The Past, Present And Future Of Kansas Star Clay Shively

* Clay Shively has become one of the greatest runners in Kansas history and will leave an impactful legacy behind 

Photo Credit: David Nguyen/MileSplit

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by Maxx Bradley - MileSplit

Nearly 60 years ago, the name Jim Ryun sat atop the front page in dozens of Kansas newspapers, as they documented his varying accomplishments on cinder tracks scattered throughout the state.

For decades, his name reigned supreme at the top of both state and national record books, further cementing his name into the sport's history.

But as the decades passed and his legend remained, few wondered whether they would ever come down, even as elite runners from inside the state -- names like Shawnee Mission South's Steve Smith, Olpe's Kyler True and Shawnee Mission East's Wyatt Haughton -- chased after his historic times.

It would take a runner from the very place Ryun came of age to take one of his records down. 

A year ago, Clay Shively made history when he surpassed Ryun's legendary mark in the indoor mile, clocking a time of 4:04.95 in a college meet in Arkansas as he broke a 58-year-old record last set by the Kansas legend. 

But he wasn't finished.

What's driving the Wichita Trinity Academy senior now is the very thing that compelled Ryun to set records all those years ago. 

An unparalleled drive. 


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Growing up, Clay Shively didn't have the devotion for running that he displays today. Like most kids, he played a number of different sports, including baseball, football and soccer. It wasn't until the seventh grade when Shively finally gave running a chance.

After a stint with football, he came back to the track. And like most new runners, Shively gradually began to learn the tactics that came with racing a 5,000m, progressing from his 19:50 season opener to a personal best of 17:40. Shively and the Knights came up just short in regionals and missed out on the state championships. 

Months later, Shively had an awakening of sorts at a small track meet in early April. Just minutes after crossing the line of an 800m, one of Shively's coaches, Dr. Randy Mijares, pulled him aside. 

Much to Shively's surprise, Mijares began explaining that he saw an extreme amount of potential in him. Mijares believed he was capable of winning state titles -- maybe he could even become one of the best runners in the state.

"I had just run 2:06 and I think I got maybe 10th place at the meet," Shively remembers of the moment, "so I was basically asking him, 'What are you even talking about?'"

Over the next month, Shively set personal bests in both the 800 and 1,600m, with his season culminating with a fifth-place finish in the 800m at the Kansas Class 3A state championships. It was his first piece of KSHSAA hardware.

But that was only the beginning. 


Sophomore season. 

Shively took it upon himself to let the state know what he had next, running a new meet record of 4:10.08 at the Shawnee Mission North Relays. He took down a host of state champions while bettering the meet record by two seconds.

His 1,600m effort was one of the three finishes that elevated him to 'star' status, as it finished the season as the seventh-best performance for a sophomore nationally. 

But while his track merits were growing, Shively's confidence bloomed during cross country. 

A year and a half later, now in his senior season, Shively and his team landed in Minneapolis for the Roy Griak Invitational. He was seeking his first major out-of-state cross country win. 

"That was kind of the first actual win that I had on a big national level," Shively said. "...and to win that race was pretty awesome."

But Shively did more than just win the coveted meet. He also broke the tape in a new course record time of 15:23.9, becoming the first boy to ever break 15:30 in the course's history.

"I had just run 2:06 and I think I got maybe 10th place at the meet," Shively remembers of the moment, "so I was basically asking him, 'What are you even talking about?'"



Only one Kansas athlete has ever broken the 4:00 minute barrier mile as a high schooler. His name is Jim Ryun.

Nearly 60 years later, Shively is as close as ever to becoming the second. 

The year 2024 has offered some excruciating close calls.

Shively clocked two separate times of 4:00.7 and 4:00.47 across the indoor season, first at the Boston University Valentine Invitational and the next coming at New Balance Nationals Indoor, also in Boston. His best places him at No. 9 in history over the high school season. 

Instead of going all-in to begin the outdoor season, Shively instead changed his focus to the two-mile, clocking a state all-time best of 8:44.29 at the Shawnee Mission South Relays on March 30.

He ran his first outdoor mile on May 3 in 4:04.03 in New York City, but a few more chances should come his way as the national postseason heads his way. He also will get a chance to close out his Kansas high school career at the state championships on May 24-25 at Wichita State University. He's won 28 total races over his high school career and nabbed four state titles across the track and field and cross country seasons. 

Fortunately, the Northern Arizona recruit is not letting the goal of a sub-four mile consume him. Twenty-one boys have accomplished the feat in history. Shively knows he can be the 22th.

Jim Ryun ran 3:59 in 1964 at the California Relays, then followed with an epic 3:55.30 mile at the AAU Track and Field Championships in 1965 in San Diego, California -- the latter performance was a high school record that stood for 36 years until Alan Webb took it down in 2001 with a time of 3:53.43.

"I can't wait to break four because I've been so close so many times, but I don't know if this sounds wrong, but I know I'm there," Shively said.

"...I just still haven't had the perfect moment where all the stars align. I can't wait for the day, but I hope I go well under. It's not like it's tearing me a part or anything like that." 


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Every athlete in every sport thrives on a strong and capable support system, and for Shively, he's surrounded by people that want to see him succeed in everything he does.

For starters, his family has been with him every step of way and been supporting him since the beginning.

"When running becomes such a big part of your life, you have a lot of people that want to talk to you about running and complement you on your success ... but just having my family to keep me level-headed ... they know my heart and my personality, and that's a huge thing for me," Shively said. 

Along with his family, there have also been his teammates, seniors Sam Ferguson, Wes Ferguson and Jacob Hobson, along with junior Caleb Tofteland. There are also his coaches Eric Carroll and Dr. Randy Mijares -- the same man who once thought he would blossom into a star. 

"Contrary to most elite high school athletes, I am never alone in workouts," Shively said. "I have some absolute beasts for teammates who push me every single day."

Four years into his high school career, Clay Shively has accomplished more than most could dare dream of: Four state titles, a couple of state records, school records and a number of wins. 

Better yet, he propped the door open for the next wave of runners who want to follow in his footsteps, just like Jim Ryun before him. 

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