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Interval Session #115 - Jeremy Rae

By Dave Devine - April 30, 2009

Turns out one of the best high school milers in the United States this year is actually from Ontario, Canada.  But Lakeshore Catholic 12th grader Jeremy Rae is not an exchange student at a US high school, like Czech harrier Jakub Zivec was last autumn, he's just a top-shelf Canadian talent who's journeyed "south of the border," as he says, to claim big mile wins at the 2009 National Scholastic Indoor Championships and last weekend's Penn Relays.  At NSIC, Rae turned back a tough field for a 4:10.09 victory which served as sweet vindication for an 11th place finish the previous year.  At the Penn Relays, he immediately gapped the packed field and hung on for a 4:08.14 effort which took down a meet record held by Matt Centrowitz.  While his name may not be completely familiar to followers of the US distance scene, Jeremy Rae-- who actually resides ten minutes from Buffalo, NY-- is a stud in Canada.  Heading into this year, he was coming off a super 2008 where he swept the Canadian youth championships (age 17 or under) in the 800 and 1500 with times of 1:52.92 and 3:57.31.  Even more impressive, he had a 1500 earlier in the summer clocked at 3:49.12.  He ranked #1 overall for the year in the 1500 and #2 for 800 in his homeland.

After several winter and early-spring forays into the US to race the best we have to offer (he was also 6th at the Reebok BIG Junior Mile), Rae now turns his focus to the Canadian season and qualifying for the Pan Am Games this summer. 

DyeStat senior editor Dave Devine packs his passport for a few quick miles on the far side of the border.

  Jeremy Rae wins the Penn Relays mile
  Photo by John Nepolitan

1) We have to start with your big Penn Relays mile victory this past weekend, Jeremy.  Congrats on that win against some great competition!  Can you take us back through the race, discussing your strategy heading in, whether you were able to stick to that, and at what point you felt like you really had the race in hand?  How did it feel to win in a huge stadium like that, and then to learn you'd set the meet record?

Thank you very much! Coming into the race I had two goals. One being to win the race and Two to set the meet record. My coach and I had agreed that going out in 60-61 would set me up nicely for taking down the record, and ensure the race did not turn out to be a typical Penn mile (crawl through the first 800, then set a new 800 PR in the second half of the race). What my coach and I did not foresee was me jumping out to that huge lead (especially with Gavyn Nero in the field, who is a 3:47 guy). I was still able to run a decent second and third lap despite being by myself, and closed in sub-60 for the last lap, so I was very happy with how things turned out.

What I really loved about racing at Penn was how you could tell how the race was unfolding just by listening to the crowd. When I jumped out to the early lead, everything was silent. When Brett [Johnson] and Drew [Shields] started gaining on me, the crowd became noticeably louder. And when I started gapping them again with 150 to go, the crowd quieted back down again and I knew at that point I was going to win the race.

2) This year at NSIC, you went from having been an 11th-place finisher in 2008 to the champion in 2009.  You mentioned after the race that you didn't want it to turn into a kicker's affair, and that you tend to do better in a race off an honest pace.  But I know you've also been working on your speed, and you have that 1:52 800 PR in your backpocket.  So, how do you see yourself now?  Are you more of a grinder who can wear people down with pace, are you someone who can sit and kick if needed, or are you someone who has an arsenal of options as the race unfolds?

What my coach and I have really worked on over the past year is having a quicker turnover and improving my quarter-mile time, which has given me some options when racing the mile. In grades 9 and 10, I had little-to-no natural speed (struggled to break 60 in the 400) which inhibited my ability to run the mile, but now that I'm able to run low 50's, it has become much easier to hold mile pace (61-62) and yet still be able to have a kick at the end. Also note that as a freshman and sophomore I was a 15/3k runner, but after dropping down and running the 8 more frequently, I have noticed significant gains in my mile times.

3) With that NSIC victory, and then the Penn win last week, you've probably won as many big US high school mile races as any US high schooler this year.  Was that the plan all along-- to fill the schedule with a number of races in the US, or is it a case of the opportunities coming along and you taking them?  Do you feel like the US races offer better competition than what you might find in Canada?

After coming in 11th at NSIC's as a junior, I really wanted to come back and avenge for my poor showing. At the beginning of the year, that was the only race I planned on doing in the States, since there is more than enough opportunities/ competition here in Canada. I then heard about BIG, where I raced and loved the atmosphere of the event, which led to me wanting to run more meets south of the border. Penn was an unbelievable experience, running in front of nearly 40,000 people, all of whom had the same passion for track and field that I have.

4) In Canada, I know most of your races are 1500, not 1 Mile, so I'm wondering if the idea of going "sub-4" holds quite the mystique for a guy growing up as a distance runner in Ontario that it would for a kid growing up as an aspiring runner in California or New York?  Would it mean more for you to, say...break 3:40 for 1500, than to dip under 4-flat for the mile, and have you set either of those barriers as a goal for this year?

Sub-4 definitely has the same mystique and aura up here in Canada. Three Canadian high schoolers have done it (Nathan Brannen, Kevin Sullivan, and Marc Oleson), and have all gone on to do incredible things on the track, so joining that list would definitely be an incredible feat. I do, however, understand the difficulty of dipping under the barrier, which is why it's not one of my immediate goals, but more just a bonus if the season goes perfectly and I can find the right race to do it. My more immediate goals are to win my provincial track meet (June 4-6) in either the 15 or 8, and qualify for Pam Am Juniors, which will be held in Trinidad late this summer.

