ATL III — An Out-Of-The-Blue HS Mile Record For Hobbs Kessler

James Randon was just one of several pros that high schooler Hobbs Kessler beat in chopping more than 20 seconds off his mile PR. (SHAWN PRICE)

FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS, February 07 — No result out of the third American Track League meet was more surprising than the 3rd-placer in the pro mile. High schooler Hobbs Kessler (Skyline, Ann Arbor, Michigan) came seemingly out of nowhere to break the national prep record with his 3:57.66.

Prior to the race the 17-year-old’s best time was a 1600 of 4:18.96 (worth 4:20.47 for a mile) he ran indoors as a junior pre-pandemic. More pertinent was a mile time trial last summer in which he rabbited for occasional training partner Nick Willis and then grimly hung on for a 4:08.4.

Running conservatively from the back, Kessler had intended to stay directly behind Willis. Early on, he got boxed out of that spot and he ran the first 3 laps in last place in the 8-man field. He passed the first lap-plus in 30.74 (209.34m), and for the next six 200-meter circuits reeled off an admirable sequence all between 29.71 and 30.18.

Coming off the backstretch on lap 6, Kessler made a pass and started to bridge the gap that the leaders were opening up on the field. The pacemaker stepped off at three-quarters, leaving Kessler in 5th, hanging onto the lead pack. Up front was the Big 12 indoor champ for Texas Tech last year, Algerian Takieddine Hedeilli, followed by Costa Rican Oklahoma State junior Juan Diego Castro and New Zealander Willis.

It wasn’t until the final turn that Kessler moved into 4th. He finished strongly, passing Castro into 3rd with 10m to go, breaking Drew Hunter’s ’16 HSR of 3:57.81 with 0.15 to spare. “Oh my gosh. That’s crazy,” the stunned Northern Arizona-bound senior told ESPN.

He had passed 1500 in 3:43.07, 1.14 behind the HSR that Hunter had set en route to his mile. His final 400 was 57.04, final 800 1:57.08.

Up front, incidentally, Hedeilli held off Willis’s kick to win, 3:56.79–3:56.82.

Said Kessler, “I kind of started slow, but I was looking at the clock and I was right on where I needed to be. I waited and waited and waited, but I had juice at the end.”

When asked if Alan Webb’s outdoor record of 3:53.43 was his next big target, he seemed caught off guard and said, “I still haven’t processed the first one.”

Kessler’s father, Mike, is Skyline’s cross country coach and guides the men’s distance runners in track. He brought in longtime Michigan coach Ron Warhurst to assist with Hobbs. Their consensus had been that he would run in the 4:03 range (the Michigan state indoor record had been the 4:03.54 Grant Fisher ran in winning the New Balance Nationals in ’15).

Said the elder Kessler, “He said that every time he came by, he just made sure there’s either a zero or a 5 [on the clock], so he knew he was OK. He’s got a preternatural ability to hit paces and times; it’s just crazy.”


Cunningham & Morris Soar In The Verticals

In women’s high jumping, the 2-meter (6-6¾) height is the event’s benchmark. When Vashti Cunningham came within a centimeter of that in winning the ’16 indoor nationals, few would have guessed that it would be 5 years before she upped her undercover PR, but it finally came here (in the interim, she did finally get 2m jumps outdoors twice in ’19).

Still just 23, Cunningham had some difficulties at lower heights here, needing three tries to get over 6-2¼ (1.89) and a pair at 6-4¾ (1.95). Her second shot at the winning height came on her second try, boosting her to =No. 3 on the all-time U.S. indoor list. She finished the day with three not-close attempts at an American Record 6-8 (2.03).

Sandi Morris finished her day with three misses too, hers at a stratospheric 16-7½ (5.07), a centimeter above Yelena Isinbaeva’s absolute WR, set 11 years ago. Before that, however, Morris was successful on her third attempt at 16-0 (4.88) as she reclaimed the yearly world lead.

“I’m super, super happy and this has been a great series already and I’ve only had two meets,” said Morris. “Really the goal of this has been to get comfortable on the new poles that I’m jumping on. I feel that I’m super-confident now.”

Why such a big raising of the bar? “After getting the facility record and the current world lead, there’s not much else to go for,” she explained. “Let’s just put it at 5.07, the World Record, and take some looks at it. I was working on raising my grip tonight. I raised it about an inch and a half, and that doesn’t sound like much, but in pole vault raising your grip when you’re at the peak of your abilities it’s really, really difficult.”


AMERICAN TRACK LEAGUE III MEN’S RESULTS

(200 banked)

60: 1. Ronnie Baker (US) 6.53; 2. Trayvon Bromell (US) 6.58; 3. Andrew Hudson (US) 6.61; 4. Hakim Ruffin (US) 6.67; 5. Bryce Robinson (US) 6.69; 6. Bismark Boateng (Can) 6.69; 7. Chris Royster (US) 6.71;… dnf—Andre Ewers (Jam).

400: I–1. Michael Cherry (US) 45.24 PR; 2. Wil London (US) 46.35; 3. Valente Mendoza (Mex) 47.31. II–1. Deon Lendore (Tri) 46.08; 2. Christopher Taylor (Jam) 46.09; 3. Alejandro Perlaza (Col) 46.54; 4. Travean Caldwell (US) 46.77. III–1. Trevor Bassitt (US) 45.27 PR.

