By Denise Spann - MileSplit Correspondent
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Two athletes in different parts of the country, running almost identical times in their events?
Well first, Nico Young and Cole Sprout are turning into two of the best distance runners in the Class of 2020. But secondly, with times so close, it's easy to see just how talented and how similar these two runners are.
And as they rise together on the national leaderboard, we're going to dig into the numbers to figure out how Young, a junior at Newbury Park (CA) High School, and Sprout, a junior at Valor Christian (CO) who owns sophomore class records in the 3K and 2-Mile, compare.
While Sprout was an early bloomer as a freshman and sophomore -- he was faster than Young in every single category from his 8th grade year until his sophomore season -- Young is catching up.
This fall, Sprout was third at Nike Cross Nationals. Young was fourth.
In April, the pair went head-to-head in the 3200m run at the Arcadia Invitational. Young used a late-ditch surge to beat Sprout at the line, winning in 8:40.00, just ahead of Sprout's 8:40.73. And beyond that distance, Young is nearly identical in fitness.
To watch both, you would see how each have different running styles and tactics. Sprout wasn't afraid to lead at Arcadia, and did so for almost the entire race. Young, meanwhile, took his time and moved up before sitting on him. That, based on discussions with Young's coach, was simply an adjustment on the fly -- he wasn't planning on sitting-and-kicking.
Beyond the 3200m, the similarities continue. Sprout currently has the US No. 1 time in the 1600m (4:07.20) and mile run (4:08.61). Young has the national lead in the 1500m (3:58.74) and 3200m (8:40).
On paper they're almost identical, but there are qualities that should separate these two athletes at the college level.
Young placed 103rd in his very first CIF State cross country championships as a freshman. In just three years, he's dropped over 90 seconds at 5K to become a state champion in California with a PR of 14:59.20. That type of immense progression is the same for all of his events. Just last year, as he was dealing with a few minor injury issues, Young ran 4:23.90 in the 1600m and 9:05 at 3200m.
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Historical Event-By-Event Comparison
|cole sprout||event||nico young|
|8:49.46 (so.)||2-Mile||8:43.02 (conv.)|
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College coaches will be recruiting Young not just for the sole fact that he's a national leader in multiple events, but because there's so much more potential to unleash. Young's coach at Newbury Park, Sean Brosnan, believes Young has the kind of aerobic engine few athletes at his age have ever had. In another year, he believes Young could go under 14 minutes in the 5K on the track and could challenge records in the process. He would currently rank top 25 amongst NCAA freshman in the 1500m.
But while the Californian's endurance is one of his best qualities, he doesn't have quite have the speed when compared to Sprout.
Sprout has gone down as low as 400 meters and up as high as 5K. Over the indoor season, the Colorado athlete ran a PR of 52.83. And that speed may just help dramatically improve his 800m this outdoor season--and get him closer to running sub-4 in the mile.
If you were to ask Valor Christian coach Greg Coplen what Sprout is capable of running, he'd probably keep the bar high, too. How do you argue it? Sprout has raised expectations with each passing season.
At the Dakota Ridge Invitational, where Sprout became the first high schooler in Colorado to run under nine minutes in the 3200m, he also ran a PR in the 800m (1:53.87). Sprout's US No. 1 in the 1600m (4:07.20), would convert to at least 3:50.27 in the 1500m.
And his consistency over the years at 5K has helped him break personal barriers in other events. In 2018, all of his 5K performances were under 15:35. He ran his new PR of 14:32.90 at the Nike Desert Twilight Festival, and later followed it up with a 14:39.02 at the Nike Cross Southwest Regionals. He was a few meters shy of going for a national win at NXN.
This could foreshadow Sprout specializing in cross country over the fall, then hitting fast 5Ks outdoors.
Regardless, there's a lot more running to be done for both Sprout and Young.