High School 4 minutes Milers

Jim Ryun: The Sub-4:00 High School Junior

Racing in his high school singlet 50 years ago, Jim Ryun breaks new ground in the mile.Image by RW Archives

On June 5, 1964, a lanky 17-year-old high school junior crouched nervously at the start of the Compton Invitational mile in Los Angeles. Alongside were America's fastest milers in a vintage era-Dyrol Burleson, Tom O'Hara, Jim Grelle, Cary Weisiger, Archie San Romani, Morgan Groth-most with times faster than 4 minutes, while the boy's best was a 4:01.7. Yes, he held the world record for 16-year-olds, but that record didn't cut it at this level. Few had heard of Jim Ryun.

Bob Timmons, Ryun's Wichita High School East coach, had told him to stay near the front, but the pace was fast: 57.9 for the first lap, led by Bob Delaney. Ryun was up there, but the bunch was closely packed. On the second bend of lap two, there was jostling and Ryun was tilted off balance into the infield. He didn't fall, but he lost his stride, position and about 1 second.

"I was discouraged because I had lost my rhythm. . . . I think it hurt me mentally. I was just scared, " Ryun says in The Jim Ryun Story, by Cordner Nelson.

The incident may have helped him by removing any worry about positioning. He just had to trail the field, 2:01.5 at 880, then 3:02.8 at the bell. He picked up a place and found himself less than a second behind Groth, the leader. Then up ahead it exploded. The teenager found himself chasing the tail of the greatest last lap in history. Burleson scorched away, O'Hara led the pursuit, and eight fast-finish specialists surged over the line in little more time than it takes to blink-eight within 1.6 seconds, eight under 4:00.

It had never been done before. Six was the most ever under 4 minutes in one race. It was only 10 years since Roger Bannister had first broken the supposedly impassable barrier and since Bannister and John Landy had amazed the world in the Miracle Mile when both ran sub-4:00.

The boy felt he had failed to make it among the men. He dug deep on the last lap but could make no impact on that field. He finished dead last, apart from Delaney, the pacemaker, who jogged through. But then the announcement came that eight men had broken 4 minutes. Could that include him? Was he eighth or ninth? He didn't know. Soon the stadium and the whole world were acclaiming his 3:59.0; he was the youngest runner and first high school athlete to run a mile faster than 4 minutes.


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FAQ

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What former Saturday Night Live star was a 4:30 miler in high school? | Yahoo Answers

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What is an average high school milers time?

The average time is 6 minutes. At 5 minutes, you can consider yourself an elite runner. Cha Cha!

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