EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Alan Webb was such a hot commodity, the throng of fans who surrounded him for more than an hour didn”t even notice superstar Marion Jones walking by.
After his incredible race at the Prefontaine Classic track meet, Webb, who is coming to Michigan in the fall, had better get used to the attention, because some prominent people in the sport Jones included were absolutely floored by what the 18-year-old did Sunday.
Webb smashed Jim Ryun”s 36-year-old high school record for the mile, finishing in 3:53.43 to take fifth place and nearly overshadow the winner, Hicham El Guerrouj. The Moroccan world record-holder ran 3:49.92, the fastest mile ever run in North America.
While El Guerrouj shattered the U.S. all-comers” record of 3:50.86 by Algerian Noureddine Morceli in Atlanta in 1996, all anyone could talk about Sunday was Webb”s performance and the potential he has to resurrect American distance running.
“I think Alan Webb can become my No. 1 rival if he really works at it,” El Guerrouj said. “He”s obviously got a great future.”
Even the sport”s true superstars were in awe of Webb”s fierce running, which included an amazing 58-second final lap. Maurice Greene, the world record-holder and defending Olympic champion in the 100, congratulated Webb after the youngster”s race, then hugged him after Webb completed his second victory lap one with El Guerrouj and the second by himself.
“I wouldn”t race him a mile,” Greene said of Webb. “He don”t look like no high school dude.”
“It”s exciting to come out on the track and watch a phenom like Alan Webb run,” Jones said.
Webb, from South Lakes High School in Reston, Va., eclipsed Ryun”s scholastic record of 3:55.3, set in 1965 at San Diego. Only four prep students have broke the four-minute barrier outdoors. The last was Marty Liquori in 1967.
“I played it conservative for the first 2 1/2 laps, but at the end of the third lap I pulled up with the pack,” said the senior. “I got excited then. I was like, “I”m five meters from El Guerrouj with a lap to go.””
Although El Guerrouj”s time was the fastest in the world this year, he wasn”t completely satisfied with his first race of the season. He wanted to make a strong impression following his disappointing silver medal performance at the Sydney Games.
“I would have preferred to run 3:46 or 3:47, but unfortunately the pacemakers went out a little too quickly,” he said. “I was greatly disappointed after the Olympic Games, because my own national press criticized me and it made me even more determined to come out and become a great champion again, because I think I deserve it.”