Honestly, after seeing how quickly the team improved and how much depth they have, I’m starting to think the NP kids aren’t in the 99.99th percentile of talent. With maybe one or two exceptions, every high schooler that’s broken 4 has had immense talent. Still, after watching one team get 4 guys in sub-4 shape at the same time, it has me thinking that either the NP kids are either the most talented runners the US has ever seen save Jim Ryun, or they’re really talented kids but only like 97-98th percentile in terms of talent. I think it’s far more likely that these are guys who would normally run ~4:07 in high school, but they’ve gotten great training for years than it is that 4 of the most talented HS runners ever just happened to be going to the same school at the same time.
To back this statement up: We’ve recently gotten a few examples of people who train with pro runners from a young age. First, of course, is Jakob Ingebrigsten. Is he immensely talented? Of course. Would he have run 3:56 at 16 if he started running in middle school? No. Jakob has been training with pros and like pros since before high school, and that training undoubtedly got him his Olympic medal. The second example is Rheinhardt Harrison, who ran some age record for a half marathon when he was like 10. With consistent training for years, he ran 4:01 as a sophomore (and arguably ran a sub-4 effort his junior year). The third example is Hobbs Kessler. He didn’t run from a young age, but he was a great climber so he had good fitness. He also has the distinct advantage of training like a pro and with pros for a couple years, and we saw last year what a really talented kid training with pros for a couple years can do.
The last example is Galen Rupp. Similar to Kessler, Rupp got picked out by AlSal while doing 200s as a soccer player. A couple years of training like a pro (altitude house, AlSal training, Nike backing, etc), and he runs 13:37. After doing that kind of training consistently for 10 years? Olympic medalist. Now, either Rupp is one of the most talented people ever, and AlSal got really lucky by happening to be a coach at a private school where the most talented US runner ever was going, or AlSal’s training took someone who was 97-98th percentile and over a decade of training, it produced world-beating results. I think it’s probably the ladder. Basically, with top-quality coaching and teammates, more kids would be breaking 4.
Really, I’m trying to say that someone with 98th percentile talent, who ran in middle school, and who trains seriously all 4 years of high school with a good coach and team, has a good shot at breaking 4. You may think that’s crazy, but looking at how most high school teams train, I don’t think so. People used to say US runners just didn’t have the talent to compete with Africans, but now we compete pretty well. I think in 15 years, we’ll look back and be surprised that there weren’t 4 kids breaking 4 every year.