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Verzbicas named Athlete of the Week

INDIANAPOLIS — Lukas Verzbicas has been named USA Track & Field’s Athlete of the Week after becoming the fifth U.S. high school athlete ever to run under four minutes in the mile with his victory in the adidas Grand Prix High School Dream Mile.
Lukas Verzbicas
©Victah Sailer 

Verzbicas took over the lead with 600m left in the race on his way to a time of 3:59.71. The high school senior from Orland Park, Ill., was greeted at the finish line by Jim Ryun, the first high school athlete to run sub-four minutes in the event and the only person other than Verzbicas to run sub-4 in an all-high school race. Going into the meet, Verzbicas had high expectations for himself.

“I was pretty positive I could break four minutes,” Verzbicas said. “I expected it to be a lot easier than it was with the rain and the wind. But the conditions made it even more special.”

Verzbicas’ performance capped off an incredibly successful high school running career which was highlighted by first-place finishes at the Footlocker Cross Country Championships and Nike Cross Nationals, as well as three individual titles at the 2011 New Balance Indoor Nationals. He also set records this year in the high school indoor 5,000m and outdoor two-mile events.

“It was very special having been my last high school race,” Verzbicas said. “There’s no better way to have ended it or capped it off. When I finished, I had this feeling of relief because it all just came together.”

Now in its tenth year, USATF's Athlete of the Week program is designed to recognize outstanding performers at all levels of the sport. USATF names a new honoree each week and features the athlete on the USATF website. Selections are based on top performances and results from the previous week.

Winners: January 5, Bill Tribou; January 12, Tyler Sorensen; January 20, Josh Cox; January 26,Ben Shorey; February 2, Ashton Eaton; February 9, Ashton Eaton; February 16, Bernard Lagat; February 23, Ryan Crouser; March 2, Jillian Camarena-Williams; March 10, Bill Collins; March 16, Miles Batty; March 23, Shalane Flanagan; March 30, John Nunn; April 6, Aries Merritt; April 13, Gunnar Nixon; April 20, Desiree Davila; April 27, Nolan Shaheed; May 4, Emma Coburn; May 11, Willie Gault; May 18, English Gardner; May 25, Kibwé Johnson; June 1, Khadevis Robinson; June 8, Carmelita Jeter; June 15, Lukas Verzbicas

From USATF Statistician Glen McMicken

Aggies Sweep NCAA I Titles for Third Time

Senior Jessica Beard, who two years ago ran for Team USA at the World Championships in Berlin, capped off a stellar career at Texas A&M by leading the Aggies to their third straight NCAA outdoor team title in Des Moines, Iowa. Beard's sizzling 49.13 anchor leg on the 4x400, the fastest ever at the NCAA meet, gave A&M the gold in that event at 3:26.31 and sewed up the team trophy. She also won the 400m in 51.10.
Jessica Beard
©Victah Sailer  

A&M's men completed the three-sweep by taking the team title with a win in the 4x400, their only event win of the meet.

Some of the top performances at the rain-soaked and lightning-singed meet included:

-- Florida's dynamic duo of Christian Taylor and Will Claye put on the greatest ever show of collegiate triple jumping, finishing 1-2 as Taylor bounded a windy 17.80m/58-4.75 on his final attempt to beat out his teammate's last-gasp 17.62m/57-9.75w. The 2007 World Youth champion, Taylor's winning leap was the best all-conditions jump in collegiate history, and he added a U.S.-leading legal jump of 17.40m/57-1 on attempt number four. Claye, the American Junior Record holder, popped a wind-legal 17.35m/56-11.25 in round three.

-- LSU's Kimberlyn Duncan rocketed to a world-leading 22.24 to win the women's 200m, the third-fastest time ever by a collegian. She needed that to hold off A&M's Jeneba Tarmoh, who tied the No. 9 all-time collegiate mark with her 22.34. Duncan also anchored the Tigers to a 42.64 win in the 4x100.

-- Perhaps the most hotly contested race of the meet was the men's 800m, where super-kicker Robby Andrews of Virginia again stole the title with his stretch run to finish in a lifetime-best 1:44.71. The World Junior bronze medalist from last summer, Andrews' time was just .01 off the meet record, but he needed every bit of it to edge Cal-Irvine's emerging star, Charles Jock. Jock made the pace through 400m in sub-50, and finished in 1:44.75, a huge PR. Oregon's Elijah Greer also dropped his PR in third to 1:45.06.

-- Former American Junior Record holder Emma Coburn of Colorado dominated the 3,000m steeplechase, winning in 9:41.14.

-- Maurice Mitchell of Florida State cracked the 20-second barrier in the 200m with a slightly-illegal wind, clocking 19.99w, and finished third in the 100m at 10.00 behind Mookie Salaam (Oklahoma), who took silver with a PR 9.97.

-- Kansas State's Ryann Krais, a Team USA member at the World Youth and World Junior meets in the past, added more than 100 points to her heptathlon PR with a 5,961-point total to take gold, and she added a bronze in the 400m hurdles at 55.89.

-- Illinois State's Tim Glover put a quick end to the men's javelin competition, uncorking a massive 80.33m/263-6 winner on his first attempt, the sixth farthest throw ever by an American collegian.

-- Barrett Nugent of LSU made the most of an odd men's 110m hurdles final, taking gold from lane eight with his windy 13.28. Pre-race favorite Omo Osaghae of Texas Tech, the USA Indoor 60m hurdles champ, fell early and finished seventh.

--Dartmouth freshman Abbey D'Agostino took a huge chunk off her previous PR in the 5,000m, finishing third in 15:40.69, the second fastest time ever by a U.S. junior. Only Molly Huddle's unratified 15:36.95 is ahead of D'Agostino on the all-time list.

-- 2008 World Junior 400m hurdles gold medalist Jeshua Anderson of Washington State picked up his third career NCAA long hurdles gold in 48.56.

-- Tony McQuay of Florida took over the U.S. lead in the 400m with his 44.87 in the semifinals.

-- What can you say about a decathlon that stretches over three days instead of two, and ends up with two Americans over 8,000 points and another barely missing that lauded barrier with a 7,996 score?

The competition was stopped midway through the javelin, and athletes finished up that event the following day when it became obvious that dangerous weather would preclude a two-day finish. Cal's Mike Morrison ended up atop the podium with a PR 8,118, with Duke's Curtis Beach second at 8,084, a huge personal best. Beach topped 8,000 points on the strength of a 3:59.13 1,500m, one of only a handful of times a decathlete has dipped under four minutes.

Clemson's Miller Moss, looking for his second NCAA title after winning the indoor heptathlon in March, had to step away from the 10-eventer just before the 1,500m to anchor the Tigers' 4x400 relay in the semifinals, and he just missed 8,000 points in third.

Kevin Lazas, an Arkansas freshman, bettered his own American Junior record of 7,703 with a 7,802 to take 10th, but this one will not go in the record books due to the delay.

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