by John Dye
(I learned about Webb's race at the Houston airport between planes en route home from the Great Southwest Classic in Albuquerque, thanks to a good friend who called me the minute I turned on my cell phone. Too bad I didn't fly to Eugene instead. -- John Dye)
Scoreboard of Webb's accomplishments at the Pre Classic:
EUGENE OR 5/27/01 -- Running in the Prefontaine Classic against the world mile record holder El Gherrouj, South Lakes VA sr Alan Webb shattered the US high school mile record of the legendary Jim Ryun by running 3:53.43.
Lagging at the back of the field through a half mile in 58.1 and 1:57.8, the Webbmaster started moving up and was in contention at the end of the third quarter at 2:58.4. "I got excited then. I was like, 'I'm five meters from El Guerrouj with a lap to go,"' Webb told reporters afterward.
Webb then uncorked a 55-second last quarter and moved all the way up to 5th against world class runners. He beat Ryun's record (3:55.3) that had stood for 35 years by more than 2 seconds. Webb also ran 3:38.26 for 1500 meters en route, taking down Ryun's HS record of 3:39.0. It was also the fastest mile by an American man in 3 years and No. 19 all time for any US man and makes Webb the early top seed for the USATF championship 1500 in June. Further, Webb's time moved him up to #4 on the alltime world junior list, behind Noah Ngeny (3:50.41), Jim Ryun (3:51.3) and Graham Williamson (3:53.15), ahead of other sub-4 juniors including Steve Cram, Kevin Sullivan, Steve Ovett and Noureddine Morceli..
"I wanted that high school record," Webb told reporters. "I set myself up so that if I had it today, I'd have a chance at the record. . . . This means everything to me. To be on the track where Steve Prefontaine, one of my childhood heroes, ran."
World champion El Gherrouj, who won the race in 3:49.92, embraced Webb and took him along for a victory lap. This extended a friendship that started with a hotel lobby conversation the day before. "I had told him he could run 3:55, and to believe it," El Guerrouj said. "He's got the face of a champion. I think Alan Webb can become my No. 1 rival if he works at it. He's got a great future."
Webb did another victory lap by himself and spent an hour shaking hands and signing autographs.
Olympic sprint champion Maurice Greene was one of many who embraced Webb and congratulated him. "I wouldn't race him a mile," Greene said."He don't look like no high school dude."
At the post-meet dinner, a tape of highlights was shown, and the crowd burst into cheers as the screen showed Webb making his last lap charge through the field.
1 14 EL GUERROUJ Hicham MOROCCO 3:49.92
What's next for Webb?
Coach Scott Raczko said after the race there would be no meeting with Dathan Ritzenhein, America's other new prep distance superstar, at 2 miles at the adidas Outdoor Championships in Raleigh June 15-16. Here is Webb's tentative schedule:
Fancy company for Webb
The Prefontaine Classic press conference will be held at
2 p.m. on
Pre Classic Mile start list with numbers and lane assignments:
25 Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) 14