Hobbs Kessler Ran Amazing……..But……

By Robert Johnson
May 30, 2021

Last night, US high schooler Hobbs Kessler stole the headlines despite finishing 5th place in the 1500 at the Portland Track Festival. His time of 3:34.36 broke Alan Webb‘s 20-year-old US high school record of 3:38.26, which came in the midst of his legendary 3:53.43 mile which was run 20 years and two days before Kessler’s 1500. Kessler’s time is also faster than Jim Ryun‘s US U20 record of 3:36.1, which had stood since 1966, and is actually faster than Yared Nuguse‘s collegiate record (3:34.68) as well.

It’s amazing, but my job as a journalist is to put things in perspective.

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While Kessler’s mark converts to a 3:51 mile, I don’t consider his performance to be superior to Webb’s mile in terms of impressiveness.

Why?

We have to consider the following.

  1. We live in an era of super spikes that I believe, for most runners, are worth several seconds for a 1500.
  2. Kessler had two opportunities to run this fast. Webb had one. (Kessler ran 3:40.46 at the USATF Grand Prix on April 24, a race won in 3:33).
  3. Kessler has an ideal training setup with a super accomplished coach and two-time Olympic medallist as a training partner.
  4. When Webb ran his record, he finished 5th in one of the top miles in the world on national TV — the Bowerman Mile at the Prefontaine Classic. Kessler finished 5th in a race run in front of a few hundred people in the middle of the night.
  5. Webb’s race was run in the middle of the day with wind in Eugene, Oregon. Kessler’s race was run in perfect time-trial type conditions in Portland. (When you go to YouTube and watch Webb’s 3:53 mile, what pops up on the screen within the first five seconds? The flags flapping in the wind. It wasn’t really that windy but I’d be shocked if it wasn’t windier that what Kessler ran in last night).
  6. As a result of the spikes and conditions, almost everyone in Kessler’s race ran a personal best. Check out the stats below. Only 2 of the 12 finishers who broke 3:40 failed to PR in the race.

1 Craig Engels NIKE 3:33.64 – Previous PB 3:34.04 – PB of 0.40
2 Charlie Grice Great Britain 3:33.81 – PB of 3:30.62 – 3.21 off his pb
3 Jake Heyward NIKE / Oregon Track Club Elite 3:33.99 – Previous PB of 3:36.24 – PB of 2.25
4 Henry Wynne Brooks Beasts 3:34.08 – Previous PB of 3:35.14 – PB of 1.06
5 Hobbs Kessler Unattached 3:34.36 – Previous PB of 3:40.46 – PB of 6.07
6 Vincent Ciattei NIKE / Oregon Track Club Elite 3:34.57 – Previous pb of 3:36.35 – PB of 1.78
7 Amos Bartelsmeyer NIKE / Bowerman Track Club 3:35.24 – Previous PB of 3:36.29 – PB of 1.05
8 Will Paulson NIKE / Oregon Track Club Elite 3:35.42 – Previous PB of 3:35.59 – PB of 0.17
9 Mason Ferlic Tracksmith 3:35.45 – Previous PB of 3:42.03 – PB of 6.58
10 Eric Avila Adidas 3:35.60 – Previous PB of 3:36.37 – PB of 0.77
11 Josh Thompson NIKE / Bowerman Track Club 3:35.88 – PB of 3:35.01 – 0.87 off his pb
12 Nanami Arai Honda 3:37.05 – Previous PB of 3:38.18 – PB of 1.13
13. Nick Willis Tracksmith 3:40.14 – PB of 3:29.66 – 10.48 off his pb
14. Pat Casey Dark Sky / Under Armour 3:43.54 – PB of 3:35.32 – 8.22 off his pb

I’m not saying Kessler isn’t a SUPREME talent. He clearly is a BIG-TIME talent (as is collegian Cole Hocker). I’m just saying I don’t think it’s leaps and bound above what we saw from Alan Webb 20 years ago or Jim Ryun back in the 1960s. There’s a cap of talent in the world and he’s near the top, but I don’t think he’s off the charts, say like Usain Bolt.

That being said, I really love Ron Warhurst, Kessler’s 77-year-old coach, who also coached Alan Webb during his freshman year at Michigan. Warhurst supposedly told some people before last night’s race that Kessler is the most talented person he’s ever coached.

I hope that is proven to be true in the years to come but also think that me pumping the brakes just a tiny bit on the hype machine is a good thing. Undue pressure doesn’t normally help.


More on Kessler’s backstory here: LRC Two Decades After Brannen, Webb, & Willis, Ron Warhurst Has Another Teen Mile Star on His Hands. His Name Is Hobbs Kessler.

Recap of his race from Saturday: LRC Hobbs Kessler Breaks Alan Webb’s Legendary High School 1500m Record Hobbs Kessler ran 3:34.36 for 1500m at the Portland Track Festival to destroy Alan Webb’s high school record and also get under the Tokyo Olympic qualifying standard.

Talk about Kessler’s unreal run on the LRC messageboard.

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