After the Olympics, which tend to be tactical races in the long distance events, the world’s best runners often take aim at the record books in races organized in Europe just for that purpose. There is no longer strategy built around winning medals. Runners just want to run fast and get good times.
Illinois has an all-star season that follows the state track meet, as well.
Two weeks ago senior Jack Keelan won the 3200- and 1600-meter runs at the Illinois High School Association 3A track championships, completing the so-called Triple Crown of Illinois running. He won the IHSA 3A cross country individual championship in the fall.
But both races at the state meet were tactical. Keelan ran whatever he had to run in order to win. His time of 8:57.61 in the 3200-meter was still fast, as he had to race the last half mile hard to defeat O’Fallon’s Alex Riba, who also broke 9:00. Keelan took the race lead with three laps to go, and then held on and outraced Riba over the last 200 meters for the win. But the 1600 was a slower tactical race that came down to a furious kick in the last 200 meters. Keelan did not take the lead until he passed Belvidere North’s Garrett Lee with 100 meters to go. The time, 4:12.11, wasn’t even close to Keelan’s fastest and was arguably much slower than many expected. But time was not a concern for Keelan. He had run carefully and intelligently, aiming only to win.
In the post-season, Keelan figured, he would go after a faster mile time.
So on Saturday, June 8, at Illinois Benedictine University, now graduated from Saint Ignatius but still running for the Wolfpack’s summer and off-season running club, the Chicago Pack-Men, Keelan won the mile run at the Midwest Distance Festival, setting a new school record of 4 minutes and 5.8 seconds (hand timed) in the 1600 meter run on the way to a 4:07.50 mile (FAT).
Keelan broke his own record in the 1600, set earlier this season, of 4:09.62. He has broken the 1600-meter record now four times. When he began his assault on the school record book in the spring of 2012, the1600 record was held by Mike Patton ’81, 4:14.0. Keelan also broke Patton’s school record on the Detweiller Park state cross country course, when he ran 14:05 to win, and in April Keelan ran 8:50.74 for 3200-meters at the Arcadia Invitational in California, breaking Patton’s last record on the new Saint Ignatius record board.
Keelan’s new mark seemingly puts that metric mile record out of reach for a long time. But I remember looking at Patton’s records, especially the 3200-meter mark, the same way until Keelan started getting close to them—and then started breaking them.
The runner who will go after Keelan’s records might already be on the team.
Freshman Dan Santino also competed for the Pack-Men at the Midwest Distance Festival, running 9:31.37 for two miles, passing 3200 meters in 9:28.0. He finished ninth in the race against some of the top high school runners in the Midwest. It was a personal best for Santino, and, unofficially, the fastest time ever run by an Ignatius freshman. Among frosh soph runners for Ignatius, only Keelan has run faster as he holds the 3200-meter frosh soph mark of 9:14.38, set at a similar meet, the Midwest Distance Gala, two years ago.
Santino is ahead of pace as a freshman in terms of catching up to Keelan’s records. He’s run a lot faster than Keelan ran as a freshman.
So Saturday night was also kind of like a passing of the torch.
Santino will now retire from serious racing for the summer and begin his easy running distance training, looking forward to his second Saint Ignatius cross country season in August. He will take a week off soon when he goes to Boy Scout camp at the end of the month.
At the end of August Keelan will travel to Stanford where he will start his college running career at the Cardinal’s pre-season cross country training camp, weeks before classes begin. In July he starts a summer training program under his new Stanford head coach, Chris Miltenberg, and men’s distance coach, John Oliver.
But he still has some high school racing to do.
Keelan will run next weekend at the New Balance Nationals track championships in Greensboro, NC, at North Carolina A & T University, competing in the 5000-meters and the mile run. It will be Keelan’s first time running 5000-meters on the track.
He thinks he still has a little bit left in the tank.