Verzbicas ready for Dream MileSecond Annual Memorial Day Main Street Mile, one mile race in downtown St. Charles. Lukas Verzbicas won the Elite race with a time of 3:55.
| Michael R. Schmidt~For Sun-Times Media.
Updated: June 9, 2011 7:42PM
In the pentultimate race of his high school career, Lukas Verzbicas came away a winner last weekend even though he was the last man across the finish line.
That can happen when you’re running at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., and will be enrolling at Oregon in the fall.
Verzbicas, the Sandburg graduate from Orland Hills, broke the national high school record in the two-mile run by five seconds. He did it while finishing 11th in the field, last among those in the field of 14 who finished.
This weekend, he’ll try to finish first, racing in the high school Dream Mile at the adidas Grand Prix in New York. Another local prep runner, Lincoln-Way East’s Aaliyah Brown, will run in that meet’s 100 meter dash.
Either would love to smash a record as Verzbicas did with his Oregon two-mile time of 8:29.46, five seconds faster than German Fernandez of California ran three years ago. The two-mile isn’t run often in the metric era, but Verzbicas was gunning for the mark.
For Verzbicas, that was enough.
“I ran the exact time I was planning for,” he said.
But there was more.
There was the crowd, which roared its approval and called out to him before and after the race. There was the celebratory hug from 36-year-old Bernard Lagat, the winner of the race.
“And I was even told to do a victory lap,” Verzbicas said.
On his new home track. Wearing a shirt with Sandburg emblazoned on it. In the track meet named for his idol, Steve Prefontaine, and after grabbing a record once owned by Prefontaine.
“It was really amazing,” Verzbicas said. “The atmosphere is indescribable. It’s like nowhere else. And I had a lot of pressure. It was like, ‘I’ve got myself into this now; I can’t fail.’ There were Olympians and world champions in that field.”
“We’re good buds,” Verzbicas said.
Can it get any better for the two-time national cross-country runner of the year?
He’ll find out Saturday, when he defends his title in the Dream Mile. The race, one of four for prep stars in the Diamond League meet, was won last year by Verzbicas in 4:04.38, the fastest mile by a U.S. prep runner in 2010.
“I can’t tell you the exact time, but I definitely want to make a statement,” Verzbicas said.
In other words, finish in under four minutes. He ran the St. Charles Memorial Day Mile, a straight mile and slightly downhill, in 3:59.1, beating Moses Waweru by more than six seconds.
But the Dream Mile is something else again. For one thing, it’s Verzbicas’ last track race of the summer. He’ll go into training for the World Junior Triathon Championships, which takes place in September.
“This is a lot more training,” Verzbicas said. “Biking, swimming and running. Three workouts a day; a lot more volume. It’s more about endurance than speed. And right before college, it’s a good base-builder. It’ll prevent injuries.”
The Dream Mile will thus be the capper on Verzbicas’ whirlwind high school career. He spent his freshman year at Lincoln-Way Central, where his cross-country season was cut short by injury. He didn’t run track because that spring, he won the World Junior Duathlon at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
The Knights never knew what they had. His family moved from New Lenox to Orland Hills in the summer of 2009, moving into Sandburg territory. That was a boon for the Eagles. Verzbicas won the Class 3A individual title as a sophomore in 2009 and as a senior — he loaded up on classes to skip his junior year — in 2010.
Brown has been invited to run in the girls 100-meter race. Her Class 3A championship-winning time of 11.46 seconds is the fifth-fastest in the country this year.