13 MAR 2011 General News New York, USA

Verzbicas scores triple at US high school championships

Lukas Verzbicas en route to his 14:06.78 US high school 5000m record (John Nepolitan (dyestat/ESPN Rise))Lukas Verzbicas en route to his 14:06.78 US high school 5000m record (John Nepolitan (dyestat/ESPN Rise)) © Copyright
Lukas Verzbicas of Orland Hills, Illinois, was a man among boys at the 2011 New Balance Nationals Indoor meet, held at The Armory in New York City Friday through Sunday (13). The meet, which brings together many of the best high school athletes from the United States, featured many national high school records, including one from Verzbicas.

The 18-year-old won the 5000m, two-mile, and mile, capping off an incredible weekend of junior running that will go down in American track and field history. On Friday (11), the high school senior won the 5000m in an American high school record of 14:06.78. Verzbicas, who was born in Lithuania and came to the United State in 2002, lapped the entire field on his way to claiming the title.

After having Saturday off, Verzbicas returned to the track in the two-mile Sunday.  Verzbicas broke away from the field early on, and was only challenged by New Jersey's Edward Cheserek, who came to the United States from Kenya during the summer of 2010.

With less than a half-mile to go, Verzbicas began to power away, and eventually broke the tape in 8:40.70, just missing Gerry Lindgren's 46-year-old national high school record of 8:40.00.

"I did not feel good during the race," he explained to reporters. "I just kept it out of my mind and believed in myself."

With only an hour and fifteen minutes between the two-mile and mile, Verzbicas stayed relaxed, raising his feet and waiting until it was his turn to go for the high school version of the Zatopek triple.
 
Half-way through the mile, the lanky Verzbicas made his move to the front. Upon hearing the bell, he surged and lengthened his lead, ultimately capping off his triple with a 27-second last 200m.  Hands in the air and a mile-wide smile across his face, Verzbicas broke the tape in 4:10.67.

"It all came together and it's really amazing," stated the elated champion. 

Atlanta, Georgia's Shelby Ashe was the winner of the girl's weight throw, launching a mark of 20.79m. The mark is a new national high school record, breaking Ashe's own previous mark of 19.81m by just over a third of a metre.

"I just felt really powerful, and knew it was going to go somewhere, so I started looking for where it went.  I was really excited," said Ashe, who turned 18 the day of her record performance. "I was so excited, and let out a big scream."

On Saturday, Gunnar Nixon of Edmund, Oklahoma, won the boy's pentathlon with a total score of 4307.  The defending champion, Nixon came into the final event - the 1000m - needing to run 2:37.30 in order to break Donovan Kilmartin's national high school record of 4303 points.  Running 2:37.00, he became the new record holder by a mere four points.

New York's Aisling Cuffe, who will be running at the IAAF Junior World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain, narrowly missed Melody Fairchild's national record, timing 9:56.85 for two-miles.  Waverly Neer of Indiana ran 16:35.15 on Friday, a national mark for the 5000m.
 
Chris Lotsbom (organisers) for the IAAF