Magis Miles are Magical


Photo by Steven Bugarin

Jake Campbell runs fastest time in Chicago for many years but not a 4:00 mile, as Hope Schmelzle wins women’s race.  High schoolers Sean Torpy and Kelly O’Brien run state leading times.

June 3, 2016

Chicago, IL—On a night described by track and field reporter Mike Newman of Dyestat Illinois as “magical,” the second Saint Ignatius College Prep Magis Miles set new meet records in every event.

Organized in part to bring younger runners together with heroes of yesteryear, the 2016 Magis Miles put high schoolers right into the Elite Mile men’s and women’s events up against professionals and collegiates.  The results brought state leading high school times for Sean Torpy, Sandburg High School’s Illinois 3A state champion for 1600 meters—and  for Palatine High School’s Kelly O’Brien, who followed up her 3A state champion 1600-meter run two weeks ago with the second fastest all-time high school time ever for an Illinois high school girl.

The headliner men’s Elite Mile came closer to breaking the storied sub 4:00-minute mark than last year when Polish national champion Greg Kalinowski ran 4 minutes and 4.5 seconds on a chilly and windy June night.

This year, with temperatures in the 70s and still winds, NCAA Division III national 1500-meter champion Jake Campbell, a recent graduate of St. Olaf College, set a personal best of 4 minutes and 2.05 seconds to win the men’s Elite Mile.


Hope Schmelzle wins the women’s Elite Mile in 4:43.96. Photo by Steven Bugarin.

In the women’s Elite Mile, Hope Schmelzle of Northern Illinois University and Wheaton Warrenville South High School ran a personal best outdoor mile of 4:43.96 for the win.

Chasing the pacer through a 2:00 half-mile, Campbell did his own work in the lead over the final two laps, reaching 1200 meters in 3:01.  Behind him second-place finisher Eric Delvo, a Bradley University graduate who ran the previous week at the NCAA west regional in the steeplechase, closed to within a few meters as Campbell  reached 200 meters to go in 3:32.

Campbell, who will get another collegiate season to break the 4:00-minute barrier because he will run at the University of Minnesota next year as a fifth-year eligible graduate student, pulled away again for the win over the last 200 meters.  Delvo, who attended Sacred Heart Griffin in Springfield,  was second in 4:03.39 as he held off a hard-charging Anthony Wondaal of Hillsdale College and Illiana Christian High School, who was timed in 4:03.89.   It was a remarkable 12-second personal best for Wondaal.

In the women’s race, Eric’s sister and Bradley teammate Emily Delvo took the lead over from the pacer with 800 meters to go in 2:25, with Schmelzle sitting comfortably on her shoulder, and they stayed that way for a lap.   Schmelzle made her move with just over 200 meters to go and pulled away for the win.

Delvo, like her brother, finished second in 4:45.98, with Emily Gapinski, a recent St. Thomas College (WI) graduate, third in 4:47.51.

But in fourth place, close behind Gapinski, came Palatine’s O’Brien, still a high school senior, in 4:48.01.  She had sat at the back of the close, fast-moving pack for most of the race, and then, just as in many of her high school races, she closed fast over the last 400 meters.  At the Illinois state meet 1600-meters, she ran 63 seconds for the last 400 meters to win in 4:56.  At the Magis Miles she passed 1600 in 4:46.30.  According to the list posted on, her 1600-meter time trails only Kayla Beattie of Woodstock who in 2011 ran 4:43.65 to win the state championship.

Behind O’Brien was a second Illinois high school girl, Mackenzie Altmayer of Geneva, who finished sixth in 4:53.18.  Her 1600-meter time of 4:51.39 was a personal best by eight seconds—and a new school record at Geneva.

In the men’s race, high schoolers Sean and twin brother Chris Torpy aggressively slipped into second and third place behind Campbell on the third lap of the race, as the crowd roared.  Both struggled a bit in the last lap coming off the fast pace, but Sean Torpy finished fourth in 4:05.10 with Chris fifth in 4:07.13.  At 1600 meters, the distance at which Sean won the Illinois state championship the previous week in 4:15.13, their times were 4:03.42 and 4:05.40.  At both the mile and 1600 distances, Sean Torpy ranks number one in Illinois for the 2016 season with Chris number three.

The plan to run the high-schoolers in the Elite race was hatched by meet co-director Nate McPherson and coaches John O’Malley of Sandburg and Joe Parks of Palatine.

“We wanted to give these great high school runners the best chance possible to run really, really fast,” said McPherson.  “They took full advantage of that chance.”

Released from the responsibility of leading the race, the high school runners all talked afterwards about genuine feelings of disorientation and strangeness as they settled into big packs of runners and tried to hold on to a pace faster than they had ever tried before.

“It was such a weird race because when I got out I did not get out in front. It was just like a solid pack of people going around the track,” O’Brien told Dyestat’s Newman after the race. “I did not know what I was doing. It was a good distraction. I just wanted to stay with them (the front pack). I kept telling myself to go with them, go with them.”

