The inaugural Jim Ryun High School Dream was a tale of two pacers. Both the boys and girls races were planned out beforehand to ensure fast times, but one of them wasn’t executed up to the winner’s hopes.
Lukas Verzbicas led aggressively from the gun of the boys race and won decisively, in 4:04.38. But as he implied at Friday’s press conference, his sights were set on more than the win. He wanted sub-four: “I can’t say I will do it tomorrow,” he told the media. “But I certainly will try.”
So when his pacer brought him through in 2:01-and-change it was slower than he hoped. “Before the 800, I was thinking that as long as we stayed on pace we could run sub-four," he said. "But after the pace slowed I just went for the win.”
“If the pacer goes through in 2:01, I’m not going to go out in 1:59,” he added.
After running a slight downhill mile on the road in 3:56 a couple weeks ago, expectations were high that he had a shot at breaking the fabled 4-minute barrier, something Jim Ryun, the man who's namesake headlined the event, became the first ever high schooler to do.
Through 800 meters, Jim Rosa and Colby Alexander were the only ones maintaining contact, and by 1200 meters, which split in 3:01.07, it was down to just Verzbicas and Rosa.
Rosa said he made one move with 500 meters to go, but knew it wouldn’t enough. “I came up on his shoulder and he just took off,” Rosa said. “He’s just unbelievable and there was no way of catching him.”
North Carolina’s Jake Hurysz, who has been on a tear this season and was a sleeper pick to win, tried his best with a furious kick down the final straightaway. “I let the field get away from me a little bit and I just ran out of room,” Hurysz said. “I was closing pretty hard but I felt like if I had gotten up there [earlier] I could have potentially won.”
Huryz’s final time was 4:06.18. Rosa finished in 4:07.70 in third. Verzbica’s time was a US #1 this year and a sophomore record. The top seven finishers in all ran personal bests, most of them marginal.
In the girls race, the win was still very much up in the air with 100 meters to go, but sophomore Maddie Meyers emerged from a pack of several runners to catch Shelby Hayes, who held a small lead, to win by over a second, in 4:41.93. Hayes finished in 4:43.00 in a Florida state record.
Compared to the boys race, the girls race was disproportionately faster. Meyers’ time was a US #1 and the top five finishers now account for five of the top six times run this year.
Like the boys, the girls race was paced. The plan was between 2:16 and 2:18, but without the allure of a historic milestone like 4-flat staring them in the face they seemed less tempted to stick to the pace. The leaders that did – Cory McGee and Ajee Wilson – came through in 2:17.04 but faded so dramatically in second 800 that they finished second to last and last.
Meyers bid her time in the middle of the pack. “I didn’t want to take it out too fast because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold a pace like that,” she said. “Coming into the bell lap I felt strong, I thought I had a little left.”
Kelsey Margey, an All-County lacrosse player this spring, finished a surprising third in 4:43.91, a 13-second PR. She was an unknown in part because she’s only run competitively since the winter which, while successful, was a small sample size. But she raced like a seasoned vet today. “I knew I didn’t want to set the pace,” she said. “Anybody could have done that. I was just trying to sit in the middle and keep working my way up.”