May 27, 2001 at Eugene OR

Prefontaine Classic

Last year South Lakes Reston VA senior Alan Webb was invited to the Pre Classic in hopes of running a sub-4 minute mile, but he was injured and ended his season prematurely. This year, Webb already got his sub-4 minute mile (New Balance Games, New York, in Feburary), and he went in quest of a higher goal: Jim Ryun's record 3:55.3 set in in 1965.

Webb smashes Ryun's mile
record with historic 3:53.43

story by John Dye

photo by Erik Palmer, Trackwire


  • Ritz Reacts - Dathan Ritzenhein, Webb's friendly rival for high school distance supremacy, tells Steve Underwood about watching the race and his own record quest.
  • Secret of Webb's Success: One Goal at a Time - Pearl Watts' report; Webb and Coach Raczko debrief the race. What's next for the Webbmaster ? A shot at Michael Granville's 800 meter record (1:46.45 Michael Granville 5/31/96) ?
  • Alan Webb's strategy - preview by Pearl Watts - Webb won't try to run with world record holder El Gherrouj,
    but he hopes to get closer to Jim Ryun's HS record 3:55.3
  • Webb's remarkable warmup meet: 4:06.74 (22 second negative split!) - 49.29 - 1:49.53
    "The seemingly impregnable high school mile record by Jim Ryun of 3:55.3 set in 1965 looks to be in the realm of possibility, if not probablility, after the performance on Thursday night 5/17 by Alan Webb of South Lakes Reston VA," wrote Pearl Watts after the Virginia AAA Concorde District meet
  • the Mile Record in a broader sense - a former runner is inspired to write about Webb's race
  • 2000 Prefontaine Classic on DyeStat - Don Sage flirts with sub-4

El Gherrouj: "Alan Webb can become my Number One rival."
Maurice Greene: "I wouldn't race him a mile. He don't look like no high school dude."

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:

  • New high school mile record
  • New high school 1500 meter record (en route)
  • Fastest mile by any US man in 3 years
  • No. 4 on all-time world junior list
  • No. 19 best mile all time by any US man
  • Tentative top seed for the USA Track and Field Championships 1500 meters back in Eugene OR June 21-24

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
2 3 SULLIVAN Kevin CANADA 3:51.82
3 13 LAGAT Bernard KENYA 3:53.14
4 10 KAOUCH Adil MOROCCO 3:53.40
5 9 WEBB Alan U.S.A. 3:53.43
6 11 DE SOUZA Hudson BRAZIL 3:54.39
7 5 HOOD Graham CANADA 3:54.62
8 2 BERRYHILL Bryan U.S.A. 3:55.01
9 6 BABA Youssef MOROCCO 3:55.10
10 7 YATOR Raymond KENYA 3:55.12
11 8 KEINO Martin KENYA 3:56.87
12 4 ZEGEYE Daniel ETHIOPIA 3:57.92
13 12 ADEN Ibrahim SOMALIA 4:01.27

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:

  • June 1-2 - Virginia State AAA championships - 800 and maybe the 4x800 relay for South Lakes VA.
  • June 9 - Golden West Invitational, Sacramento CA
  • June 15 - Raleigh - 4x800 relay, in a battle of the top 3 teams in the US (Atlantic FL, Butler PA, and South Lakes). No word on whether Webb will also run the DMR, where South Lakes has lost twice this year to Atlantic with both teams running top 5 all-time times.
  • June 21-24 - 1500 in the US championships in Eugene OR.
  • August - World Championships, Edmonton Canada ???

photo by Lisa Coniglio

Fancy company for Webb
Press release from the Prefontaine Classic:

The Prefontaine Classic press conference will be held at 2 p.m. on
Saturday, May 26, at the Valley River Inn. Expected to be in attendance
are, among others:

Marion Jones
Hicham El Guerrouj
Stacy Dragila
Maurice Greene
Maria Mutola
Virgilijus Alekna
Alan Webb

Pre Classic Mile start list with numbers and lane assignments:

25 Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) 14
26 Bernard Lagat (Kenya) 13
27 Jason Pyrah 1
28 Alan Webb 9
29 Kevin Sullivan (Canada) 3
30 Daniel Zegeye (Ethiopia) 4
31 Bryan Berryhill 2
33 Graham Hood (Canada) 5
34 Youssef Baba (Morocco) 6
35 Adil Kaouch (Morocco) 10
36 Martin Keino (Kenya) 8
37 Raymond Yator (Kenya) 7
38 Ibrahim Aden (Somalia) 12
39 Hudson de Souza (Brazil) 11
40 Mike Miller-Pace 16
48 Sean Gross--Pace 15

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