This mile race may
not quite be at the level of Sebastian Coe vs. Steve Ovett or Sydney Maree vs.
Steve Scott, but there will be an almost magical competitive aura at 9:50 p.m.
Jan. 28 at the Wanamaker Millrose Games in New York's Madison Square Garden
when Mike Stahr, of Carmel, N.Y., and John Carlotti, of Bernardsville, N.J.,
probably the two best schoolboy milers in the country, and eight other runners
assemble at the starting line for the Jumbo Elliott High School One-Mile Run.
Up in the balcony, the fans of the Carmel High Rams and the Bernards High
Mountaineers will be making an expectant tumult.
And the time
should be very fast. Both 18-year-old seniors are aiming for Thorn Hunt's
national high school indoor record of 4:02.7, set in San Diego in 1976. Stahr
even talks with matter-of-fact confidence about going under four minutes in
this race. Larry Byrne, a member of the three-man Millrose committee which puts
together the all-star schoolboy field, says only half-jokingly that the winning
time might even be better than that of the famous Wanamaker Mile, which will
feature the likes of Eamonn Coghlan, Tom Byers and Ray Flynn.
and John Carlotti are two of the best talents I've seen in years," says
Bill Dellinger, the track and field coach at the University of Oregon.
"They have natural speed. They've demonstrated that they compete well. They
remind me of two guys I recruited five or six years ago, Rudy Chapa and Alberto
Salazar. They're in that class. I expect them both to continue to improve.
Naturally, I'd like to see both come to Oregon."
But the coaches at
Kansas, Villanova, Florida and Virginia and a host of other schools are also
busy recruiting—phoning, scouting, visiting, flying the boys out to the
campuses. After all, these are two schoolboys capable of breaking the
four-minute barrier in the mile, and that hasn't happened since Marty Liquori
did it 15 years ago.
Though they live
only 90 miles apart in wooded, hilly suburban New York towns, the two have been
even more remote from one another than Coe and Ovett, having met in just one
race. That was last September's high school preliminary to the Fifth Avenue
Mile when the relatively unknown Carlotti edged the favored Stahr with a final
surge, 4:05.6 to 4:05.7. Carlotti calls the straightaway street race their
"first confrontation." He says he threw in three "special"
100-mile weeks on top of a summer-long effort of 80-mile weeks to prepare for
that run and the upcoming cross-country season. Stahr, smarting over the
unaccustomed loss, says he didn't really train for it.
135-pound Stahr, rated the top 1,500-meter high school runner in the U.S. for
1982 by Track & Field News, was the first high school junior ever to win
The Athletics Congress (TAC) Junior Championship 1,500 (in 3:46.99, the
equivalent of a sub-4:06 mile), competing against college freshmen. He ranks
behind only Jim Ryun on a list of junior schoolboy 1,500-meter times in
America. Undefeated on the track in 1982, Stahr ran the mile in 4:07 and did a
1:50.4 for 800 meters on a relay leg. He also has temporary possession of the
big silver bowl that goes with the Jumbo Elliott Mile. He dominated last
February's Millrose race with a tactical fast-slow-fast-paced 4:13.63, leading
every step of the way.
Coach Paul Collins
says Stahr is the best runner he's ever had in his 15 years of track at Carmel
High. He started by winning a 440 in 7th grade and then "just seemed to
take off" in the mile, according to Collins: 4:25 as a freshman, 4:15 as a
sophomore and a "crazy" junior year. "He's just a very strong
kid," Collins says. "He has a perfect body for distance running. He has
the will. He has tremendous desire as a competitor, the willingness to endure
willingness, the low-key Collins, 45, a finalist in the 100-yard dash in the
1959 NCAA championships, doesn't believe in high training mileage and Stahr
abhors it. His maximum weekly total is 60 miles during the summer and, in
season, he usually ranges around the mid-30s with a top of 45 miles. An
eight-miler on the roads is considered a long run. But he does a lot of quality
work—thrice-weekly ladder workouts, going up and down from 220s to 660s, along
with 440- and 880-yard intervals at 85% effort with short recoveries. His idol
is, of course, that prince of low mileage, Coe, the mile world-record holder at
And for what it's
worth to any young runner who thinks he needs great facilities and head-to-head
intrasquad competition (Carmel's next-best miler does 4:28) to become a
champion, Stahr trains on the available hills and roads and on a loose cinder
track. On harsh winter afternoons he has the luxury of a measured 440 around
the school hallways, past the green lockers, practicing cheerleaders and
teammates skimming over hurdles.
Stahr has a
compact, effortless stride, smoothly propelled on taut whippet legs. "He
likes to lead," says Collins. "If someone challenges him, he won't let
him take the lead."