This one is about high school ⏱
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The new “greatest generation”
I’d be lining up to ask Gary Martin to prom if he didn’t already go.
You may remember a couple weeks ago that after running a solo 4:01 at the Penn Relays on a windy day, he danced the night away before returning the next day to run on his high school team’s 4x400. The running gods can be cruel at times, but they can also be benevolent. This weekend at the Philadelphia Catholic League Championships, Gary lined up with a plan and ran 3:57.98 — the fastest mile ever run in a high school-only race — he won by 20 seconds. (Remember: 20 seconds back from a 3:57 is a 4:17… that’s hardly a slouch of a high school mile time!)
The reason Gary Martin has quickly developed into a sort of cult hero is because he is just like all of us, just way faster. BACK IN MY DAY, we didn’t have rabbits and we were never invited to race against professionals. High school running meant running for your high school under the guidance of whichever teacher got hired as the coach. In the winter, we’d run laps in the hallway or around the plowed parking lot. And when we got hurt our trainer had one solution: ice. Gary’s parents weren’t pro runners, his school doesn’t even have a track, and he’s quoting Prefontaine for inspiration. ONE OF US.
I’m not trying to subtly throw shade at the many other accomplished athletes who have run similarly fast, albeit with the help of more available advantages. At the end of the day, the clock doesn’t care how you get there. Being a novice and performing like a veteran is one of the main reasons we hold stellar prep performances in such high regard, although this criteria is far from perfect. That’s just as true for a 17-year-old who broke four in a rabbited, pro-laden field as it is for Gary. But it feels like Gary is in the middle of an extremely normal high school experience while doing all this, and that makes him more relatable to 99% of us.
Do you know why you shouldn’t dismiss the long term potential of those who might fall into that second camp? Will Sumner’s parents were fast — but you don’t run 45.78 to set the Georgia state record, like he did this weekend, because your parents can talk track at the dinner table. Natalie Cook’s mom was a professional runner and she just ran 9:48.25 for 3200m, narrowly missing the national record. But she only runs 20 miles per week. Do you know whose family was deeply ingrained in the sport and had every advantage possible when just a tween? Jakob Ingebrigtsen. I think he’s panned out okay.
Remember when the sport was still new and exciting? At least for me, math class was for scribbling potential splits and counting mileage and the library was for checking Dyestat. Before bed each night I would do a bunch of push-ups because I wanted to get better, but I didn’t know how. I could barely sleep before any non-dual meet race – I was just that excited to get out there and see what I could do. Watching Gary makes me nostalgic for that same time in my life.
And now, I’m a bitter old man. I take to my keyboard each week to relive the glory days or complain about how things could be done better. But then a kid like Gary comes along and says, “Alright, I’m going to show you how great I am — I’m going to win it the hard way!” It’s similar to how you might feel jealous when your friend gets to read your favorite for the first time — except the book is Once A Runner, and your friend is every single runner who’s currently in high school, who hasn’t seen somebody do it Gary’s way before.
USATF 25K Championships 🇺🇸
It doesn’t feel that long ago that we watched Aliphine Tuliamuk storm away from the field at the Olympic Marathon Trials, but the calendar says otherwise. Somehow that was 25 months ago. Since then, the HOKA NAZ Elite star gave birth to her daughter Zoe, and then traveled to Tokyo seven months later, where unfortunately, she was forced to drop out due to hip pain. Getting healthy again was a process and included some moments of bad luck — like slipping during an icy run and suffering a concussion. But you can only keep Aliphine down so long!
This weekend at the USATF 25K Championships in Grand Rapids, Tuliamuk came just shy of setting an American Record on her way to winning her 12th national championship. I could tell you the time, but admit it, you have no idea what a good time is for this distance — she ran 5:22 pace for over 15 miles if that’s helpful. This wasn’t just a moral victory — despite a bottle mishap along the way, she had to beat the likes of Keira D’Amato to take the title.
On the men’s side, it would appear Leonard Korir must have lived the last week of his life fully submerged in his Normatec boots. He bounced back a week after winning the USATF Half Marathon Championships to once again take the win against Futsum Zienasellassie, but this time it didn’t come down a sprint.
Hopefully you didn’t set an alarm to wake up and watch this. Despite it being broadcast on local TV, for those of you outside of the Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo media market, USATF blocked streaming and did not provide an alternative option. However, it was only a handful of people who realized this or cared. I’ve been beating this drum for the last 63 weeks, but this only further validates my belief that there are way too many national championships. It’s a shame, because the over-saturation creates great financial opportunities for the athletes willing to chase them. If the interest in watching these races is so low that it’s not even remotely a priority to cover them, then remove them from the calendar.
