NEW YORK (06-Feb) -- Before stepping onto the 200-meter oval for the invitational mile at the Armory Track Invitational here today, high schooler Drew Hunter of Purcellville, Va., had to overcome an unexpected opponent: a badly knotted shoelace. Hunter, 18, who moments later would break Alan Webb's 15 year-old high school indoor mile and 1500m records in the same race, had knotted the laces of his adidas spikes so tightly that he couldn't make a critical adjustment.
"I tied them, and they became a little loose," Hunter told reporters after running 3:58.25 to break Webb's previous mark of 3:59.86 set on the same Armory track here in 2001. "I had, like, a double-knot, like, in the middle of another knot and I couldn't figure out what to do. So my mom, who has nails --I, like, don't have nails-- came over and helped get it out. I was just like, of course, right before I go out there I can't even put my shoe on."
Hunter, who last weekend set the American high school indoor record for 3000m (7:59.33), found the pace of today's race to his liking. Surrounded by both professional and collegiate athletes, Hunter settled into the back half of the pack while the designated pacemaker, Mike Rutt, tried to set up the top athletes for a sub-3:55 clocking. Hunter looked strong, but he said he actually wasn't feeling his best.
"I felt terrible out there," Hunter admitted. "So, honestly, the whole race I was just, like, I'm going to hang on for as long as possible."
According to splits taken track-side by statistician Walt Murphy, Hunter came through the first quarter in a reasonable 59.6 seconds, and the half in 1:59.8. But it's always the third quarter which is the most challenging as fatigue sets in and it's too early to sprint to make up for lost time.
"I didn't know where I was at 1200," Hunter said. "I figured I was around three-flat."
Indeed, Hunter hit the three-quarter mark in 3:00.7, slightly down on Alan Webb's 2:59.9 at the same point. But in the final two laps, he seemed to spring back to life.
"I was like, I figured I've got to go," Hunter recalled telling himself. "I wanted to run that second to last 200 really hard, just because that was going to make or break the race. Last week in the 3000, that was my slowest 200. So, I know coming into it I couldn't fall asleep on that one."
With public address announcer Ian Brooks whipping up the crowd, Hunter gave a mighty push at the bell, bringing home his last quarter in a very grown-up 57.6 seconds to break Webb's mark easily. Along the way, Armory officials timed him at 3:42.83 through the 1500m mark, faster than Webb's 3:43.27 USA high school and junior record.
"It was so loud the last lap that I just, kind of adrenaline kicked in."
Hunter said he feels a real kinship with the now 33 year-old Webb who grew up in Reston, Va., fewer than 30 miles from Purcellville.
"It's really cool and really special to me," Hunter mused. "Alan is someone I've looked up to ever since I began running. He's now someone I now call a friend." He continued: "It's not like the legends you hear about a long time ago. It's someone I actually know and have a connection with."
At the front of the race, former University of Tulsa star Chris O'Hare powered away from the field to clock 3:54.59, the second-fastest time in the world this year. In all, seven men broke four minutes; Hunter was the last.
In the women's mile, Gabriela Stafford of the University of Toronto was in second place at the bell behind steeplechaser Ashley Higginson, and a few strides up on Olympian Erin Donohue, who is attempting another comeback. Stafford, the 2015 World University Games 1500m silver medalist, easily kicked away from the field to win in a personal best 4:29.07 (Higginson faded to fourth). Donohue, 32, who has been plagued with injuries and has hardly competed since 2011, took second in 4:29.67, her fastest indoor mile in six years.
"I knew through workouts that I should be able to run well," said Donohue. "It's always a little nerve-wracking until you get out there and get going and see how your legs feel and how you react. So, I'm very happy."
The two invitational 3000m races turned into tactical affairs, despite pre-race talk of trying for fast times. On the men's side, Kemoy Campbell of Jamaica ran the last two laps in 29.5 and 28.7 seconds, respectively, and was the only man to break 8 minutes today (7:55.01). He said he was satisfied with his race, part of his build-up for the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Ore., next month.
"I'm pleased with how I did," Campbell told Race Results Weekly. "Next time, I'll make sure I run for time."
Marielle Hall won the women's 3-K over Sheila Reid of Canada, 8:54.70 to 8:56.50. Reid had made the race by surging to the front with two and one-half laps to go. She wanted to make sure she ran under nine minutes, the IAAF World Indoor Championships qualifying mark.
"We needed to go," said Reid. "We weren't on the world pace. I don't think that I went enough that I killed myself. And, if it had been left down to where I needed to run 30 (seconds for the last lap) to get the standard, I'm not there yet."
Ajee' Wilson won a very close 800m in 2:02.15 over Laura Roesler (2:02.18) and Great Britain's Lynsey Sharp (2:02.25). All three women got under the 2:02.50 world championships qualifying standard. Robby Andrews won the men's 800m in 1:48.43.