Verzbicas Leaves Oregon Cross Country Team

Lukas Verzbicas (left) wins the gold at the World Junior Triathlon Championships. He won the event for his friend Kevin McDowell (right). Photo: International Triathlon Union.

The prep phenom has decided to pursue triathlon full-time.

Lukas Verzbicas (left) is shown here after winning the gold medal at the World Junior Triathlon Championships. He won the event for his friend Kevin McDowell (right). Photo: International Triathlon Union.

EUGENE, Ore. — Freshman Lukas Verzbics announced that he is leaving the University of Oregon track and field team in order to train full time for the triathlon. In 2011, Verzbicas won junior titles at both the World and U.S. triathlon championships.

Photo Gallery: Luka Verzbicas Wins Jim Ryun Mile In 3:59.71

“When we recruited Lukas, we knew he was a very talented athlete with opportunities in both sports and we were delighted he chose to attend the University of Oregon and focus on track and field,” said Associate Athletic Director Vin Lananna in a press release. “Given his recent success at the World Junior Triathlon championship in Beijing, we can appreciate his desire to follow his dreams and support his decision to pursue his athletic goals.”

Verzbicas sent out two messages through his Twitter account on Thursday. The first read, “Decided to pursue my olympic dream and dedicate myself fully as a triathlete with the intention of making the 2012 USA Olympic team.” He followed that up with, “Thank you to University of Oregon, coaches, and teammates for the unmatched experience and support. I wish you nothing but the best of luck.”

USA Traiathlon reported on its website that Verzbicas will relocate to Colorado Springs, Colo., this fall and join the newly established Elite Triathlon Academy. He also will gain resident status at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. He’ll also enroll at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs in January.

“We will of course keep the door open for Lukas if he decides in the future to resume his running career at Oregon,” added Lananna. “Our coaching staff and student-athletes wish him nothing but the best of luck in his triathlon pursuits.”

Verzbicas appeared in two cross country meets this fall for the Ducks, taking 23rd at the Pac-12 Championships and 62nd in a deep field at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational.

As a high schooler, Verzbicas won national cross country championships in 2009 and 2010. This past spring he became the fifth U.S. high school runner in history to break 4 minutes for the mile, running 3:59.71 at the adidas Jim Ryun Dream Mile in New York City.

For More: GoDucks.com and USATriathlon.org

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