ll have to see.  There is going to be other competitors who are going to be trying to do the same thing.”

As Ryun himself said, he sees a little of himself in the athletes taking to the track tomorrow.

“To get to the level that they are at is great determination, great coaching,” said the former congressman.  He continued: “They are very versatile, you see them running anywhere from the half mile to the 5000m, and doing extremely well.”

Talking to the athletes, Ryun used an old portion of the movie “Hoosiers” to inspire the group, leaving them with the message to just remember what you got here with, and try to keep your focus while enjoying the moment.

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