Lukas Verzbicas was a great, great high school runner. That 8:36 of Jeff Nelson was head and shoulders above everyone for decades until German Fernandez, off of light mileage and limited speed training because of an injury beat it in a high school only race, and ran a double of 4:00/8:34, I think, (metric both) at California state track. So, Fernandez was probably the better talent. He also was among the top ncaa xc runners as a freshman, though falling down with an injury of little even short-term significance was bad, and came back to run 7:47 while sick, plus 3:34 just after college during a brief period of health. All that being said, Lukas was very better trained and was maximizing his talent, winning just about everything, including two footlockers in the era of Cheserek, and running an incredible 8:29 2 mile at Pre, with professionals to pace him, as well as sub 4, while doing plenty of triathlon training at the same time. Lukas had shown signs of a tendency to give up one of the two sports, running or triathlon, on several previous occasions in the face of a loss, and a victory in one would lead to a focus in that one. After he won world junior tri, he saw a real future in the sport, and Vin should not have let him race out of shape after a few weeks of training following world junior tri, given how shaky he'd been about quitting one or the other sport in previous years. Those of us who followed the sport knew this. But Vin goes ahead and lets him race a meaningless 8k and he is toasted in 62nd place and quits the sport. Only this time he wouldn't get a chance to go back to running because of the horrendous bike accident (note that he was riding in the mountains at high speed after being raised in mostly flat Illinois). As for peds, that would certainly not surprise me, given his mother, but he was training like a pro from an early age, like the Ingebrigtsens, so early success should not be too surprising.