Photo Credit: Dan Tyree/California MileSplit
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By Logan Stanley -- MileSplit Correspondent
EL DORADO HILLS, CALIFORNIA -- In a field of eight athletes competing under the lights on a calm Saturday evening at Oak Ridge High School, just east of Sacramento, a quartet of Utah runners attempted to make their mark on history in the Quarantine Clasico.
And up until the moment of the starting gun, nothing quite seemed out of reach.
By race's end, Skyline's Thomas Boyden would shine bright and finish as the top athlete from Utah, scoring a personal record of 4:04.50 to place third. Corner Canyon's Easton Allred, hitting on all cylinders for his first true competitive mile since 2018, was fourth in a career best of 4:05.67.
The Corner Canyon duo of Alex Harbertson (Sixth in 4:16.93) and Mark Boyle (Seventh in 4:16.98) secured their own successes, both running major PRs.
In total, all four were able to record personal bests marks.
Leo Daschbach (Highland) won the race in 3:59.54 to become the 11th high school boy to break four minutes in the mile. It is just the third time that a prep runner has gone sub-four in a field of only high school athletes -- Lukas Verzbicas achieved that feat first in 2011 and Michael Slagowski followed in 2016.
And while the quartet of Boyden, Allred, Haberston and Boyle missed out on the Utah state mile record of 4:02.72, set by Ben Saarel in 2013, there was some comfort from this particular journey: This field was the fastest field ever assembled from the state, with all four runners producing times among the top 25 in Utah history.
Boyden -- who also owns Utah's 1,600m record of 4:05.16 -- and Allred were particularly impressive; They now rank No. 5 and 6, respectively, in the state's record books.
With a truly ideal and picturesque setting, the temperature was 73 degrees with no wind and a cotton-candy sunset served as the backdrop, Haberston did his best to take in his surroundings for his last high school race.
"The whole trip I wanted to take in every little detail, because this is my last race and I want to remember all the little things," Haberston, who will attend Weber State upon completing a two-year mission in Peru, said. "I feel like I wasn't super nervous for this race. I just was prepared and I was ready. I wanted to go. That made it fun because I started looking at the small things. The scenery was beautiful -- the clouds."
The race, which featured two pacers, went out according to plan -- the first 409 meters was 59.44.
It was a bit slow at the half-mile, with the pack coming through at 2:02.15. But Boyden was the revelation, as he was the one picking up the tempo and making sure the pace was honest. It was on the third lap when the group picked it up, and it was Bodyen who dropped a 59.70 on that pivotal third lap.
"It felt really good, up until the last lap," Boyden said. "I was planning on going through 800 a little bit quicker -- more like 1:58. So I had to make a little bit of an adjustment right there.
"And so I got to around 900 meters, and I asked the pacer [to go faster] because I'm not really like Leo, who can run a 56. Best case scenario I run like a 59 on a really good day.
"I was like, 'Okay, I gotta do this. Who cares, it's the last race and I just want to go hard.' So I did that, and I got past the last 200 meters. It is what it is. I gave it my all."
While Boyden didn't secure the record he envisioned, he found lessons in the way he competed among his peers -- if nothing else, this is an indication of his talent-level as he makes the move to Stanford in the fall.
And let's not forget, this landmark mile attempt came at an unprecedented time, muddying expectations.
These past two months have been a challenge for the country as a whole, the world coming to a standstill in mid-March. The shelter-in-place orders that followed, designed to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, put an end to any kind of normalcy. But in El Dorado County, as planning for this ramped up, things were looking better.
While it was as early as March when the spring season was shuttered, runners near and far weren't deterred: Most elected to not shut down their seasons, most instead continuing their training even as potential marks would most likely be considered "unofficial" in the record books.
When approached for the opportunity to race, all four Utah athletes were on-board, almost immediately.
Boyden found out about the potential attempt a month ago, mulled the decision over for a week and decided he was game. Allred brought along his two Corner Canyon teammates, a decision that both Haberston and Boyle were grateful for.
And now they're a part of something special, a performance -- and a race -- that will no doubt be remembered long after this night.
Speaking of that. How did it feel to literally be part of some history-making?
"It was awesome," Haberston said about Daschbach's sub-4 mile. "I couldn't really hear, I was focused on me. At the end, it was just awesome to know that I was in a race where somebody broke four.
"Like it was kind of a really cool feeling being a part of that and that historical event that not a lot of high school kids do. It was awesome."
For Allred, it was a bag of mixed emotions. This spring was on track to be a fruitful one for Allred, who was finally beginning to build up strength after battling injuries since his sophomore year. Then the season was put on pause, before being shut down for good.
Gone was the chance to showcase his improvement before heading off to BYU.
"I felt like I got ripped off," Allred said. "Injured for a year and half, having my senior track season taken away. But I just decided running is a sport that I do because I love. It's not something I do so I can get more viewers on my YouTube or more Instagram followers or clout.
"It's just something that I love to do, so I think that's something I try to incorporate into my training and enjoy the process."
A 4:05.67 mile is nothing to be disappointed about -- especially when it's a four second improvement on your personal best -- but Allred admitted he left a little out there on the track. Allred knew that breaking four minutes was unlikely after seeing 3:03.59 on the timing board with one lap to go, which caused him to let up a tad.
Nonetheless, he's still plenty happy to come away with a sizable new personal best. And, with the twilight setting and the thrill of competition, he was able to be reminded once again of the wonders of running.
"It felt incredible," Allred said. "It was so refreshing and relaxing. Honestly, I was starting to lose track of why I love the sport so much. So to be back here, racing with guys, I'm falling in love with it all over again. Really grateful to be able to do this."
While Boyle didn't run the time he was seeking -- sub 4:10 was the goal heading into the race -- he wasn't disappointed with the result. He had just received the invitation from Allred only the week prior and obviously hadn't been training with a fast mile attempt in mind.
That didn't deter Boyle though, who will be college teammates with Allred at BYU once he completes a two-year mission in Brazil. Considering Boyle is still on the mend after a bout of mono in the beginning of the year and hasn't been able to fully optimize his training, saying yes to such a hefty attempt speaks to Boyle's competitive drive.
It was with 300 meters left when Boyle opted to make his move, throwing in a surge. But the dreaded wall made its appearance.
"I feel like I gave it my all, and a lot more. Like my all ended right over there," Boyle said as he motioned to the 150 meter mark.
Even though the race didn't end exactly how Boyled had hoped for, he could hang his head knowing he completely emptied the gas tank -- plus the reserve fuel. And despite feeling quite ill after the race, Boyle still found room for some humor.
"I ran a really good 1,400 meter, I think."