About five hours before he competed, and won, the 800-meter run at Saturday’s Classical Classic in Providence, RI, Devan Kipyego had some work to do. Bare-chested and focused, the St. Raphael Academy (RI) senior was on the track at Conley Stadium during the late morning hours, participating in a grueling workout.
It was a pyramid workout that consisted of 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x300m, 4x400m, 4x300m, 4x200m and 4x100m with limited rest in between sets. Like a machine, Kipyego ran nearly all of his intervals at sub 60-second 400m pace. He came back later and won the 800m at the state-qualifying meet in a crisp 1:57.08.
It was a good sign. A good sign that a milestone he has been chasing for the last few months is within reach. A good sign that all the training and hard work, all the high-level races he’s done this year, could equate to some magic on Friday night.
Under the lights at Marshfield High, that’s the day when history could be made by the Iowa State-bound senior, the overwhelming favorite to strike gold at the inaugural BSR Elite Scholastic Mile, an invite-only event, sponsored by HOKA and Marathon Sports, that features just two races, a star-studded boys’ and girls’ race.
“The confidence is building up right now for the first mile, which is really great,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a great race.”
There’s no secret. Kipyego isn’t just looking to run a fast time and beat the outstanding field that has been assembled for this primetime event. It’s all about breaking four minutes.It’s all about becoming the latest schoolboy to join this illustrious list. It’s a milestone he’s come so close to achieving several times since running his PR of 4:00.64 at the Brooks PR Invitational last June. There was also the 4:01.04 effort at the BU Last Chance Qualifier in late February and who could forget his memorable race at the New Balance Nationals in mid March where he nearly stole the show, where his dive across the finish line produced a runner-up time of 4:02.30, just five hundredths of a second behind individual winner, Iowa’s Jackson Heidesch.
“I think the biggest goal is kind of having that confidence going out there that I can do it, and putting the training behind it,” he said. “I know I can run a fast time there. I know I am in shape. I just have to keep the pace.”
Since the nationals, Kipyego has run some solid times in the races he’s competed in this spring, including two victories the weekend of April 21-22 where he ran 14:49.35 for the 5K at the CT Distance Festival on Friday and 6:03.01 for the 2K steeplechase at the New York Relays on Saturday.
While the signs all point to a memorable night, there’s no doubt it for it to happen it will take a special effort from the gifted senior. Kipyego is well aware that it won’t be just his talent that can get him under the mark. He knows everything has to be in sync, and there’s no room for holding back.
“You have to run sub 60 (seconds for the 400m) just once. Everything has to be perfect,” he said. “That’s the thing. It’s not easy. It’s so hard to do it in high school.”
Don’t expect this weekend’s race to be all about Kipyego, too. Regardless if he hits the mark or not, the invite-only 13-runner field is absolutely stacked for Friday’s race. Scheduled to answer the gun are a plethora of all-staters and All Americans from the New England region that have all clocked a time under 4:20. Of that group, eight have gone faster than 4:15.
Right now, the top two contenders appear to be Nathan Lopez of St. John’s Prep and Byron Grevious of Phillips Exeter Academy (NH). Lopez, the two-time 2M outdoor state champion, is off to a strong start in his final season for the Eagles. On April 21, he captured the mile at the BSR Mid Distance Classic on his home track with a solo 4:16.21. This past weekend, the University of Michigan commit had a workmanlike day at the Division 1 State Relays where he ran a 1:56 leg for the 800m on the Sprint Medley, 4:25 for his mile anchor on the DMR and a best of 4:13 for his anchor on the 4×1,600m.
Lopez is hoping for a big-time PR at Marshfield, a goal that seems attainable based on what he’s done the past two weekends.
“I think it’s going to be more of a be-in-the-pack type race as opposed to leading like it was today,” he said, after his victory at the Mid Distance Classic. “I am just going to try and compete as hard as I can. Hopefully, get a big PR out of it and place as well as I can. I think 4:10 is probably the goal or under that. It’s not like a championship, or like a state race, It’s more of where everyone is just trying to run fast. I think that’s going to help. I’m really just going into it like I’m going to go for it and see what happens. Hopefully it works out.”
Grievous comes into the race with a 4:12.95 best from the Millrose Games in New York City back in February. He has a PR of 8:12 for the 3,000m and was sixth overall in the two mile at the New Balance Nationals in mid March where he was timed in 8:51.0.
Grievous isn’t the only one from the Granite State that can challenge our leaders. There’s also Aidan Cox of Cox Brown Academy and Oliver Brandes of Phillips Exeter Academy. Cox, who is primarily a two-mile, 5,000m runner, has a best of 4:14.76 for the mile. He was fifth in the 5K at the indoor nationals with a PR of 14:21.98. Cox won the mile at the CT Distance Festival with an outdoor best of 4:16.52. This past weekend, the Virginia-bound senior took the 3,200m at the]Black Bear Invitational with a fast 9:02.75. Brandes has a best of 4:14.37 for the mile and has done 1:53 for the 800m. In addition, he also has sub 50-second speed for the 400m, recently clocking 49.93 for the one-lapper in a league meet.
Keep an eye on the rest of our MA contingent, too. Among our remaining entries are Uxbridge’s Aidan Ross (4:10.69), Brimmer and May School’s Brian Gamble (4:14.49), Roxbury Latin’s Kofi Fordjour (4:15.34), Newton North’s Tyler Tubman (4:16.61), North Andover’s Ryan Connolly (4:16.66), Westford Academy’s Paul Bergeron (4:17.45), Framingham’s Sam Burgess (4:18.58) and Burlington’s Ritkikh Prakash (4:18.93).
The Spartans’ Ross has the second fastest time among our entries, clocking his PR at last year’s CT Distance Festival, where he was second to Kipyego. The Wake Forest-bound senior has been dealing with hip issue since the winter, but seems to be rounding back into shape. He was seventh at the CT Distance Festival with a time of 4:22.52 and indicated to race director Dennis Sheppard that his workouts have been going well for a strong showing on Friday.
The girls’ race kicks off the night at 7:15. The boys’ race are slated for 7:30. The event will be live streamed by our State Running team.