Alan Webb breaks 4 minute barrier

On this, Inauguration Day, I cannot tell a lie.....I wasn't even there (but the Yale meet was a good one too). The observations below are my editions of reports filed by Brian Carney, Fordham Prep Pole Vault Coach, and Bob Glover, acclaimed author and Director of Running Classes at the NYRRC. -GF

He seemed to lay low until race time and appeared during the girls invitational mile, warming up with the elite milers -- he really just blended in with them, going through a very similar warm-up routine as they. He fit in with them as any other elite miler. Then the announcement, "wearing number 15, a senior at South Lakes HS, from Reston, Virginia... Alan Webb". Alan Webb--3:59.9 split at Penn Relays, 4:03.33 at Herbster Classic--was here at the Armory with one purpose in mind. The Armory went wild.

All week, cryptic emails and rumors had been spreading throughout the Track community about a VERY SPECIAL event to take place at the Armory today, and the wise ones heeded the advice and braved the imminent storm.

At the start, Webb went right with the lead group. Running single-file in 3rd place for the first 2 laps (:59.9), Webb showed the patience of a veteran as the field calmly followed pacesetter Lorris Adams to a 1:59 half mile. When Kenyan Leonard Mucheru bolted from the group at the half, Webb alone went with him. Falling off Mucheru's pace on the 6th lap, the rest of the top-notch field began to reel him in. 2:59 at the three-quarter mark, and the wolf was seemingly at the door. But the familiar Armory "rafter-banging", as well as some genuine screaming from the knowledgeable track-nut Armory crowd found an Alan Webb bravely fighting off the likes of Matt Holthaus, New York-bred John Honerkamp, Scott Anderson and Army standout Clay Schwabe. All eyes were on Webb as he and the others sprinted to the finish. Taking 3rd behind Mucheru and Holthaus, it wasn't immediately clear if he had broken 4, but everyone knew it was close. The electronic clock had stopped at 3:57.90--Mucheru's winning time. Then the times flashed up and 3:59.86 put Alan into the history books.

He took a victory lap, pumping his fists in the air a few times, genuinely gracious and grateful for the crowd support. He was surrounded by photographers, posed with the entire men's field, and politely cut short the interviews to cheer his teammate in the boys invitational mile. Another winner in our sport to be proud of, another proud moment at the Armory.

An unforgettable season continues at the Armory and throughout the sport.

What next?

(Splits: 59.9 - 1:59.5 - 2:59.9 - 3:59.86)

-George Febles,


Walt Mrphy's account....

Don't say you weren't warned! If you weren't at the Armory yesterday, you
missed seeing Alan Webb set a National High School Indoor mile record while becoming the first prep to break 4-minutes since Marty Liquori ran 3:59.8 in Jim Ryun's world record race in Bakersfield in 1967.

It was a crowded field of 14, but Webb got out beautifully and settled in behind rabbit Lorris Adams (Barbados), who did an excellent job in taking Webb (59.9, 1:59.5) through the first half-mile.

With Adams dropping out after the 1/2, Leonard Mucheru, who just arrived on Thursday from Kenya, sprinted past Webb and opened up a quick 10-15m lead. Webb didn't panic, saying, "I didn't want to get ahead of myself".

Keeping an eye on Mucheru, with an occasional glance at the running clock, Webb was able to maintain his incredibly even pace through his 3/4 split of 2:59.9. Some observers thought they saw signs of distress on Webb's face at this point, but the confident youngster, who turned 18 last Saturday, said later, "I knew I had something left". The crowd was now in a frenzy, with announcer and race coordinator Ian Brooks leading the way.

Mucheru would go on to win easily in an impressive 3:57.90, while Webb, who had been a clear 2nd for most of the last half, was now being challenged on the final turn by Matt Holthaus, Scott Anderson, and Army's Clay Schwabbe (who would get a NCAA auto-qualifier--4:00.61).

Forgetting momentarily about the clock, Webb's competitive instincts took over as he tried to hold his position down the homestretch. Showing the poise of a seasoned veteran, Webb fought gamely, holding off all but Holthaus, who moved into 2nd right before the finish line.

I had Webb in 3:59.81, but I was afraid I might have stopped my watch too soon in all the excitement. The crowd held its collective breath as first Mucheru's time of 3:57.90 appeared on the scoreboard, then the 3:59.74 for Holthaus, and finally, the magical 3:59.86 apppeared for Webb, and the celebration began.