Event of the Year - Men’s 200m 💎
Pretend you have a friend who does not know anything about track and field. For the sake of this thought-experiment, let’s assume they like sports and are happy to watch the Olympics, but there are too many events and they don’t know where to start as a casual fan.
The first thing you should tell them is to subscribe to The Lap Count. The second is to start with the Men’s 200m. Pick a main character:
The showman. It’s obvious he is having fun. Every time the camera is on him, there’s a dance, a smile, a celebration. You’d have fun too if you’re always winning! But he’s just as transparent with his struggles — he openly talks about his anxiety and depression. He started a non-profit to help kids with their mental health and stress.
The underdog. There were no flashy high school times, and no NCAA titles for this JUCO product. He has steadily progressed and has quietly become one of the best athletes in the world, and certainly amongst the most consistent. He’s under-appreciated and even diehard running fans will forget to mention him in the conversation.
The soldier. On the starting line there is no emotion. When he wins, he is stoic and rarely will crack even the faintest smile. This isn’t a game to him, it’s business. He openly talks about how great he is and how fast he will run, but it’s not an act, he believes it. He is versatile and races constantly as is unafraid to go head-to-head against anyone.
The veteran. How did the 27-year-old become the fossil? This guy was paid to be a superstar and he’s won 10 global championship medals to back it up. In terms of his image, he’d be your school’s class president. Even his wife has three World Championships! After years of near misses, he finally won gold in 2021.
The prodigy. The high school kid is already one of the fastest ever. He’s buttery smooth when he runs and the talent is oozing out of his feet. But this is the first season where there are actually going to be expectations.
Do I need to tell you who is who? Here’s a hint: All five of these guys are racing each other in the Prefontaine Classic 100m.
The frequency and the trading of wins is why the 200m is my event of the year. Oh, and because the speed is unreal. We just saw Noah Lyles edge out Fred Kerley in Doha, 19.72 to 19.75 — these are the kind of times that have become normalized. That Bolt world record is going down, but I have no idea who’s going to be the one to take it.
The World Record that never will be?
At the Doha Diamond League we saw exactly what happens when two of the best athletes in the world from different events clash in the middle. With 200m to go Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon battled down the home straight to close out what would be a sub-60 last lap, a rare feat for a 3000m. Niyonsaba won 8:37.70 to 8:38.04.
Faith Kipyegon does not lose often, in fact since 2017 she had previously only been beaten on three occasions — each time at the hands of Sifan Hassan. Both Kipyegon and Hassan have been close to breaking Genzebe Dibaba’s 1500m world record of 3:50.07, though their 3:51s just didn’t quite cut it. But do you know who probably could? The woman with a 1:55.47 800m best and the 2000m world record: Niyonsaba.
Due to the restrictions surrounding competition limitations for XY athletes, Niyonsaba is no longer able to race the 1500m/mile. She has continued to play by the rules and has reinvented herself as a true distance runner with remarkable poise and grace. But now at 29-years-old, with the natural speed of a half miler and the newfound strength of a 10,000m runner, it would have been historic to see what she could do in what would likely be her goldilocks event.
This could be a fun time trial at practice that would surely piss some people off!
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Christian Noble joins NB Boston ✍️
Most Lee University graduates will turn pro in something other than sports, but not Christian Noble. As you may have read yesterday, the 3x NCAA Division II record holder, who has personal bests of 3:36/3:56/7:50/13:24 has made the leap to the next level. He recently reached out to The Lap Count to tell readers more about that decision.
I hear you have a big announcement to share with the running world. Christian, the stage is yours. What's going on?
I've decided not to run NCAAs and am instead signing a professional contract with New Balance. I’ll be training in Boston with Mark Coogan’s group. I am super excited — it’s a very important decision for the next chapter in my life.
The obvious follow-up then is why are you doing it right before NCAAs?
And it's a great question! Prefontaine is that same weekend and I am going to run in the International Mile to try and hit the World Champs standard, before USAs. With the field that is being assembled there, it would be a little ridiculous not to go throw my hat in and take a shot at that.
Of all the options that you had, what is it about joining New Balance Boston and running for Mark that got you most excited? We've seen the success that he's had with the women in the group, but the men's roster is small.
