There’s been a lot of talk lately, about bringing the mile (and with it, the two-mile) back to the high school track scene as a standard. Let me go on record as saying I support the hell out of this!

Of course, the mile never truly went away, and it’s been gathering steam for a while now. Alan Webb publicly pursued the high school mile record in 2001 – not the 1500 or 1600, but the mile. Edward Cheserek is on a sub-4 quest, following Lucas Verzbicas’ chase last year. As high school track continues to grow, more and more elite runners are seeking out the mile, and larger meets are starting to feature it. But still, at the “official” level, states run either the 1500 or 1600, and the 3000 or 3200 – keeping the official measurements in line with the collegiate and international standards.

There is, of course, some opposition to this idea in the chattering class. Arguments run from the need to keep track records and measurements consistent from the high school to college to international level, to the cost of having to change the tracks themselves.

Let’s be serious for a minute. We certainly want some consistency from the high school to the international level. But high school basketball doesn’t play four 15 minutes quarters – and college basketball is stranger yet, with just two 20 minute halves. The paint is different – a narrow rectangle in high school, wide one in college and the pros, and some weird pyramidish thing in international competition. The 3-point lines are different at every level. Has anyone suffered for this?

High school throwers use different implements from those used in international competition – has record-keeping or our ability to compete suffered? Hurdlers jump at different heights. Yet we survive.

And concern for records and competition is silly – have collegiate or international runners abandoned the mile? Have we stopped tracking records for the mile and two-mile? The Puma Mile, Bowerman Mile, Oslo Bislett games would all suggest differently. Despite running the 1500 in the Olympics, it’s clear that international runners in fact covet the mile record most of all. It’s just different. The whole world celebrates Roger Bannister – does anyone even know who the first to break 3:30 in the 1500 is*? It’s just different. Pros agree. Collegians agree. So why not let the kids chase that milestone, too?

Just as shot putters start throwing a bigger weight, basketball players learn a new 3-point line, and hurdlers have to clear higher barriers, high school milers will adjust to the 1500 in college (where, by the way, they’ll still have plenty of opportunities to challenge the mile).

As for the expense? I was surprised the first time I heard this argument, but I figured everyone’s entitled to their kooky opinions, but I’ve seen it more than once since, from people who should have a clue. Folks, we’re not going to rip up the tracks and throw down 440-yard ovals again. We’re talking about painting a new stripe a couple dozen feet from the 1600 start line. Of course, this is assuming that tracks don’t already have a mile starting line painted – most I’ve seen do. Even in the poorest district, I’m willing to bet the coach could spring $15 for some white paint at the hardware store. And let’s face it – the poorest districts aren’t hosting championship meets – the tracks that do host championships largely already have the mile marked out.

This is kind of a no-brainer. American high school track is picking up steam, and the athletes are getting stronger, and getting more public attention, every year. And while sprinters do get press – remember when Jeff Demps ran 10.01 in Eugene his senior year in high school? – it’s the mile that really spills the ink. When Webb ran 3:53 in Eugene, that was national news. Verzbicas overshadowed everyone last year. So let’s let the kids run the race that they, and the public, love.

*obviously, yes. Some people know that. But nobody really cares.

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