Scott Raczko, Webb's coach at South Lakes (Reston,Va), set a personal record as he leaped high in the air after seeing Webb's time posted. Webb's 3:59.86 broke the previous record of 4:02.7, set by Thom Hunt in a similar elite race in San Diego in 1976. Webb got a second record in the race, his 3:43.27 for 1500-meters breaking Hunt's mark of 3:46.6. (Vince Cartier [Scotch Plains,NJ] still has the fastest indoor time in a high school-only race [4:06.6-1972])

Webb was gracious in his post-race interview, giving credit to pace-setter Adams and Mucheru, who finished 4th in the short course (4,000m) race at last year's World X-Country Championships.

Raczko, who felt that the media hype surrounding Webb's previous attempt at running a sub-4 last spring was overwhelming, had asked Ian Brooks not to publicize Webb's entry. Brooks complied, telling only a handful of people to at least ensure that they would be present for the potentially historic race.

Even in a long pre-race conversation, Raczko was still reluctant to talk about 4-minutes, saying only that he thought Webb could run in the 4:05-4:06 range. He did give a hint of things to come when he said that Webb was hoping to go through the 1/2-mile in about 1:59.

Raczko brought his South Lakes team to the Armory for a late-December meet with the express purpose of showing Webb, who was in the middle of a break after finishing a disappointing 2nd to Dathan Ritzenhein at the Foot Locker X-Country Championships, the fast 200-meter banked Mondo track.

Webb did a workout on the track, liked what he felt, then joined with Raczko and Ian Brooks to discuss plans to run at the New Balance Games. Since there would also be a high school mile, Webb had the option of dropping out of the "Elite" race if he didn't feel he was ready to run as fast as he wanted. Since, if all went well, there would be no pre-meet publicity about any record attempt, there wouldn't be the usual disappointment and negative stories if it didn't come off.

Webb prepped for his big day by running a 1:54 split a week ago Friday, then coming back the next day to run 9:06 for 3200m (going through the first 1600 in 4:22). A strong midweek workout let him and coach Raczko know that he was ready.

There wasn't time to plan a ticker-tape parade, the traditional New York toast to heros, but Webb and his 26 teammates, who were brought to the meet by Raczko to let them share in the big day, were treated to a post-meet dinner at Coogan's Restaurant, the favorite stopping place for coaches, officials, and others who have spent a long day at the Armory.

Co-owner Peter Walsh, who was trackside during Webb's race, gave caps and other mementos to all of the South Lakes kids, introduced Webb to other diners and arranged a lengthy photo session before the team hopped on the bus for the long ride home to Virginia. A good time was had by all.

One of the photos is sure to make it onto one of Coogan's walls, which are covered by, among other things, a Penn Relays plaque and other track memorabilia mixed in with pictures of the many politicians and celebrities who frequent the establishment. Coogan's (Broadway between 168th-169th streets) was voted the #1 neighborhood bar/restaurant in the U.S. in 2000.

Almost lost in all of the hoopla surrounding Webb was the performance of Olympian Amy Rudolph, who won the women's elite mile in 4:28.47, making her the 4th fastest American behind Mary Slaney, Regina Jacobs, and Vickie Huber. Following the pace of Alisa Harvey (68.6, 2:16.8), Rudolph was challenged briefly by Liz Diaz, but was pretty much on her own for the last three laps as she looked strong all the way to the finish line.

Elite Men’s Mile Run

1. Leonard Mucheru Kenya – New Balance 3:57.90
2. Matt Holthaus NYAC 3:59.74
3. Alan Webb Unattached 3:59.86
(National HS Record)
4. Scott Anderson Unattached
5. Clay Schwabe ARMY 4:00.61
6. John Honerkamp NYAC 4:04.59
7.Art Siemers Boulder Runners Club 4:05.08
8.Scott Strand New Balance 4:09.05
9.Eugene O'Neill Ireland/NYAC 4:10.10
10.Ricardo Santos Canada/NYAC 4:11.22
11.Amerigo Rossi NYAC 4:13.41
12.Niall Bruton Ireland 4:15.27

ALL-TIME H.S. LIST(All outdoors except for Webb)

3:55.3 Jim Ryun (Wichita East,KS) 1965
3:56.8 Ryun 1965
3:58.1 Ryun 1965
3:58.3 Ryun 1965
3:59.0 Ryun 1964
3:59.4 Tim Danielson ( Chula Vista,CA) 1966
3:59.8 Marty Liquori (Essex Catholic,NJ) 1967
3:59.86i Alan Webb (South Lakes,Va) 2001