Brandon Miller's Similarities To World's Best 800 Runners


Lincoln Shryack - FloTrack

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The first real indication that Brandon Miller would become something greater than just an excellent youth 800 meter runner came when he ran 1:56.41 as a 13-year-old in 2015. Before then, Miller, who runs for John Burroughs High School in Missouri, certainly impressed with a multitude of AAU victories and records.

But it was the 1:56 that marked his first-ever age group world record. 

He went on to break another age group record the following year as a 14-year-old with a smooth 1:51.13 in scorching heat. He made it look easy. 

Fast-forward to 2018, and Miller is now 16 years old with a 1:49.55 PR--that's the ninth fastest U18 time in the world right now and he's the seventh fastest athlete overall--to his name. There haven't been any world records of late, but Miller has continued to improve, and in June, he won the prestigious Brooks PR Invitational 800m. Oh, and he still has two years of high school remaining.   

The two-time Missouri state champion will look to defend his AAU Junior Olympic Games 800m title this week in Des Moines, Iowa. That should be no trouble for an athlete who dominated last year by nearly six seconds. 

WatchThe 2018 AAU Junior Olympic Games LIVE on FloTrack July 28-August 4!

But Miller's mission at these AAU meets goes further than simply winning; He's looking to grow his legend by running the first 1:48 in AAU Junior Olympics history. Given how significantly he's improved each of the last seven years at the Games, it's a time like that seems well within his reach. 

The lingering question surrounding Miller, and really any youth track and field superstar, is what does all this early success mean for his future prospects?

We know that fast times in high school are not automatic precursors to excellence in college or as a professional, but they also are not automatic death knells either. Burnout and injury seem to take more casualties than peaking too early.

With that in mind, we looked at some of the world's best 800m runners to compare their early career stats with Miller's best times. In an event that often features drastic fluctuations in its superstars, the 800m is tough to project from one year to the next. After all, the two-lapper is a brutal event. But by looking at some of the top athletes that Miller hopes to emulate, it's clear that world-beating talent in the half-mile is typically evident by age 18.

Compiled below is a list of the last five Olympic gold medalists, world champions, and U.S. champions, and their PRs before they turned 18 and at age 18. An asterisk (*) indicates a top-25 time in the youth (U18) or junior (U20) yearly rankings.  

athleteAge <18Age 18Major Victories (Last 5)Age of PR
David Rudisha1:46.30*1:44.15*WC: '11, '15; OG: '12, '1623
Wilfred Bungei1:47.60*1:46.16*OG: '0822
Yuriy Borzakovskiy1:47.71*1:46.13*OG: '0420
Nils Schumann1:53.481:48.98*OG: '0024
Pierre-Ambroise Bosse1:52.261:48.38*WC: '1722
Mohamed Aman1:43.37*1:42.53*WC: '1319
Mbulaeni Mulaudzi1:50.331:48.33*WC: '0928
Clayton Murphy1:56.181:54.19US: '16, '1821
Donavan Brazier1:48.61*1:47.55*US: '1719
Nick Symmonds1:58.401:57.22US: '1528
Duane Solomon1:51.761:49.79US: '1427

*= Top-25 World Youth (U18) or Junior (U20) yearly rankings

Miller has produced times in the top 25 of the world youth rankings each of the last two seasons, and as long as he continues to progress over the next two years, he should find himself among the top 25 on the world junior list soon enough.

That would put him in good company with many huge names who were already running spectacular times from a young age like Miller. Eight of the 11 men in the table above had at least one top 25 youth or junior time before they went on to successful professional careers, and five on the list had multiple performances like these.

Of course, three notable exceptions include some prominent American names: Clayton Murphy, Nick Symmonds, and Duane Solomon. Symmonds and Murphy are famously late bloomers who made atypical improvement jumps, while Solomon progressed steadily until peaking at 27. 

While it's fun to see how Miller matches up with some of the biggest names in the sport from today and yesterday, there are two other athletes the AAU star is more likely to be compared to going forward: fellow 16-year-old Max Burgin, who runs for Great Britain, and US high school record-holder Michael Granville.

The British Burgin is actually four months younger than Miller, but he has already run 1:47.36 this season--a 16-year-old World Record. Burgin really turned heads on May 12 just eight days prior to his birthday when he broke the 15-year-old mark with a stunning 1:47.50. It was the first sub-1:49 by an athlete under 16 in world history.

Miller is fantastic, but so far Burgin has surpassed him with performances that seem almost mythical.

athleteAge 15Age 16
Max Burgin1:47.50*1:47.36*
Brandon Miller1:49.87*1:49.55*

Of course, both athletes have reason to think they'll ultimately reach the upper echelon of the 800m. Many greats were just like them, challenging records and dominating their competition from the very beginning.

There's no reason to think that, barring injury or burnout, these incredible talents won't keep getting better until they reach the biggest stages of track and field.

But there are always cautionary tales, and in the 800m for youth stars, Michael Granville is that tale. Granville is a fixture in the U.S. high school record books--he's held the 800m high school mark (1:46.45) since 1996--and yet he never ran faster than that in his career.

Injuries and lost focus derailed what could have been a remarkable career for the California prep.

AthleteAge 15Age 16Age 17age 18
Michael Granville1:51.031:48.98*1:47.96*1:46.95*
This week offers another chance for Miller to drop an unbelievable time for his age, and another opportunity for us to wonder how fast he will ultimately go.

Whether he finds himself among the big pro names one day or is resigned to track and field's version of "what could have been" like Granville, it's going to be thrilling to watch it all unfold. But as he continues to collect records and trophies, Miller should like his chances of one day doing it at the highest levels.


Related Links: 
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