For the first time in its short history the girl's Dream Mile at the Adidas Grand Prix fulfilled its promise to produce some all-time performances.
When Hall of Famer Jim Ryun conceived of the Dream Mile races three years ago, he said he wanted to assemble fields of athletes to push the boundaries of history. It has worked so far worked on the boys side – last year, Lukas Verzbicas broke four minutes in what was the fastest high school boys mile ever – but it has failed to catch on the girls' side.
But that all changed on Saturday. Harvard Westlake's (Ca.) Cami Chapus led a trio of runners under the 4:40 barrier and into the all-time record books in what will unquestionably go down as the fastest girls high school mile race in history.
Chapus' 4:39.64 is the eleventh fastest mile time ever and she is now ranked No. 8 all time (three girls ahead of her had run two times that made it to the all-time list). Trailing closely behind her were Homer Center's (Pa.) Angel Piccirillo (4:39.94) and Shawnee Mission West's (Ka.) Alli Cash (4:39.97), good for No. 11 and No. 12 all time, respectively.
It was Chapus' second straight Dream Mile title but it was nearly three seconds faster than last year's race, which was bogged down by tactical running that included 75-second middle lap. This year, Lily William's sixth place time of 4:42.79 would have earned her second place in last year's race. Chapus' time also broke Maddie Meyers' 2010 meet record of 4:41.93.
In the three years in existence, all the Dream Mile pre-race chatter surround which of the boys would run under four minutes. But there's no barrier for girls that creates the same kind of allure. As a result, the girls races have focused more so on winning the race than the time it takes to do so.
Not so this year.
Piccirillo the dirty work in the early parts of the race, running tight on the rabbit's outside shoulder for most of the first three laps. Piccirillo's quarter splits were 67.9, 2:21.3 and 3:34.4.
Cash and Chapus started the bell lap by passing Piccirillo and the race geared into a prolonged kick. Cash opened up a lead on the backstretch and on the final turn Piccirillo and Chapus both responded with their final moves.
"With 200 to go, I was like I want this more," Chapus said.
For both Chapus and Piccirillo, there was uncertainty about how they would perform coming into the race. Chapus faded badly in last week's 1600 meter California state meet and she said Saturday that the performance planted doubts in her head about how well she would be able to run.
"I panicked, to be honest," Chapus said of the state meet. "I was really nervous after the race. What's going on? Why did I panic?"
"I think I really needed to come up here to New York and really prove something to myself and really try to get back to have some fun with it because that's what it's about," she added.
For Piccirillo, the 2012 Dream Mile was a chance to make up for last year's last place finish.
"To come out here, I really wanted some redemption, to have a much better race and maybe go under forty," Piccirillo said after the race. "It kind of sucks that the win was right there but I can't be disappointed with how I did."
Despite the fast times, the race didn't decide who the fastest miler in the country was. That's because the runner with the fastest time this season, Mary Best (4:39.28), was upstate this weekend running in the New York State championships.
"I've never raced against her but she's a great runner and I think it would be really fun to race with her and pull each other to a fast time," Chapus said.