8. Lukas Verzbicas Quits Running for Triathlon

The fifth sub-four miler in U.S. history says he can’t compete as a runner

Lukas Verzbicas wins the 2011 ITU Junior Triathlon World Championships

Lukas Verzbicas wins the 2011 ITU Junior Triathlon World Championships     Photo: Charles McCain/Flickr

Of the five American high schoolers to run under four minutes in the mile, three—Jim Ryun, Marty Liquori, and Alan Webb—would become fixtures on the world track circuit. (The fourth, Tim Danielson, was arrested for killing his ex-wife in June.) Lukas Verzbicas is the fifth, but for now he isn’t even a runner.

After a high-school career that netted him junior records at 2 miles and 5,000 meters and included two Footlocker cross country titles, Verzbicas signed up to run for legendary coach Vin Lananna at the University of Oregon.

In between, though, he won a world junior title in triathlon, and when his first cross country races as a Duck didn’t go well, he quit, moved to Colorado, and announced that he would devote his efforts to triathlon. "I don't know how I will feel later," he told writer Phil Hersh, "but I can't see myself now running a 2:03 marathon or a 12:35 for 5,000, which is what it would take to be the top world level."

Track fans were pissed

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