“It felt a lot smoother in the pack than taking the pace up front all the way,” Chris Torpy told Newman. “We were just ready to get into the mix tonight. Whatever happens would happen.”

The Elite Mile races capped an evening of running that saw many more great performances—and a number of new local high school records.

In the boys high school mile, senior Connor Madell of Lyons Township ran 4:13.52 (4:11.88) to win with a big seven second personal best.  Lyons teammate sophomore Danny Kilrea was second in 4:16.15, with another school sophomore Dylan Jacobs of Sandburg third in 4:17.21.

In the girls high school mile, York freshman Sarah May won in 5:01.35 with a strong finish over the last 400 meters to defeat second place senior Madison Romig of Grant (5:04.87) and third place freshman Christina Ryzhov of DeKalb (5:06.07).

The boys freshman race produced the closest finish of the night as Palatine’s Jorge Corona took a narrow lead with 100 meters to go on the final straightaway and then held off Eddie Slack of Marist to win, 4:35.02 to 4:35.32.  Christian Knowlton of Plainfield South was third in 4:40.71.

The girls freshman mile was won by Gillian Fiene of Illiana Christian in 5:17.53, with sisters Kate and Liz Lechowicz of Palatine second and third in 5:23.40 and 5:23.88.

In the boys middle school mile, 8th-grader Jacob Kluckhohn of Hubble middle school won in 4:43.52, with Richard Jacobo of Palatine’s Winston second in 4:45.47 and Vladys Slokenbergs of Geneve Middle School South third in 4:47.58.

The girls middle school mile was won by Josie Bond of Naperville Jefferson in 5:38.14, with Ella VanderMolen of Timothy Christian second in 5:57.40 and Ellie Roy of Winston third in 5:59.54.

Kelly O’Brien’s Palatine coach Joe Parks started the evening with a meet record in the coaches mile, taking the lead after two laps to run 4:24.94.  Saint Ignatius alumni also competed in the event, and Grinnell College’s John Lennon set a new alumni mile record of 4:44.24.

Finally, a special event of the night is the “Flight Mile” event.  A three-man team from Lyons Township—Dan Palmer (4:25.45), Matt Begeman (4:29.7), and Tim McCarthly (4:36.37)—finished first, second, and fifth overall for a cross-country-style score of eight points for the win.

Many of the graduating high schoolers will take their talents to college programs next year.  The Torpys will attend Miami University of Ohio.  Altmayer will go to Syracuse University and O’Brien will attend Northwestern University.  Connor Madell will go to the University of Illinois.

“The Magis Miles” expects be an annual night of one-mile races in a spectacular setting, under the lights of the newly renovated Mailliard Track and Fornelli ‘51 Field and against the backdrop of a Chicago skyline just a mile away.  Spectators watched the races “gauntlet-style,” standing right on the track.  Save the date for the 2017 Magis Miles, tentatively scheduled for Friday, June 2.

Magis (pronounced ”MAH-jis’) is a Latin word that means “more” or “better.”   It is related to Ad majorem Dei gloriam, a Latin phrase meaning “for the greater glory of God.”

“At Saint Ignatius College Prep, we use the word Magis as an inspiration for doing more for others and our community,” says Nate McPherson. “We hope this meet can be an expression of Magis for the running community.”

“We think everyone needs more track and field in their lives, and we don’t get enough of it in Chicago, especially,” said Saint Ignatius boys track coach Ed Ernst, one of the Magis Miles organizers.

“We are high school track coaches, first.  So one big goal for this event is to put elite level runners in front of our high school kids so they can see what’s possible.

“When our high school hero runners graduate and move on to the college ranks, sometimes we never get to see them run again.  This is an event where we bring the old heros back to run in front of the new heros.

“We have this beautiful facility in a beautiful city.  We are excited to invite people in for this event.”

And, finally, said Ernst:  “When they put up light towers around our beautiful track two summers ago, the idea popped into our heads, just like in the movie ‘Field of Dreams.  ‘A night of mile races in Chicago.’  That’s our basic idea:  We want to build this event.  If we host it, they will come.”

This year’s event built upon a successful first year in 2015.  The total crowd, runners included, grew from 300 in attendance to over 400.  The meet ran on a tight schedule, with the National Anthem at 7:00 PM and the final race concluded by 9:40 PM.

Billy Poole Harris, head boys cross country coach at Whitney Young High School and an announcer at the IHSA state meet, and Anthony Curran handled the announcing duties.  Kenric Bond, father of the girls middle school mile winner, was the official meet starter.

Dick Pond Athletics and Saucony Running Shoes gave sponsor support for the event.

FAT timing services were supplied by Dave Behof of LA Timing and Bob Geiger of Illinois Prep Top Timing.  Results are posted on the meet web site and here:

The Magis Miles track meet has an information web site:

There are additional meet recaps posted by Dyestat Illinois ( )   and at Illinois Milesplit ( ).

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