Yeah, it's just Drew [Piazza] as of right now. But Boston's a cool place, especially with the new facilities that they have. Obviously, that was like an added bonus to it. But I really like what Mark's done with the women's side and we talked about training and it’s similar to what I've been doing. I think the transition's going to go super well. The biggest thing when I was looking for groups was the coach and we hit it off really well. I enjoyed my visit when I went up there and knew right away that it was a place where I saw myself. I'm excited to get up there later this summer and start training with them.
We've spoken on occasion the past couple of years about post-collegiate running and the process. It's something that you've wanted to do for a long time so what does it feel like to finally be able to call yourself a professional runner?
It's a dream come true, honestly. For most runners this is the goal. Growing up in the running world, this is the top. It's super exciting to say that I am a professional athlete — that wasn’t on my radar in high school or at the start of college. Goals have now been like reset. I've worked hard for it and especially coming out of Division II, I still have a lot to prove. I’m motivated by it!
You have a ton of Division II pride and the system worked well for you. But in fairness, you were a Footlocker finalist and 9:04 guy in high school. How would you sell the experience to a recruit with similar accolades? There's this idea that you go to Division II if you can't make it to Division I, but you were definitely good enough.
I can’t vouch for the different experience of running Division I, but I have friends who have shared theirs with me. So I’ll say this. If you are a high caliber high school athlete and you go Division II, you might have more opportunities to run at NCAA championships. You can still go run at Stanford and Mt. Sac to chase fast times. But once postseason comes, you get exposure to an NCAA championship and that running-to-win mentality. DII’s definitely on the come-up over the last couple of years. It's equally as hard to make Division I Regionals as it is to make our nationals. As a high school kid, you just have to look at everything. I think Division II has this thing about it and unless you're in it, you don't really get it.
After running 3:36.00 you are ranked number two in the country. Can you make this team or are you just happy to be at your first U.S. Champs?
I'm going there to hopefully make the top three. As crazy as it is to say out loud, my high school coach always said there are three types of runners. Those who want to win, those who want to place, and those who just want to show. This is no different. I want to say I can make a Worlds team and you know how anything can happen in the last lap of a 1500.
Chasing ghosts with Cade Flatt 👻
If you are in New York on Friday night, then you may want to head to Icahn Stadium to witness high school running history. CITIUS MAG has partnered with Trials of Miles to host Track Night NYC, which means a few things: great races, a free stream on YouTube and me and Chris Chavez bantering from the commentator’s booth.
In addition to the slew of professionals that will be on hand, there will be an electric high school senior from Kentucky. Cade Flatt turned heads when he dominated the New Balance Indoor Nationals, winning in 1:48.86, and then providing one of the more entertaining post-race interviews in recent memory. Well, he ran 1:47.04 earlier this outdoor season and is now targeting the national record. I caught up with him ahead of the attempt, and as always, he was fun and confident!
You haven’t been shy about your intentions in New York. How's everything feeling leading into Friday’s race?
Everything's been going great the last few weeks. I came into Oxford for a test run 800 as my first outdoor race of the season. It went well running 1:47.04, and now ever since then, I've been chasing ghosts in practice — Michael Granville has been out in front of me and in the lane beside me, each workout rep every day. I'm ready. I've been doing some crazy things at crazy paces in practice and I’m outworking greatness to be greater. So that's what we're at.
Well now I have to hear more. What sort of stuff have you been doing in practice?
We’ve kind of kept it the same, but have dialed it in on that 800 work. Before the season we were on lighter stuff and doing workout paces at 1:51, when I was really a 1:47 guy. The past few weeks it’s now geared to run 1:46 or even 1:45 — to see how that feels. With that quality we are making it tougher on ourselves, it’s the same but with upped intensity.
Michael Granville’s mark of 1:46.45 is only a couple tenths away from the USAs qualifying mark. It's pretty rare to see a high school guy run against the professionals in a national championship. Is that also on your mind?
It's definitely there at the moment. I think that I'm fit enough to go and get that mark. I'm not planning on just scraping by on that 1:46.45. We're just gonna have to go and see what happens, but that's definitely been in the back of my mind. I think I'm there, I just have to put it together.
At New Balance indoors you completely controlled the race from the front. But now against a higher caliber field do you still have that same plan? Or is it up to the professionals to set the pace?
