It may be two more weeks before Michigan track star Alan Webb competes in the maize and blue again, but the spotlight is still shining on America’s best young miler.

Paul Wong
Michigan freshman miler Alan Webb was the first high school runner to break the four-minute mile since Jim Ryan in 1965. BRETT MOUNTAIN/Daily

Today in New York, Webb will be vying for the James E. Sullivan Memorial Award, which honors the best amateur athlete in the United States.

Along with Webb, the other finalists will be figure skater Michelle Kwan, swimmer Natalie Coughlin, gymnast Sean Townsend and former Southern Cal. pitcher and current Chicago Cubs’ prospect Mark Prior.

The candidates were chosen based on their leadership, character, sportsmanship and the ideals of amateurism in 2001.

Despite the fact that Kwan makes millions of dollars in endorsements each year, many people feel that she is the leader heading into tonight’s presentation.

Kwan won the bronze medal at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

“This is just an educated guess, but I think it’s between Alan and Kwan,” said Michigan track coach Ron Warhurst. “He’s got a real shot.”

Warhurst will be in New York to support Webb, leaving his pregnant wife, Kalli, at home just three weeks before her due date.

Webb’s birth on the national scene took place last summer, when he broke Jim Ryan’s American high school record in the mile (3:55.3) by almost two full seconds (3:53.43).

Once he came to Michigan, he starred on the cross-country team, leading the Wolverines to an 11th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.

Whether or not Webb is celebrating on ABC’s Good Morning America tomorrow, the imprint that his career will have on the Michigan track program cannot be overestimated.

“It hasn’t really been fully felt yet,” Warhurst said. “Everybody hasn’t really been interested in watching us because he hasn’t been running (Webb has missed the last several months with tendonitis in his Achilles). I’ve been around here 20 years, and I’m realistic – people come just to see him run.”

Although those fans will not see Webb running anytime soon, Warhurst maintains that his injury is healed.

“He’s very healthy right now,” Warhust said. “He’s not going to run out there and post a 3:50, but he won’t run a 4:10 either. All I can say is that he will fulfill my expectations.”

The reason why Webb continues to sit out of meets has very little to do with his Achilles and everything to do with his goals.

“We’re trying to get him to peak in June, July, August,” Warhurst said. “He needs to be at his best this summer, when he competes in Europe and at some other big Invitationals.”

Webb’s fans can expect him to return to the track on April 19 at the Mt. SAC Relays or on April 25 at the Penn Relays.

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