Just last week sub-4:00 high school miler Lukas Verzbicas
announced he was leaving the sport of running at the altar (quitting the University of Oregon after just two months) to run off with the sport of triathlon (enrolling at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs where in January he will join the US Elite Triathlon Academy).
The chat rooms are lit up with how Lukas jilted his Oregon teammates,
but one thing is for sure, this decision by Verbicas is a monumental semaphore waving in the face of running. Wonder if they see it?
Track and field has been the signature sport of the modern Olympics for over a century, the sport of the gods (Citius, Altius, Fortius) and yet here is only the fifth high school boy in U.S. history to go sub-4 in the mile, and instead of embracing one of the most prestigious distance programs in the nation, learning from one of its most respected coaches – before going on (one would assume) to a long pro career – young Lukas has instead decided to throw in with a hybrid-sport that began as a bar bet in Hawaii in May 1979.
It’s historic in its implications. Never happened before. And as this seismic shock rolls through running, the sport itself gears up for its annual governing convention in St. Louis arguing about club-level team uniform logo compliance. Could it get any more Keystone Cops than that? And you wonder why Lukas said, “so long, see ya”.
I’ve long been an advocate for pumping up the competitive side of distance running even as the participation, fun-run, charity fund-raising elements have come to dominate that world. But this might be my turning point, too. When we can’t even hold one of our historic young runners in our orbit, what’s left? (more…)