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June 5, 2014 -- Today marks the 50th anniversary of Jim Ryun becoming the first high school boy to break the famed four minute mile barrier. Timing 3:59.0 in Compton, CA, Ryun instantly etched his name in American track and field lore. Across the country, a trifecta of meets will be run today focusing on the mile and middle distances, giving fans a chance to watch some of the nation's best talents while celebrating this special day.
At Balboa Stadium in San Diego, CA, the Jim Ryun Festival of Miles will be held, featuring the likes of IAAF World Championships competitor Sarah Brown and Olympic medalist Deena Kastor.
On the East Coast, roughly 15 miles northwest of Boston in Concord, MA, the Adrian Martinez Classic will host its first elite competition, with 2012 Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano headlining the Adro Mile. In addition, elite 800m and 5000m races will be run.
In St. Louis, MO, the seventh annual Nike Festival of Miles will showcase a total of twelve races, including an elite men's mile featuring Oregon Track Club Elite's Jordan McNamara and New Balance's Craig Miller, as well as a professional women's 800m.
All three of these meets have linked up with the Bring Back The Mile campaign, seeking to extend the reach of track and field to the masses while promoting the lore and magic that is the mile. All three meets expect good crowds, with the Nike Festival of Miles predicting more than 2,000 spectators.
Reflecting on the past 50 years, Jim Ryun recognizes the impact his historic run had on the sport of track and field in America.
"It truly was a special day and an incredible race in the history of high school athletics," Ryun told Competitor Group, who have helped organize the Ryun Festival of Miles. "I've been blessed to have a supportive network of family and friends in the running community. Our goal for June 5th is to stage an event that everyone in our sport will be proud of. More than an event about my accomplishments, this event will showcase the best of elementary school, high school and Masters runners. The general public is invited to participate whether running in a race or cheering from the grandstand."
A record could very well be broken at the competition bearing Ryun's name, as Deena Kastor, 41, will try and break 4:46.29, the current American masters record for the mile. That mark, set by Alisa Harvey, should very well be in Kastor's range, as the 15-time national titlest has recently run 1:11:38 for the half-marathon and 33:59 at altitude for 10K.
According to Competitor.com, Alan Webb, the American high school record holder (3:53.43) and national record holder overall (3:46.91) for the mile will be on hand, as will Lukas Verzbicas, the last high schooler to dip under four minutes (3:59.71).
In Massachusetts, Manzano will be just one of many Olympians taking part in the Adrian Martinez Classic. Manzano seeks to continue his one-mile winning streak, which has seen him earn victories at the Grand Blue Mile (U.S. Road Mile Championships) on April 22 in Iowa--timing 4:05.71--and the International Mile at the Prefontaine Classic last weekend in Eugene, OR, which he won in 3:52.41, briefly a world leader.
Also competing are Geena Lara (nee Gall), a member of the gold medal winning 4x800m squad at the IAAF World Relay Championships, and Boston-based Morgan Uceny, who represented Team USA in the 1500m at the 2012 London Olympics. Nicole Sifuentes of Canada, who just recorded a qualifying mark for the Commonwealth Games, will race the 800m against Lara, while Uceny takes part in the mile.
Fittingly, one of America's best high school milers in Garrett O'Toole will try and come close to the four-minute barrier. The Middlesex (MA) senior ran 1:50.16 for 800m last Saturday.
Racing 5000m in Concord are Amy Hastings, Angela Bizzarri, Alexi Pappas, and Emily Sisson, among others. (Race Results Weekly will be on hand to provide coverage from the meeting.)
At the Nike Festival of Miles, all eyes will be on McNamara and Miller, watching to see if the pair can dip under Manzano's event record of 3:55.29.
On the women's side, Heather Kampf seeks her third Speed Factory Athletics 800m title in a row, squaring off against Marilyn Okoro, Erica Moore, Shannon Leinert, and Cydney Ross.
Missouri's own Taylor Werner (who has run 4:44.26 for 1600m) will face Iowa sensation Stephanie Jenks in the featured high school contest. At the Iowa High School Championships last month, Jenks ran a blistering 9:24.67 for 3000m (taking down Katie Flood's Iowa state record of 9:27.25 in the process), won the 1500m, and was runner-up over 800m. Patrick Perrier (Illinois) and Spencer Haik (Missouri) lead the boys field.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg