"Once he got through the 1,200m in three minutes, I knew he could close. I said, 'Holy s***, he's going to go.'" -- Michael Kessler
By Cory Mull - MileSplit
In the days after his historic milestone on Sunday, Hobbs Kessler found out what it meant to be a minor celebrity in the running world.
Between phone calls, Instagram DMs, podcast requests and interviews, the Ann Arbor Skyline senior was a seriously wanted man.
Almost from the instant he broke four minutes in the mile, from the moment he set a new indoor national record in 3:57.66 at the American Track League, the Michigan teenager became a national somebody, as interview requests came from Track and Field News and LetsRun, to MileSplit and DyeStat, followed by others like The Detroit News, his local Ann Arbor news, Runner's World and even his student newspaper.
"I enjoy the act of running, but that's just the icing on the cake," Kessler told Ann Arbor's Local 4 News. "What I really like is the team and my community."
For an athlete so grounded and instrospective, it was likely an out-of-body experience. But through it all, Kessler always kept up, Hobbs' father Michael said.
"I was really impressed with his poise and presence," Michael said on Thursday. "He's certainly better than I would have been. It's been a pretty interesting experience."
While this week tested Hobbs ability to keep up, he generally didn't miss a beat. From Monday until Thursday, Michael said, Hobbs answered around 6-7 interviews a day.
"It was just a lot of the weird media stuff we've never done before," Michael said. "A lot of people just contacting us."
It's not like media was foreign to Hobbs -- after all, he had finished second at this year's MHSAA LP Division I state cross country championships this past fall with the third-fastest time on the Michigan International Speedway course in 14:51.79; that flat PR was also eighth-best in Michigan history.
But there is a distinction between some media and lots of media.
And this week certainly was crazy.
That happens when you break a record formerly held by Drew Hunter, whom many see as one of the top distance runners in high school history, alongside Alan Webb and Jim Ryun. It also happens when people think you're just a year removed from a 4:18.96 indoor mile, which gives that indoor national record some ridiculous shock value -- though more on that later.
The first interviews took place as early as Sunday, as Track and Field News -- which is spearheaded by local Michigan journalist Jeff Hollobaugh -- took shape.
By Monday, there was a longform story published on Hobbs' background and history, along with notes from the race. LetsRun, a site made famous for its message boards but which also has in-depth reporting, wasn't too long after.
Then came requests by MileSplit for Hobbs to appear on its podcast -- he did really well, by the way -- followed by interviews with DyeStat, Runner's World, The Communicator, and apparently even a high school student with a running podcast, Michael said.
Perhaps the most important point gleaned from all the new information was the fact that, yes, Hobbs did not come out of nowhere.
Over the pandemic, he had put down time trial efforts of 4:13 in the mile and 8:53.1 in the 2-mile. Then in July, he paced his coach, Nick Willis, and Mason Ferlic en route to a sub-4 mile before finishing it off in 4:08.4 -- while running primarily on an outside lane.
For the Michigan insiders who knew this intel, they weren't surprised by Sunday's result. Even Michael, who was located on the stands near the backstretch of the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayeteville, Arkansas, knew his son could finish strong.
"Once he got through the 1,200m in three minutes, I knew he could close," Michael said. "I said, 'Holy s***, he's going to go.'"
But as history subsided, life needed to go on. Sometimes that's a tough proposition for those still on the high of a major record. Early on in the week, though -- needing no time to decompress -- Hobbs went right back to practice at Skyline with his teammates. It was same 'ol, same 'ol.
"He hasn't really had time to do much else," Michael said. "He's been in school and going to practice."
Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising, either.
High school life continues on, much like the normalcies of running and training.
In due time, much of the country's national running media figured out a whole lot about Hobbs, including his love for climbing -- he even qualified for a Youth World Championship in 2020 -- and his family's background in the sport.
Both his father, Michael, and mother, Serena, were highly-competitive athletes over their time as competitive runners.
Serena, a former collegiate runner, qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the marathon at age 39 after running a 2:44. Michael, who competed at Eastern Michigan for a year and a half in the late 80s, had once run a 4-flat road mile in 1994 at the Michigan Cherry Festival Mile.
Serena is a currently teacher at Skyline and the head coach of track and field. Both she and Michael coach cross country at the school.
So in essence, both parents gave him the tools.
Hobbs just had to tap into it -- though it also helps that he is being coached by former Michigan coach Ron Warhust and Nick Willis.
"Hobbs has the best of both my wife and I," Michael said. "Serena was an aerobic machine and has always had really good control ...so he got lucky in that regard."
While Hobbs' father or his coaches aren't sure yet -- or at least publicly acknowledging -- what his next big move is, the Ann Arbor Skyline senior wasn't going to wait long to race again.
On Friday, Michael said, Hobbs was entered in an 800 meter race at the Ypsilanti Lincoln Athletic Building.
While Michigan's protocols still require mask-wearing during athletic competition, Hobbs will get a quick rebound from history -- and in a much more relaxed setting.
This time, Hobbs will likely not break history ...but even if he did, few would be surprised this time.