Reliving The Greatest 1000m Race In State History


Millrose would come next, where Stahr would get his revenge (above).  It would be five weeks after the trio dueled at Yale that they would meet again over 1000m, this time at The Vitalis Meadowlands Invitational. This time Stahr [2:24.4] emerged victorious with Irish [2:24.9] taking second in what he called a "tactical race". Marsala [2:26], who was leading at the halfway point, took third while Van Wie ran 2:27.75 and finished fourth, running his Section 9 Record.

The National Record Irish set at Yale stood for four years before George Kersh, of Pearl, Mississippi, ran 2:23.85 to break it. Kersh held onto that mark for 14 years before South Lakes' [Va.] Alan Webb edged it at 2:23.68. Manalapan's [NJ] Robby Andrews shattered that mark with a 2:22.28 in 2009.

The trio held the top three spots in the New York All-Time Rankings for 31 years. The State Record had a big scare in 2012, as Zavon Watkins (Liverpool) ran 2:22.58 to finish second at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational.  Unfortunately, he had cut in two steps before the break cone, and was later DQ'd, alongside race winner Ned Willig (Great Valley, PA) who had run 2:22.39. All four athletes from the outside lane would be DQ'ed, with the overall winner being Ben Malone, with his still standing Junior National Record of 2:23.56. Watkins never ran as fast again.

It would take until 2019 for the State Record to officially fall. It would require a field of Pro Athletes in the USATF Indoor Championships to do it, on the Country's Fastest Indoor Track. Matthew Payamps (Saint Anthony's) ran 2:23.46 to eclipse the mark, breaking the hand-timed record from Irish.

Irish still has the fifth-fastest 1,000 meters in US prep history while Stahr checks in at eight. Marsala has remarkably dropped to 18th. The race at Yale proved to be a bright moment for the trio but each went on to bigger and better things on the collegiate and international level.

  • Marsala would go on to run for four years at The University of Indiana, where he would twice be an NCAA runner-up. He broke a four-minute mile on Feb. 16, 1991 in Boston, running 3:58.73. He also made several attempts at the U.S. Olympic team but fell short each time and finally retired from competitive running in 1992. He is currently a dispatcher for the longshoremen union and lives in Staten Island, not far from where he grew up.
  • Stahr went on to run at both Arizona State and Georgetown. He was part of the world-record setting 4X8 team at ASU, running his split in 1:45, in 1984. After transferring to Georgetown, he joined Irish on the DMR squad that set a collegiate and world record [9:20.9] in 1987. He ran the 1600m anchor leg in 3:54.9. 

    He broke the 4-minute mile a year earlier, running 3:58.79 for the New York Pioneers, achieving the goal that forced his dad to quit smoking. Stahr is currently teaching computer science at Miami [Ohio] University. 
  • Irish, meanwhile, went on to star at Georgetown but saw his running career come to an end after suffering a lower back injury in 1987. He had initially suffered the injury playing basketball in 1984 and by 1987 the discomfort had become too great to continue running. He currently lives in California and is a managing director for Merrill Lynch.
  • Larry Byrne passed away in early February. This article had been a work in progress since 2013, and Byrne contributed greatly to it's creation.  He had always held the race clear in his memory. MileSplit has since dedicated its' historical archives in Byrne's name.
  • Jeff Van Wie (below, left) still holds the State Record for the 800m at 1:48.56. He went on to become an All-American at the University of Notre Dame. Van Wie's College Roommate was Nicholas Sparks, author of the popular novel The Notebook, and Van Wie served as co-writer on the film The Last Song, starring Miley Cyrus in 2010. He currently is a consultant, located in New Jersey.

As for that magical day at Yale, none of the trio is interested in getting back on the line and recreating the race. Age, injuries and life may have robbed them of their once fabulous speed but they still have memory of that race and the friendships that have endured as a result of competing against each other four decades ago.