Prep runner breaks 4 minutes in mile

As Lukas Verzbicas sprinted through the finish line at the Boys’ Dream Mile at Randall’s Island on Saturday, a clock bearing a sub-4-minute time was there to greet him. So was the last man to break that barrier in a high school race.

Verzbicas, a University of Oregon recruit, became the first prep athlete to run a sub-4-minute mile in a high school race since Jim Ryun in 1965. The 18-year-old Orland Park, Ill., native wowed the crowd at the Adidas Grand Prix with a time of 3:59.71. The first person to congratulate him was Ryun.

“Forty-six years is too long for someone not to go under 4 minutes in a high school race,” Ryun said. “I’m happy for him.”

It’s the second impressive showing in two weeks for Verzbicas, who set a high school record in the two-mile at last week’s Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., with an 8:29 finish. While that race featured mostly professionals, Saturday’s meet required Verzbicas to challenge himself to hit his targeted mark.

“With 50 meters to go I saw the clock at 3:52, 3:53 and thought it was really possible,” Verzbicas said. “I gave it everything I had, and it all came together.”

Running has been just one focus for the Lithuanian-born Verzbicas, who emigrated to the US in 2002 with his parents, both of whom are track coaches. Verzbicas has competed in triathlons most of his high school career, something that will change when he enrolls at Oregon and begins running exclusively.

He also plans to apply for his US citizenship shortly, although don’t expect to see him on the track at the 2012 Olympics in London.

“(The Rio de Janeiro Olympics in) 2016 is the main goal and I should be at the top of my game,” Verzbicas said.

He’s the fifth high schooler to break 4 minutes, but he and Ryun are the only runners to do it in races restricted to high school competitors. The other three did it at invitationals with both amateurs and pros.