I loved the NY Times article on Katelyn Tuohy and US female HS phenoms. In it, I was struck by this quote:
“She might be the best high school runner ever already,” said Jim Mitchell, a Bronxville High School coach who has guided dozens of elite female distance runners during his 40-year career, including, briefly, the last great phenom, Mary Cain.
Is that true? I assume not but don't really know enough about it.
Historians, can you list the greatest US HS distance runners ever and their credentials while in HS?
Tuohy's accomplishments do not yet exceed Cain, although the 5000m record puts her very high on the list.
For the "greatest", no need for a list. As far as the greatest female US HS distance runners go, you have Cain. No one else deserves a mention unless you consider the historical accomplishments of Decker. The 1:59/4:04/4:24/3:58/15:46 combination overwhelms anything that anyone else can bring to the table.
Male is only slightly more difficult, and would depend on how much weight you give different events. Viable candidates for "greatest US HS distance runners" should ONLY include Ryun, Webb, Verzbicas, and Ritz. Ritz for cross country, Webb for the mile, Ryun for his historical placings, and Verzbicas all-around. Rupp and Chapa can be added as a stretch, since they have exceptional performances, but in rarely-contested high school events.
Guys like Fernandez or Hunter, who people love to bring up, don't belong, given that they have objectively poorer accomplishments in their key events compared to one or more of the individuals on that list. For example, Fernandez is worse in the mile compared to Webb, worse in cross-country compared to Ritz, and worse all-around compared to Verzbicas. He therefore has no claim to the title of "greatest".