In amongst tons of threads on this dude I think this one deserves it's own. In following track for many years I can not ever recall a kid coming from relative obscurity to being this insanely good in such a short period of time. We have seen great and highly touted high school talent before (Ryun, Webb etc) but none that have risen to the cusp of world class so quickly and quietly. Twelve months ago maybe 10 people knew that this kid - who then probably still saw himself as a rock climber/boulderer, even was a runner. Now he is the American high school record holder, has even run inside the collegiate record and is an outside bet (and not a terrible one) to sneak onto an Olympic team.
It's completely enigmatic and awesome and I have been trying to figure out/rationalize some reasons why and how this kid can be this good, all despite having no apparent history in track and almost certainly only just starting to tap into real volumes and quality of work in training that should be taking a lot longer to manifest than a little over 6 months.
After his indoor mile record, Nick Willis spoke about the advantage that Kessler has through rock climbing and the fearless attitude in approaching a task that it has given him. I 100% agree with that but would even elaborate further on this narrative (hypothesizing but with a basis) that despite obvious physical gifts, the elite talent of Hobbs Kessler is mental and could mean that he is potentially only scratching the surface right now of his ultimate potential which could be at a "Jakob Ingebritsen and then some" level.
I've watched a bunch of rock climbing documentaries (some mainstream and some not) because the mindset of the worlds best climbers fascinates me. We don't need to discuss the obvious dangers and perils of that endeavor but the one similarity all the best climbers who succeed in the most insane situations is that they talk about being completely and 100% present in the moment (to a micro degree) and solely focused on executing the physical act to solve that instantaneous problem they are faced with. Which makes sense - there is no point worrying about anything further up a climb because to even get there you need to get past the problem you have with making sure your next step is the right one. And a difficult section can have many possible solutions that mean you can climb the same section many times and never execute it (or the entire climb) the same way twice.
I wondered how this overall mindset applied to running a mile (and any distance - even in long hard workouts etc) could be beneficial and I just can't get over how beneficial this must be. Again only hypothesizing, but I can imagine that this mindset allows Kessler to approach any race with any level of competitor in the same way. He is automatically and by default is completely present with himself and the immediate task at hand - not worrying about what anyone else does, not worrying if an intermediate split is too "fast" or slow", he just runs and executes each meter with the same mental approach he would if he was climbing a sheer rock wall. The other benefit of this is also an automatic forgetting of what he's just done because 1) it's not irrelevant anymore after it's been executed (kind of the like the old "elite NBA shooter/short memory" deal) and 2) following the whole "always in the micro moment" mindset he's always onto the next moment and focusing on what he has to do to execute the final goal (the race).
I think inadvertently the mindset he has fostered with rock climbing is his single biggest talent and advantage - one that might be so unique it sets him apart even at an Olympic/world level. At the age of 18 he already has mastered the mindset that pro's want and know they need to have, yet might take years to even find and master 50% of. There is simply no way he can be close to his physical peak - especially if you go off the reports out of Ann Arbor that serious workouts and training have only just started, and of course that he is still a high school athlete.
Webb was a great talent - but this is different and I would not anticipate the same rollercoaster ride from Kessler. Webb was an insane physical talent but mentally so incredibly fragile. Kessler right now may just have the perfect mental makeup/approach to be a runner, that we have never seen before and the physical development will almost come easily if he can maintain it.
Easily the most exciting, intriguing and unique talent I might have ever seen in this sport.