5) Can you describe the team/training/coaching situation you have at Lakeshore High School?  Are athletics typically connected with the schools in Canada, as they are here in the US, or do you do most of your athletics training with a club?  Is there a particular coach or mentor you've worked with as you've improved over the last few years, and if so, can you share a bit about that relationship and how it's helped you develop as a runner?

  Jeremy Rae takes the 2009 NSIC Mile
  Photo by John Dye

What impresses me most about American prep running is the strength and depth of many high schools. For example, that 7:30 by Albermarle VA was simply incredible (having 4 guys average 1:52 at the same school is out of this world). Up here in Canada, schools are generally smaller and the depth of the track teams are weaker. Most high schools, like mine, begin practicing for the track season one week before the competitions start, which is not conducive to good performances on the track. This is why most competitive track athletes train at a club, and the system is very competitive.

I train and compete for Niagara Regional Athletics under the supervision of Mike Young. He is a tremendous factor in the success I have had, and I attribute most of my accomplishments to him. His low-mileage/high intensity approach seems to be a method of training that has really worked for me.  Also, having two supportive parents who were also athletes (father was a 2:40 marathoner, mother a very good gymnast) has had a tremendous impact on my results.

6)  You've had the chance to race a lot of the best young US distance guys with your various forays into the United States in the last year, but I have a sense you also pay close attention to the US scene and know most of the big players.  That said, if you had to identify one high schooler currently running in the US you'd hate to have sitting on your shoulder with 250 meters to go in a big 1500 final, who would it be?  And who, among the guys you have raced, would you particularly enjoy having another chance to toe the line against, or do you especially enjoy racing?

After following and studying American prep running for a couple years, the person I'd least like to have on my shoulder in a close race is Robby Andrews. After seeing him run 1:49 indoors (I was standing in the infield when he ran it), I think he is the most dangerous runner to race against, especially after a slow first few laps. A close second would go to Mac Fleet, who I think will run the overall fastest mile time out of the two this year, simply because he has more experience at running the mile and has the Oregon advantage (might be able to get into a quick Prefontaine Mile)! It would be nice to race either of them again (along with any of the other top milers in the US) although I realize the chances will be limited since the Canadian season is now getting underway and is going to keep me pretty busy.

If either of you are reading this right now, understand you are more than welcome to come north of the border in your post-season and mix it up with myself and the other Canadian milers in the 1500. I might even be willing to pay for your transportation ;)

  Jeremy Rae in the 2009 Reebok BIG Jr. Mile
  Photo by Jeannette Seckinger

7) I know you've committed to attend the University of Notre Dame next year.  Can you talk about that decision, how the recruiting process went, and if it's any different for someone being recruited from Canada than from the US?   What things about Notre Dame made you finally settle on becoming part of the Fighting Irish squad for next year?

What I did notice about the recruiting process was how difficult it was for me to get the exposure I deserved. I can guarantee many American 4:20 milers got recruited more than I did. I often had to call schools and personally talk to the coaches and let them know who I was before they would take an active interest (some didn't even take me seriously, often questioning my times ). I also found that some schools were more willing to throw money at less-distinguished American runners than give me an offer. Not mentioning any names, but early in the summer I contacted my two favorite schools and expressed an interest. They then told me they had no money as it was tied up with current athletes. Come February, those same two schools signed multiple milers with slower times than me who were thrown a hefty amount of money. If I were to have taken the 10-minute drive over to Buffalo, NY (instead of running in Toronto) and ran a sub-4:10 mile, I'm positive things would have turned out much differently. After taking my visit to Notre Dame I really liked the school, the facilities, and coach Piane, however I was still undecided between a few schools. What changed things was when two fellow Canadian runners (JP Malette and Trent Sayers) told me they were also committing to ND. I thought it would be really neat to all go to the same school and build on an already strong Canadian tradition at the school.

8) Name three things that are great about living in Canada.  How about three things the average American thinks they know about Canada or Canadians, but are way off base about?

Three great things about Canada:

1. Riding my dog-sled year round is fabulous

2. Canadians are polite, kind and law-abiding. Not sure if you knew this, but our police ride on horseback (Royal Canadian Mounties) and  to this day have never had to use their firearms

3. Living in an igloo and battling the cold day-to-day makes you tough which really helps the last lap of my mile. Coupled with the fact that I spend my days with fellow eskimos chasing polar bears around in search of the day's dinner adds a hefty amount to my weekly mileage.

All jokes aside, Canada is a great place to live, with its distinct differences from the US. (It's surprising how many people actually think the above 3 points are factual. While on my visit to Columbia, I convinced another recruit's family that the above was true, along with the fact that we only have indoor tracks in Canada because it's too dangerously cold to race outside, and that I have 3 full-grown penguins as pets.

I'd just like to say thanks to Mr. Devine and DyeStat for giving me the honor to participate in this week's Interval Session. I'd also like to wish everyone luck with the remainder of their seasons and hope that you all achieve your personal goals.

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