An evening of celebrating Jim Ryun and the mile was capped by a pair of sub-4-minute showings in San Diego.
SAN DIEGO — On June 5, 1964, the nation witnessed the first sub-4-minute high school mile performance, run by junior Jim Ryun at the Compton Relays. On June 5, 2014, Balboa Stadium in San Diego experienced a similar feat, as Eric Avila broke the tape in the men’s elite mile in 3 minutes, 56 seconds, his first in under 4 minutes, during the Festival of Miles, an event celebrating 50 years of running the mile and the 50th anniversary of Ryun’s sub-4 performance.
“Jim was and still is the idol of all high school runners, and he was for me,” says Alan Webb, the fourth to break 4 minutes as a high school runner and the first to break Ryun’s 36-year-old national high school record. “To be associated with him and to able to come here and help him celebrate his event is something that means a lot to me personally.”
At 6:05 p.m., the stadium shared a 17-second moment of silence to honor Chelsea King, the local high school runner who was attacked and murdered during a run in 2010. Five invitational miles followed in her name, with some speedy appearances by the fastest elementary and middle school runners. Top-seed Maxwell Wilson blew away the competition in the fifth and sixth grade boys race, clocking a quick 5:03.42 to break the tape more than 40 seconds ahead of second place.
Legend Mary Decker Slaney, 2012 ElliptiGO World Championship runner-up, rode away with the win in 3:24.86 during the ElliptiGO mile. Tania Fischer, founder of the Janes Elite Racing Team, and Tim Gore, 2012 USA Masters 5K cross country champion, won the Masters miles, breaking the tape in 5:17.63 and 4:26.75, respectively.
The crowd cheered for their favorite high school and alma mater as some of the quickest high schoolers did four laps around the track. Local standouts Josh Bernd of Canyon Crest and Chandler Johnson of Clairmont won their events, both finishing less than five seconds ahead of the competition.
But no race yielded the same thunderous roar as the men’s elite mile, as Eric Avila and A.J. Acosta both ripped down the homestretch on their way to double sub-4 performances, the first on San Diego soil since 1988. Avila got the win—and an impressive PR—beating Acosta to the tape by less than a second in 3:56.89. The stadium screamed and rose to its feet with unmatchable excitement as many witnessed firsthand their first—and potentially only—sub-4-minute mile (this reporter included). Acosta was all smiles as well, crossing on Avila’s heels in 3:57.05. Ryun held one end of the tape, adding to the historic ambiance and significance of Avila’s shining moment.
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“All those yellow shirts, they came out to support. It was amazing,” says Avila, who had a slew of fans sporting shirts that read “Go Eric!” with cheers that nearly drowned out the announcer. “Amazing. Amazing. I can’t even describe it right now.”
Sarah Brown took the women’s elite title (4:33.42), besting Masters runner and American record holder in the marathon, Deena Kastor, by nearly 30 seconds.
“It’s a big part of our mile history,” Brown said. “As a miler, I’m really glad, you know, living in San Diego, to get out here in front of a home crowd and partake in this event.”
Following his appearance at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego on June 1, San Diego’s Meb Keflezighi, the 2014 Boston Marathon champion, was among the many elite runners who were present and recognized at the event.
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