Mile: 1. Takieddine Hedeilli (Alg-TxT) 3:56.79 PR (3:42.34 CL); 2. Nick Willis (NZ) 3:56.82 (3:42.53);

3. Hobbs Kessler (US) 3:57.66 HSR (old HSR 3:57.81 Drew Hunter [Loudoun Valley, Purcellville, Va] ’16) (in/out: 3, 4 HS) (3:43.07 HSL [2, 3 HS; in/out: 8, x HS]) (both times national age-17 records);

4. Juan Diego Castro (CR) 3:57.78 PR (3:42.61); 5. James Randon (US) 3:58.66 (3:42.95 AL).

60H: 1. Omar McLeod (Jam) 7.53; 2. Michael Dickson (US) 7.58; 3. Ruebin Walters (Tri) 7.68; 4. Bassitt 7.68 PR;

5. Ryan Fontenot (US) 7.74; 6. Milan Trajkovic (Cyp) 7.78; 7. Chad Zallow (US) 7.79.

Field Events

HJ: 1. Shelby McEwen (US) 7-2½ (2.20); 2. Roderick Townsend (US) 7-½ (2.15); 3. Erik Kynard (US) 7-½; 4. Kris Kornegay-Gober (US) 6-8¾ (2.05).

LJ: 1. Marquis Dendy (US) 26-11¼ (8.21) (WL, AL) (25-10¾, f, f, f, f, 26-11¼) (7.89, f, f, f, f, 26-11¼);

2. LaQuan Nairn (Bah) 26-9¼ (8.16) NR (f, 26-9¼, 26-4½, f, f, 26-6½) (f, 8.16, 8.04, f, f, 8.09); 3. Charles Brown (US) 25-7½ (7.81); 4. Damar Forbes (Jam) 25-3¼ (7.70); 5. Tristan James (Dmn) 24-9¾ (7.56).

ATL III WOMEN’S RESULTS

60: 1. Blessing Okagbare (Ngr) 7.10 PR; 2. Christania Williams (Jam) 7.14; 3. Teahna Daniels (US) 7.17;

4. Hannah Cunliffe (US) 7.21; 5. Daryll Neita (GB) 7.22; 6. Jenna Prandini (US) 7.24;

7. Shawnti Jackson (US) 7.24 PR (HSL);

8. Marybeth Price (US) 7.28.

200: I–1. Okagbare 23.01 PR;

2. Jackson 23.23 PR (=5, =6 HS);

3. Ashley Henderson (US) 23.33;… dnf—Ashley Spencer (US).

II–1. Prandini (US) 22.55 (AL);

2. Hayes 22.70 PR; 3. Cunliffe23.40; 4. Daniels 23.70; 5. Kennedy Gamble (US) 24.82.

400: I–1. Shamier Little (US) 51.33 PR; 2. Shiann Salmon (Jam) 52.85 PR; 3. Kendall Baisden (US) 53.43; 4. Lina Nielsen (GB) 53.85. II–1. Shakima Wimbley (US) 52.12; 2. Paola Moran (Mex) 53.99; 3. Sparkle McKnight (Tri) 54.33; 4. Chloe Abbott (US) 54.45; 5. Kanika Beckles (Grn) 56.97.

800: 1. Adelle Tracey (GB) 2:02.11;

2. Sophia Gorriaran (US) 2:02.44 PR (4, 4 HS);

3. Nikki Hiltz (US) 2:02.51 PR; 4. Kaitlin Ryan (US) 2:09.06; 5. Samantha Murphy (Can) 2:11.95.

60H: 1. Tiffany Porter (GB) 7.95; 2. Britany Anderson (Jam) 7.97; 3. Gabbi Cunningham (US) 8.08; 4. Rushelle Burton (Jam) 8.20; 5. Ashley Spencer (US) 8.25.

Field Events

HJ: 1. Vashti Cunningham (US) 6-6¾ (2.00) PR (AL) (=3, =3 A) (6-0, 6-2¼ [3], 6-3¼, 6-4¾ [2], 6-6¾ [2], 6-8 AR [xxx]) (1.83, 1.89 [3], 1.91, 1.95 [2], 2.00 [2], 2.03 AR [xxx]);

2. Jelena Rowe (US) 6-3¼ (1.91) PR; 3. Shelley Spires (US) 6-0 (1.83); 4. Ty Butts-Townsend (US) 5-10¾ (1.80); 5. Shahaf Berni (Isr) 5-8¾ (1.75); 6. Grace Cunningham (US) 5-5 (1.65).

PV: 1. Sandi Morris (US) 16-0 (4.88) (WL, AL) (14-8¼, 15-¼, 15-4¼ [2], 15-6¼, 15-8¼ [2], 15-10, 16-0 [3], 16-7½ WR [xxx]) (4.48, 4.58, 4.68 [2], 4.73, 4.78 [2], 4.83, 4.88 [3], 5.07 WR [xxx]);

2. Olivia Gruver (US) 15-8¼ (4.78) PR (5, x A) (in/out: 5, x A) (14-4½ [2], 14-8¼, 15-¼ [2], 15-4¼, 15-6¼, 15-8¼ [2], 15-10 [xxx]) (4.38 [2], 4.48, 4.58 [2], 4.68, 4.73, 4.78 [2], 4.83 [xxx]);

3. Megan Clark (US) 15-¼ (4.58); 4. Jill Marois (US) 14-½ (4.28); 5. Chloe Cunliffe (US) 14-½; 6. tie, Ariádni Adamopoúlou (Gre) & Marissa Kalsey (US) 14-½. □