Where Your Dreams Become Reality
Solomone Haile v. Lukas Verzbicas Clash Headlines 2009 Midwest Gala Boys Two Mile
Lisle, IL - Many of the top distance runners in the country will converge on Saturday evening at Benedictine University, taking part in the fifth running of the Midwest Distance Gala. The first event of the evening, the boys two mile run, is poised to be one of the premier races of the evening, headlined by national champions Solomon Haile (Sr., Sherwood, MD) and Lukas Verzbicas (Fr., Lincoln-Way Central, IL).
Haile comes to the Gala riding the wave of winning two state titles at the Maryland 4A State T&F Championships. Haile won the 3,200m and 1,600m events. During the indoor season, Haile broke the national 5,000m record at the National Scholastic Indoor Championships (NSIC), running 14:22.88, only to see it be broken by Verzbicas only a few hours later, when the freshman ran 14:18.42. Haile then came back to win the national two mile title in 9:02.67, while Verzbicas won the Nike Indoor National (NIN) two mile title in 8:57.44.
The indirect competition between these two creates quite the match-up. While Haile has shown consistent top form on the track this spring, this will be Verzbicas' first outdoor track race of the season, after focusing this spring on triathlons. Verzbicas' triathlon accomplishments were quite high, as the 16 year-old earned a spot on the U.S. National Team, which competes at the World Championships in September in Australia.
The clash of two great national champions, both with incredible all-American stories, should make for a fast, competitive race Saturday evening. As the gun goes off at 8:07 p.m. (CST), all eyes will be focused on these two and how they race one another, as both athletes battle to break the meet record and dip well under the nine minute barrier.
Top Boys Two Mile Athletes
Lukas Verzbicas (Fr., Lincoln-Way Central, IL) - Verzbicas won the Nike Indoor Nationals 5,000m run in a national indoor record of 14:18.42, then coming back and winning the two mile in 8:57.44. Verzbicas did not compete on the track all spring, rather competing in the triathlon. Note that the national freshman outdoor two mile record is 9:04.4 set by Eric Hulst in 1973, while the outdoor 3,000m national freshman record is 8:26.91, set by Billy Harper in 1993.
Solomon Haile (Sr., Sherwood, MD) - The University of Arkansas-bound Haile gained national attention his junior year by winning the Nike Indoor National and Nike Outdoor National 5,000m races. He then came back to win the prestigious Foot Locker National Cross Country Championship, while winning the NSIC 5,000m run in 14:22.88 and two mile in 9:02.67.
Steve Sulkin (Sr., York, IL) - Sulkin placed second at the Illinois State Cross Country Championships in the fall, then helping his team place in the top three at Nike Cross Nationals, while also earning a spot at Foot Locker Nationals. Sulkin then came back to win the Prospect Invitational 3,200m run in 9:01.11 this spring. Two weeks ago Sulkin won the Illinois State T&F Championships 3,200m run in 9:03.91.
Jordan Herbert (Sr., York, IL) - After finishing third at the Illinois State Cross Country Championships this past fall, Herbert had an excellent spring, finishing second in the state 3,200m run, finishing only behind teammate Steve Sulkin. Herbert finished the season with a personal best 3,200m time of 9:04.83.
Graham Bazell (Sr., Atholton, MD) - Last spring, Bazell finished second in the Gala two mile in 9:04.55. This year, Bazell returns, looking to break nine and compete for the win. The Stanford-bound senior won the 3,200m and 1,600m at the Maryland 3A State Meet earlier this season, running a 9:13 in the 3,200m and winning the event by 32 seconds.
Andrew Larsen (Sr., Marmion, IL) - Larsen, who'll be attending the University of Minnesota next fall, is an experienced Gala competitor. At the 2008 edition, Larsen finished sixth in the two mile. This year, he's taken a big step forward, finishing eight at the Illinois State Cross Country Championships, then placing fourth in 9:10.04 in the 3,200m run at the Illinois State T&F Championships.
Phil Fairleigh (Jr., Cary-Grove, IL) - While Fairleigh had a rough state meet two weeks ago, he has run very well the majority of the season, including a 9:05.13 3,200m performance at the Prospect Invitational. Fairleigh finished second in that race behind eventual state 3,200m champion Steve Sulkin.
Others to Watch: Matt Perez (Sr., Hoffman Estates, IL), Andrew Palmer (Jr., Walt Whitman, MD), Danny Nicolls (Jr., Regis, CO), Logan Rosenberg (Sr., Carmel, IN), Tom Ohlman (Jr., Carmel, IN).