Four College Recruits Whose Progression Has Exploded Upward

* Vestavia Hill's Ethan Strand owns the No. 2 mile time in the US over the 2021 season

Photo Credit: Mary Ann Magnant

By Garrett Zatlin -- MileSplit Recruiting Correspondent

- - - 

The Early Signing Period for college recruits is long gone, but that hasn't stopped us from going back and seeing how some of these soon-to-be NCAA athletes have progressed since signing on the dotted line back in November.

Here are four key boys recruits from top-tier recruiting classes who have since improved their stock.

Hobbs Kessler, Ann Arbor (MI)

College: Northern Arizona

- - - 

This is probably the most obvious name that we were going to highlight. Coming into the indoor track and field season, we knew that Kessler was talented and we saw him make solid improvements during cross country. He seemed to be trending upwards and emerging as one of the better distance talents in the state of Michigan.

However, no one could have known that the Michigan native would run 3:57.66 for the indoor mile and break Drew Hunter's national record on Super Bowl Sunday in a field full of professionals and top collegiates.

Prior to this winter, Kessler had never run faster than 4:21 for 1,600m, and although fact-checks on fast time trials over the summer eventually came, none of those marks came anywhere close to a 3:57 mile, especially not on an indoor track.

Northern Arizona is typically known for their cross country and long distance success. However, the Lumberjacks have still had plenty of success with producing milers. Current Lumberjack Theo Quax and Luis Grijalva are good examples.

Yes, Kessler may have just run 3:57, but considering that he's somewhat new to this level of running, there still seems to be an even higher ceiling waiting for him at the NCAA level.

Jaden Price-Whitehead, Upper Dublin (PA)

College: South Carolina

- - - 

The future South Carolina Gamecock is one of the top field athletes in the nation when it comes to college prospects from the Class of 2021. With a long jump personal best of 25-0 -- and a current season-best of 24-10.5 -- it's easy to see why Price-Whitehead was heavily recruited.

However, seeing him recently secure an overall personal best of 48-8 in the triple jump, which was his first time over the 48-0 barrier, is incredibly exciting. 

Price-Whitehead has always been an excellent long jumper, but his triple jump still hadn't hit the level of others in his class. But with a new triple jump PR that is well above his old personal best, Price-Whitehead seems to be perfectly balancing his range between the two horizontal jump events.

Not only that, but the Pennsylvania native has also run a new personal best of 6.45 in the 55m dash this winter, ranking him at US No. 10 in the event.

Yes, he's predominantly a jumper, but it's a nice luxury for the Gamecocks to have a multi-dimensional jumper who can also hold his own in the sprints.

Udodi Onwuzurike, Brother Rice (MI)

College: Stanford

- - - 

Speaking of high school seniors finding success in the sprints, we need to talk about Onwurzurike, a sprinter whose name doesn't always get brought up in the tier of the country's most elite sprinters -- though he certainly does now. 

The future Stanford Cardinal sprinter has been flat-out excellent this winter, posting two big personal bests -- one in the 55m dash (6.25) and one in the 60m dash (6.75).

In fact, those times currently rank at US No. 1 and US No. 2, respectively.

And if that wasn't enough, Onwuzurike has also secured a new indoor personal best of 21.51 in the 200m. It's encouraging to see the Michigan native making promising steps forward in almost every aspect of racing. 

Overall, Onwuzurike looks like he is still making progress and trending upwards. It would be different if he was making improvements in only one event, but his entire resume has seen a recent boost. 

Stanford is typically known as a distance powerhouse, but it's clear based on their recent recruiting efforts that they are trying to diversify the scoring opportunities on their roster. Seeing Onwuzurike running as well as he is likely gives the Cardinal coaching staff some confidence about their signing.

Ethan Strand, Vestavia Hills (AL)

College: North Carolina

- - - 

UNC's recruiting class was understandably headlined by the likes of Judson Greer and Parker Wolfe, two superstar high school distance runners who have been top talents in the nation, especially when it comes to cross country and events like the two mile or 5K.

However, the middle distance portion of this recruiting class is a lot better than we were expecting it to be. 

Strand, an Alabama native, has been on fire this winter, emerging as the best high school half-miler and one of the best milers in the country. However, this wasn't at all something that we expected.

Strand had never run faster than 1:58 for 800 meters during an indoor track season and had "only" run 1:54 during the 2019 outdoor track season. Since then, the future Tar Heel has since dropped a national-leading time of 1:51 for 800 meters. For perspective, no other high schooler in the country has run under 1:52 this season. 

And if you thought that was a fluke, think again. Strand has also run 1:52 and 1:53 this season and recently dropped his mile PR down to 4:10.

With sub-four milers Brandon Tubby and Thomas Ratcliffe nearing the end of their eligibility at UNC, Coach Miltenberg couldn't have found a better talent to come in and eventually replace the middle distance firepower of his two veterans. 

We previously thought that Strand may be a better longer distance runner given his personal best of 14:36 for 5000 meters. 

However, the Alabama native can seemingly do everything at a near-elite high school level. That's extremely rare and the fact that he's still hitting new personal bests has to be incredibly exciting for the coaching staff in Chapel Hill.