less valuable now wrote:
Breaking 4 as a high schooler doesn't really bring the same prestige as it used to. When LV did it a few years ago, it pretty much went unnoticed outside of the small niche of serious track fans.
In Webb's day, being "that high school sub 4 mile guy" provided valuable marketability. Not so much anymore.
No need to go out of your way to accomplish something that won't get much attention anyway. Worry about the long term. That's where the money is.
I believe the reason Webb got all the publicity and marketing is for several reasons:
1) He broke Jim Ryun's HS record, which had stood for several decades at that point. Jim Ryun at the very least was quite well known, since he was basically an American running hero back when T&F was still hugely popular.
2) 3:53 is MUCH more amazing than 3:59, and every agent and major company knows it. When Webb broke 4:00 for the first time (indoors), it wasn't nearly as big of a deal.
3) He was the first high schooler to break 4:00 in something close to 40 years or so. When Verzbicas followed, it had only been a decade or so after.
That being said, I would say that Verzbicas' sub-4 really did help him in the end. Almost any knowledgeable coach, athlete, agent, etc. would know that coming back from the spinal injury he had (temporary lower body paralysis) would be nearly impossible. Nerve connections and muscle units just don't magically restore themselves in the same manner after they've been cut.
The only reason he even has a sponsor (NB), and the only reason his current training groups take him is because he was the first sub-4 high schooler in quite some time, and because he performed incredibly well in high school. So he's not just some great HS runner trying to come back from a career-ending injury. He's arguably the BEST (or nearly the best) HS runner in several decades trying to come back from a career-ending injury.