Video: Cole Sprout and Cruz Culpepper battled to the line for 4:04 miles a few weeks ago in Nashville
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Breaking 4-minutes in the mile seemed impossible for any high school boy for a long time, and then it happened in succession for three straight years in the mid 60s.
That breakthrough, however, didn't last.
It would take over three decades for it to happen again at the high school level before Alan Webb came along in 2001. But again, the Virginia native's singular success wasn't a broader theme.
Another decade came before we witnessed it again with Lukas Verzbicas in 2011. Then the high school running community saw three straight years of sub-4s by the likes of Grant Fisher, Matthew Maton, Drew Hunter, Michael Slagowski and Reed Brown in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Those successes over a three period period seemed to indicate that the barrier was coming down on a more regular occasion. But history still proves that breaking 4-minutes in the mile is still an exclusionary cause for high school boys, and few possess the ability to even try.
Only 10 athletes have accomplished the feat. Ever.
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- - -No high school boy broke the barrier in 2018, even though Brentwood High School graduate Brodey Hasty certainly came really, really close. The Tennessee native was just .06 seconds shy from accomplishing the feat for the fourth straight year.
And this track and field season brings a little more uncertainty.
No high school boy approached the time this indoor season, and the ensuing outdoor season hasn't brought a different theme, either.
So this all begs the question: What will it take? What, exactly, does it take to break 4?
For one, it certainly takes speed.
When Alan Webb became the first athlete since the 1960s to break 4-minutes over the indoor season, he was capable of running sub-1:49 in the 800.
But Webb also was inserted into a professional field that could push him. In the top four times ever recorded over the indoor season, all four boys were racing against professionals.
Webb would first break the barrier in 2001 at the New Balance Games with a time of 3:59.86. Fifteen years later, Hunter would do the same, setting the indoor national record with a time of 3:57.81.
But as Webb proved later in the 2001 season with his 1:47.74 800m, his speed made a huge difference. Hunter had the same wheels. He eventually ran 1:48.64 in the 800m in the spring of 2016.
|MIllrose Games||Drew Hunter||2016||3:57.81||NA||NA|
|NB Games||Alan Webb||2001||3:59.86||NA||NA|
|Millrose Games||Brodey Hasty||2018||4:00.05||1:54.30||2:27.25|
|NB Games||David Principe||2017||4:00.97||NA||2:27.86|
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Hasty and Principe, however, did not have that same pick-up.
Both athletes failed to break 1:52 for 800m over the outdoor season. Hasty would go on to earn a personal best of 1:52.98 at Brooks PR that June, while Principe would log a best of 1:53.75 in high school.
More athletes have broken 4-minutes over the outdoor season, though. And as times indicate, there is a heavy correlation with 800m and mile time.
|Pre Classic||Alan Webb||2001||3:53.43||1:47.74|
|Adidas Grand Prix||Lukas Verzbicas||2011||3:59.71||NA|
|Pre Classic||Drew Hunter||2016||3:58.86||1:48.64|
|Fes. of Miles||Reed Brown||2017||3:59.30||1:51.01|
|Fes. of Miles||Grant Fisher||2015||3:59.38||NA|
|Or. Twilight||Matthew Maton||2015||3:59.38||1:51.81|
|Nike Twilight||Michael Slagowski||2016||3:59.53||1:48.36|
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As you can see, every single athlete who has broken four minutes in the mile in high school has run faster than 1:52 in the 800m.
While Maton and Brown utilized their aerobic engine to get them to sub-4, Slagowski had more raw speed -- which made up for a lack of endurance.
Brown went on to the University of Oregon in 2018 and broke four minutes twice over the indoor season, lowering his personal best to 3:57.23. His personal best of 3:39.56 in the 1500m for Oregon also equates to 3:57.06 in the mile.
This brings us to the current crop of athletes.
2019 Outdoor Candidates
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Of this year's outdoor class, there remains a great deal of talent but no certainty in any kind of sub-4 attempt.
Based on the data in front of us, Sprout remains the best option to break 4-minutes based on his most recent race at the Music City Distance Carnival, though his personal record time in the 800m would indicate that fatigue in the final stages of the race could play a part in an effort.
If he were to break the barrier at some point over the ensuing season, his history in the half-mile would go against trends with those who have broken the mark before. Of course, Sprout's 3200m time would also be a defining factor.
Only Verzbicas and Hunter went faster all-time before hitting the mark.
Meanwhile, Dan Maton continues to remain an interesting candidate to go after the sub-4 mark as well. With his combination of 800m and 3200m times, the future University of Washington runner has shown both an ability to turn over and also sustain his aerobic capacity beyond the mile race.
If we were to pick two potential candidates this weekend, those two would be it.
Stats: Top 50 All-Time Outdoor Milers - Top 50 Returners