I know a few names in the field who are top guys, like Festus Lagat. So with guys like him it’s hard to say I’m going to lead the whole thing. But then again I'm still going out there as a threat and as a dangerous man, like always. I'm not scared of anybody at any level. I have to go out there and stay out of trouble, but I’ll bring some trouble if I have to.
I saw that 200/400 double (22.01/46.86) Did that meet your expectations of what you would want before an 800?
The 46.86 was a pretty nice-sized PR. First time getting out there and running that fast. But in the 200, I think I'm a 21-mid guy, to be honest. That was right after and I was trying to stay safe because I knew I had a big race coming up so that wasn't all I had there. If I can go 46.8 then I can jog a 52 or 51.5 that first lap in an 800.
The running world only just recently met Cade Flatt. You bring a bit of a fighter's mentality to a sport that isn't really accustomed to that. How's the reaction been to all of it?
I've seen some reactions, both positive and negative. People are going to love you or people are going to hate you when you put yourself in a position to be judged in the public eye. That's part of it and it doesn't phase me at all. It gives me that extra motivation to the people who say I'm just talk. Well, look at me walk. I think I'm doing a hell of a lot more walking than talking at the moment.
People are coming at me and saying, “he's trash talking all of his competitors.” I think I'm a fairly nice guy, but I'm different. It's just everybody in track and field is so nice that after New Balance I was fired up and said certain things. I'm not out here calling anybody out. I've been pretty peaceful, so I think it's just that people aren't used to it yet. If it's a kid that’s mad, it's someone who's probably jealous of me. If it's an adult, they’re probably sitting in their mama’s basement judging me for no reason. So I'm not worried about any of the critics. It’s the supporters who make it fun.
Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥
NC State’s Katelyn Tuohy ran a six-second personal best at 1500m (4:06.84) to win the ACC meet. Did she always have these wheels?
Penn’s Ray Sellaro won the HEPS 1500m in a very slow 3:59. It’s been a few years since I was his middle school coach, but I am still proud because he learned that the best way to ensure you’ll win an Ivy League title in the men’s 1500 is for it to become a jog. But he’s not a Jedi just yet. When I won the title my senior year it was in 4:02!
Maybe I should have included Matthew Boling and Joseph Fahnbulleh in my 200m breakdown? Boling barley held off the hard close to win the SEC title in 20.01!
Britton Wilson had an absolutely OUTSTANDING SEC Championships! She ran 51.20 in the 400m prelims before coming back the next day to win the finals in 50.05 (World #3). One hour later, she then ran 53.75 in the 400m hurdles (World #1). And then just over an hour later, Wilson returned to go 48.60 on Arkansas’s 4x400 — the fastest split in NCAA history. The Razorbacks finished in third because both Texas A&M and Kentucky were under the previous collegiate record. Thanks in large part to Abby Steiner’s 48.78, the Wildcats ran 3:21.93!
LSU’s Favour Ofili is posing as competition for a potential Bowerman. She won the SEC 100m (10.93), 200m (22.04) and the 4x100.
At the Night of 10,000m PBs, Italy’s Yemaneberhan Crippa won the men’s race in 27:16 and England’s Jess Judd took what doubles as the British title in 31:22. This event has become well-known for its festival-like atmosphere and as Sean Ingle notes, we need more of it.
WCH Oregon 2022 has introduced this summer’s mascot to the world: Meet Legend the Bigfoot! (I’d love to be a fly in the room of the marketing agency that comes up with these characters.)
Ireland’s Louise Shanahan ran a two second best to run 1:59.42 and set the national 800m record. In the debate about who’s the fastest PhD is, well Louise has her degree in physics from Trinity College. That must pair nicely with “Olympian” on the ol’ CV.
Abel Kipsang followed up altitude performance with a win over Timothy Cheruiyot in 3:35.70 in Doha’s windy conditions. Everyone complains about the wind and sometimes it’s like, okay sure! But the fact that the pole vault was canceled gives some validation.
TCS, of NYC Marathon fame, also puts on a 10k in Bengaluru, which makes sense because it’s an Indian consulting company. Nicholas Kimeli and Irene Cheptai of Kenya set course records of 27:38 and 30:35, respectfully.
At the Puerto Rico Athletics Classic, Clayton Murphy announced himself as back when he won the 800m in 1:45.54. Check out his YouTube from the race as he wore a microphone, which may or may not be legal.
All the stars were out winning in what should be the 51st state like: Trayvon Bromell (9.92), Athing Mu (50.42), Ryan Crouser (22.75m), Elaine Thompson-Herah (10.93) and more.
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