This week let's look back at a race that no one can ever forget. The day that Alan Webb took down the Jim Ryan's American high school record. Alan Webb stands as the greatest American miler of all time from his very young years of breaking the HS Sophomore record by running 4:06.94 to his eventual American Mile record of 3:46.91 which still stands today. Along the way he broke one record after the other in amazing fashion. To watch Webb run was truly something special and that day in 2001 at Hayward field was no exception.
If you can picture the day at the iconic Hayward field in Oregon with a sold out crown in the stands at the Prefontaine Classic. Now keep in mind Webb was a senior in high school but this was not a high school race. This race had some of the best distance runners in the world including the ageless legend Bernard Lagat and of course the King Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco. These two are to this day among my top distance runners heroes but in this day the race was stolen by high school kid from South Lakes High School in Reston Virginia. If you can picture this kid toeing the line with these elite runners. Some I'm sure were thinking who is this kid and why is he here? And can you even imagine what Webb must have thought and felt stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the best in the world? As impressive as this must have been Alan Webb knew it was not time to be star struck. He had a mission to accomplish. He was out to not only break 4:00 minutes in the mile, which we had already done a few months before at the New Balance Games making Webb the first high school runner to ever break 4 indoors, but he was chasing Jim Ryan's All-time high school mile record. At the time, Ryan's record of 3:55.3 had stood for over 36 years and many at the time including yours truly thought it was unbreakable. Well was I ever wrong!
As the gun went off Webb got a good start and settled in the middle of the pack. He was not there to win the race but to run his race at the correct pace. Many of the other runners fairly quickly ran around the high school "kid" and in a silent manner saying "hey kid don't get in our way!" Webb moved back to last place but was running his race. He came through the 400 meter mark in 58 seconds, an almost perfect pace to break the record. The pace overall was fast.Two pacers were leading El Guerrouj out at 53 seconds to run the fastest mile ever on American soil. This was living up to being a historic race one way or the other. Mid way through the 2nd lap Webb begin to make a move and passes one runner so no longer in last place. At the mid way point Webb crosses the 800 meter mark in 1:58, putting him exactly where him and his coach had planned and as he came through he passed another runner and now was beginning to connect back up with the main pack. Unbelievable this high school "kid" was literally running with the best of the world with 2 laps to go. Heading into the bell lap with 400 meters to go Webb crosses in 2:58.3 and knew he will need a sub 60 last lap to break the record. He immediately make a move and yes you guessed it begins to pass more runners on the outside. Not just one but several runners now.
In all this excitement lets not forget the excitement happening a few meters up front of the race with El Guerrouj pulling away from Lagat and charging for home daring anyone to stay with him. This move strung out the field to a single line. Webb had now moved into the middle of the pack as the race came to 200 meters left. Many would had been happy to finish here in 10th or so place but not Webb! He unleashed a kick for the ages passing runners on the outside and as unbelievable as it sounds moving into the top 5 with 60 meters to go and almost even catching Bernard Lagat! as he crosses the finish line in 4th and almost 3rd place. Fitting as it was El Guerrouj runs over to Webb to be the first to congratulate him for not only finishes 4th in a stacked race but yes breaking the 36 year old high school mile record! Alan Web now held the record at 3:53.43. A record that still stands today almost 17 years later! The said it was impossible to break Jim Ryan's before Webb now many say Webb record is impossible but records are made to be broken and I for one hope to see it done soon by the amazing high school runners we can seen lately. Forever in our hearts and memories Webb stands a legend in his own right. Let's see who the next young legend will be to emerge on the running scene! Check out the video below:
Coach Rojas has 11 combined years of coaching experience at various levels including coaching a high school D1 State finalist team and 3 years in a row of a top 10 state ranking. He is passionate of the sport of running and loves to see new runners take up the sport! He wants to share a lifetime of running experience to all