High Schooler Hobbs Kessler Mixes It Up With The Pros

A 56.06 gave Hobbs Kessler the fastest last lap in the USATF Grand Prix 1500. (KEVIN MORRIS)

MAKING HIS HAYWARD FIELD DEBUT, Hobbs Kessler got another chance to race with the big boys at the USATF GP, finishing 6th in the wet and windy 1500 in 3:40.46, a time that made the senior from Skyline (Ann Arbor, Michigan) No. 3 all-time among preps, after only Alan Webb and Jim Ryun (see chart).

“It went out super-fast,” he says. “I was hanging way off the back, but I went through in like 43, so I wasn’t super worried about it. Then the pace kind of slowed a little bit, but I didn’t feel it too much.”

That first 300 of 43.89 had Kessler in dead last in the 14-man field (2 were rabbits). His next full lap, a 59.82, kept him there. He didn’t pass anyone until the next go-round, which he covered in 60.69.

Then it was panic time: “I thought, ‘I really got to go for the 3:40.’ Mason [Ferlic, a sometime training partner] was yelling at me with 300 to go, ‘Go now! Go now!’

“I don’t really remember much about the last 150. I was gritting it out.” That meant passing another half-dozen competitors, including notable names such as Johnny Gregorek, Geordie Beamish, Bryce Hoppel, and so on. (Continued below)

The 18-year-old phenom covered his final lap in 56.06. It was the fastest of anyone in the race, with the next best belonging to fellow Michigander Donavan Brazier (56.14), who hadn’t followed the rabbit and led the charge of the second pack in chasing those who did, Ollie Hoare and Justyn Knight.

“In my mind I was pretty happy with the race. I thought I was going to run 3:38 or 3:37. And I thought I was going to be almost dead-last. So it was a little bit of a tradeoff that I beat fulltime pros but I didn’t run as fast as I wanted to.”

If he had the chance to do it over again, he says, “I almost went on the third lap, to pass a few people and move up earlier. I’d do that next time. I can’t decide if I’m just not strong enough. It felt like I was going hard, but as soon as the bell hit, I had more gears.

“So I don’t know if that’s me being more speed-based or just a psychological experience. I’d go a little harder to pass more people and leave a little less work for the last lap.”

For now, the Northern Arizona-bound Kessler will return to local high school racing with his team and won’t get the chance to try another strategy with the big boys for a month or so.

To guarantee a spot in the Olympic Trials he will need an auto-Q of 3:37.50 (which, incidentally, would give him the High School Record to go with the indoor mile standard he claimed over the winter).