5/27/01 at the Prefontaine Classic, Eugene OR

One goal at a time led
Alan Webb to his present pinnacle
as the all-time fastest high school miler

Virginia star and coach Raczko debrief his historic race:
it went perfectly according to plan.


by Pearl Watts

Last January after Alan Webb had set the national high school indoor record
in the mile of 3 minutes, 59.86 seconds, the question was asked of him of
what's next. The South Lakes senior continually replied that all during his
high school career his successes were comprised of having a goal, achieving
it, and then moving to the next goal.

The 3:59.86 had left Webb with the next challenge being the all time
national high school record of 3:55.3 set by the legendary Jim Ryun of Kansas
in 1965. Some may have scoffed at his chances at what many thought was an
unassailable record but Webb now has everyone as believers nationwide after
he broke Ryun's record by almost a full two seconds with his amazing 3:53.43
in the Bowerman Mile at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon on Sunday.

Webb, the only high schooler in the field of sixteen runners with many of
the other runners of international experience and reknown, finished fifth
overall in the race with world record holder Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco
the winner in 3:49.92 which is the fastest time ever run in the United States.
Webb also set the national high school record of 3:38.26 for 1,500 meters
enroute, eclipsing the 1964 mark set by the venerable Ryun of 3:39.0 and
Webb's 3:38.26 is also now the new U.S. Junior record.

As close to according to plan as possible

With just a slight amount of wind between 5-10 miles per hour to negate an
ideal racing day with temperatures hovering around 60 degrees, Webb's race
went as close to according to plan as possible. Last week, as reported
on DyeStat
, Webb and South Lakes coach Scott
Raczko had hoped for a first 440 yards in the 58-59 second range and they
knew that may have Webb well back in the pack. In Eugene on Sunday, Webb was
timed in 58.5 for the first quarter and found himself in last place but knew
not to panic.

The 880 yard split was reached by Webb in 1:57.7 with Webb in 14th place
but running comfortably and still on record pace, with Raczko having said
that between 1:56-1:58 would be ideal. The Webbmaster had said last week that
to be at 2:57 with a quarter to go would be ideal and he was not very far off
with his split at 1,320 yards clocked at 2:58.3.

Webb, who was in eleventh place entering the final lap, then started to
move past the back of the pack and had positioned himself all the way up to
fifth with 220 yards to go after making a major move on the backstretch.
The University of Michigan bound Webb stil had plenty of sting left in his
kick on the final straight and maintained his fifth place position in a
memory etched 3:53.43 as his 55.0 final quarter saw him just outleaned for
fourth by Adil Kaouch of Morocco (3:53.40) with 2000 Olympic Games bronze
medalist Bernard Lagat of Kenya third in 3:53.14 and Canada's Kevin Sullivan
second in 3:51.82 behind winner El Guerrouj (3:49.92).

The race was as fast as any that has ever been in the United States with
the top twelve runners all running below 3:58 with senior Brian Berryhill of
Colorado State, the only collegian with a faster 1,500 time going into this
week's NCAA championships than Webb at 3:37.23, finishing eighth in 3:55.01.

Webb's own thoughts on his fabulous stretch run

Webb said afterwards, "There was a little bit of jostling at the start but
that was to be expected. I wanted a good start but stayed a little
conservative and let the pack pass me; I certainly didn't want to get tripped
up and fall down. They had clocks every 220 yards so I was aware of my splits
at all times.

"I bided my time for the first two laps and felt great at the half mile mark
(1:57.7). I felt awesome on the third lap but the pace had slowed down some
and I wanted to go with 500 meters left but told myself to be patient. With a
lap to go I sort of glanced at the clock and saw 2:57-2:58 and knew I could
get the record, but I didn't know I had a 55 in me.

"On the last lap I went; whoa, I'm passing a lot of people and it was so
awesome who I was passing. The race went totally according to plan which was
stick to the approximate quarter split times and then get as many people as I
could on the last lap."

Coach Raczko's view

South Lakes coach Scott Raczko said, "based on his workouts recently, Alan
and I knew that if he followed the race plan and then gave it all he had on
the last lap he would run a very fast time. It was a perfect way to run the
race to insure that he would have a good race. It was the best way to to get
to uncharted territory; you always take a risk if you go out too fast into a
place you haven't been before."

Webb, whose immediate goal had been to at least qualify for the USATF
Championships June 21-24 in Eugene with a time of 3:59.3 or better, now is in
the position as one of the favorites for the 1,500. The USATF Championships
also serve as the World Championship qualifier with the top three in the
1,500 scheduled to make the trip to Edmonton, Alberta for the Worlds. Webb's
time of 3:53.43 is the fastest in the U.S. this year and moves him to number
nineteen all time among U.S. competitors.

Also, coach Raczko said that according to longtime officials at the 27th
Annual Pre Classic, the waiting line for autographs for Webb at the autograph
tent set a record with a full hour and a half of constant signing needed
before Webb had given his signature to everyone wanting it.

And next -- the 800 meter record?

This Friday and Saturday at the Va. state AAA Championships to be held at
Sports Backers Stadium in Richmond, Webb will probably have quite a few more
autograph requests, but will first set about doing business. Webb is entered
in the 800 meter run trials to be held at 5:15 p.m. Friday and the 800 finals
at 3:20 p.m. Saturday with the lofty state meet record of 1:49.61 by West
Springfield's Sharif Kare set in 1997 on the horizon.

Also looming in the distance is the national high school record of 1:46.45
set by Michael Granville of California in 1996. As of now, Raczko says the
plan is for Webb to run the 800 and also the 4x400 relay. The 4x800 relay is
also a possiblity but may be shelved if Webb is determined for an assault on
Granville's impressive mark in the 800 run.

Return to Pre Classic page


This web site is edited and published
by John Dye. For corrections, news,
zany off the wall comments, friendly jibes, hostile pot shots, or welcome praise, send email to John Dye at [email protected] .

©DyeNet LLC 2000-2001