Class of 2001
When Alan Webb crossed the line in 5th place in the 2001 Prefontaine Classic elite mile, and the high school record-smashing time of 3:53.43 was revealed, it ignited a nuclear reaction in the track and field community that perhaps has not been seen before or since. The popularity of the event, the fact that the previous record – 3:55.3 by Jim Ryun in 1965 – was one of the sport’s most revered, and that online coverage of track and field was reaching an early peak, gave Webb’s performance a “perfect storm” quality. Perhaps more than any other prep performance in the 20+ years the sport has been reported online, Webb’s 3:53.43 mile “broke the internet.”
Webb’s career was much more than that race, however. Training with Coach Scott Raczko at South Lakes HS in Reston, VA, he improved his mile to 4:06.94 by the end of 1999, then the fastest-ever by a 10th-grader. As a junior the next fall, he was 8th at Foot Locker Finals, then won the Nike Indoor mile with 4:07.87. It was at the Penn Relays, however, where Webb’s legend was truly established: A meet-record 3:59.9 anchor on South Lakes’ runner-up DMR. He later got his full mile down to 4:03.33, and then injury ended his season.
Now as a senior in 2000-01, Webb was part of the “Big Three,” along with Dathan Ritzenhein and Ryan Hall, riding a prep distance running renaissance. He was a bridesmaid again at Foot Locker (2nd), but then at the New Balance Games mile, he became the first prep to break 4:00 indoors with a magical 3:59.86. Later he topped the 1k HSR (2:23.68), and at Nike Indoor chased Gerry Lindgren’s 2-mile HSR for before settling for 8:45.61 – then #3 all-time.
Webb’s final prep outdoor campaign was spectacular: A 4:01.81 mile win at Arcadia (vs. Hall), then a return to Penn to anchor winning DMR (4:04.7 leg on a meet-record 9:59.66) and 4×800 (1:49.1 Penn record on a 7:41.75) squads. After Pre there was a nation-leading 1:47.74 800 at state, a 3:59.8 anchor on South Lakes’ national record 9:49.78 DMR at Adidas Outdoor, and a 5th in the USATF senior 1,500. He was named the Track and Field News 2001 HS Athlete of the Year.
Webb turned pro after one year at U. of Michigan. He won three US 1,500m titles between 2004-07, making the ’04 Olympic team and two World teams – but his best finish in a championship final was 8th. His career PRs from 1:43.84 for 800m to 27:34.72 for 10,000m shows that he had arguably the greatest range of any American distance runner ever. On July 21, 2007, he broke the American mile record with 3:46.91 – and is still the only athlete since 2001 to run faster than 3:47. Webb retired in 2014 after some years of injuries and struggling to return to that level and currently runs a truck repair business in Portland with his wife.