- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 3, 2001

A little perspective is in order to even begin to appreciate what 18-year-old Alan Webb, the running phenom who is a senior at South Lakes High School in Reston, accomplished last weekend at the Prefontaine Classic, one of the nations most prestigious track meets. The American record Webb shattered yes, shattered last Sunday had stood for 36 years.

At Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon the very field where Steve Prefontaine, known simply as "the Legend," achieved his greatest triumphs (he held every American distance record between 2,000 and 10,000 meters at the time of his tragic death in 1975) Webb ran the fastest mile of any American high school athlete in history. The scholastic-mile record Webb shattered had been set in 1965 by Jim Ryun, now a congressman from Kansas. Completing his mile in 3 minutes 53.43 seconds, Webb chopped nearly 2 seconds off Ryun´s record time. That´s a veritable eternity for that distance. For good measure, Webb also obliterated Ryun´s high school record for 1,500 meters, which had stood since 1964.

Two years ago, Webb entered the national spotlight when he broke Ryun´s record for the fastest mile ever run by an American high school sophomore. Ever since, the world of track and field demanded to know if "Running´s Boy Wonder," as the New York Times headline referred to Webb this week, was up to the challenge of breaking the scholastic-mile record.

In true championship style, Webb, who in January became the first American high school runner to smash the indoor four-minute-mile barrier, rose to the occasion. Jostled at the outset of the race and pacing himself so that he was running last in the 13-man pack at the quarter-mile mark, Webb methodically pursued his strategy, setting the stage for his dramatic acceleration down the backstretch of the final lap, as he passed half a dozen world-class runners, including the reigning NCAA indoor champion. "What you saw on the last lap, that´s something that you can´t train or coach," observed Craig Masback, the CEO of USA Track and Field. "You have it or you don´t that instinct to go for it." Referring to one of Webb´s childhood heroes, Masback declared that Webb´s instinct is "not unlike what Steve Prefontaine had." And, all of a sudden, America´s men´s distance running has brighter future than at any time since the glory days of "the Legend." Well done, Alan.


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