Trio Of Meets Highlight Mile Races Across America

Deena Kastor will go for the American masters record in the mile Thursday. Photo: www.photorun.net

Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of Jim Ryun’s record mile run as a high schooler.

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Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of Jim Ryun becoming the first high school boy to break the famed 4-minute barrier in the mile. Timing 3:59.0 in Compton, Calif., Ryun instantly etched his name in American track and field lore. Across the country, a trifecta of meets will be run focusing on the mile and middle distances, giving fans a chance to watch some of the nation’s best talents while celebrating this special day.

At Balboa Stadium in San Diego, Calif., the Jim Ryun Festival of Miles will be held, featuring the likes of IAAF World Championships competitor Sarah Brown and Olympic medalist Deena Kastor.

On the East Coast, roughly 15 miles northwest of Boston in Concord, Mass., the Adrian Martinez Classic will host its first elite competition, with 2012 Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano headlining the Adro Mile. In addition, elite 800m and 5000m races will be run.

In St. Louis, Mo., the seventh annual Nike Festival of Miles will showcase a total of 12 races, including an elite men’s mile featuring Oregon Track Club Elite’s Jordan McNamara and New Balance’s Craig Miller, as well as a professional women’s 800m.

All three of these meets have linked up with the Bring Back The Mile campaign, seeking to extend the reach of track & field to the masses while promoting the lore and magic that is the mile. All three meets expect good crowds, with the Nike Festival of Miles predicting more than 2,000 spectators.

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Reflecting on the past 50 years, Jim Ryun recognizes the impact his historic run had on the sport of track & field in America.

“It truly was a special day and an incredible race in the history of high school athletics,” Ryun told Competitor Group, which has helped organize the Ryun Festival of Miles. “I’ve been blessed to have a supportive network of family and friends in the running community. Our goal for June 5 is to stage an event that everyone in our sport will be proud of. More than an event about my accomplishments, this event will showcase the best of elementary school, high school and Masters runners. The general public is invited to participate, whether running in a race or cheering from the grandstand.”

A record could very well be broken at the competition bearing Ryun’s name, as Deena Kastor, 41, will try and break 4:46.29, the current American masters record for the mile. That mark, set by Alisa Harvey, should very well be in Kastor’s range, as the 15-time national champion has recently run 1:11:38 for the half marathon and 33:59 at altitude for the 10K.

Alan Webb, the American high school record holder (3:53.43) and national record holder overall (3:46.91) for the mile will also be on hand, as will Lukas Verzbicas, the last high schooler to dip under four minutes (3:59.71).

In Massachusetts, Manzano will be just one of many Olympians taking part in the Adrian Martinez Classic. Manzano seeks to continue his one-mile winning streak, which has seen him earn victories at the Grand Blue Mile (U.S. Road Mile Championships) on April 22 in Iowa—timing 4:05.71—and the International Mile at the Prefontaine Classic last weekend in Eugene, Ore., which he won in 3:52.41, briefly a world-leading time.

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Also competing are Geena Lara, a member of the winning 4x800m squad at the IAAF World Relay Championships, and Boston-based Morgan Uceny, who represented Team USA in the 1500m at the 2012 London Olympics. Nicole Sifuentes of Canada, who just recorded a qualifying mark for the Commonwealth Games, will race the 800m against Lara, while Uceny will take part in the mile.

Fittingly, one of America’s best high school milers in Garrett O’Toole will try to come close to the 4-minute barrier. The Middlesex, Mass. senior ran 1:50.16 in an 800m race last Saturday.

Racing the 5000m in Concord are Amy Hastings, Angela Bizzarri, Alexi Pappas and Emily Sisson, among others.

At the Nike Festival of Miles, all eyes will be on McNamara and Miller, watching to see if the pair can dip under Manzano’s event record of 3:55.29.

On the women’s side, Heather Kampf seeks her third Speed Factory Athletics 800m title in a row, squaring off against Marilyn Okoro, Erica Moore, Shannon Leinert and Cydney Ross.

The meet begins at 6:30 p.m. CT and will feature 12 races over the course of two and a half hours. Proceeds from the event, which began in 2008 and costs $5 at the door, will benefit Christopher Shaw., a 21-year-old whose Lymphoblastic Lymphoma cancer is currently in remission.

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“Christopher and his family are really pumped up for the event,” Meet director Ben Rosario in a press release. “The Shaws are a whole family of runners so they’ll feel right at home watching this awesome meet with 2,000 of their closest friends.”

Missouri’s own Taylor Werner, who has run 4:44.26 for 1600m, will face Iowa sensation Stephanie Jenks in the featured high school contest. At the Iowa High School Championships last month, Jenks ran a blistering 9:24.67 for 3000m (taking down Katie Flood’s Iowa state record of 9:27.25 in the process), won the 1500m and was the runner-up in the 800m. Patrick Perrier (Illinois) and Spencer Haik (Missouri) lead the boys field.

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