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Perfect weather. The perfect race.
The weather was perfect – 57º, no wind, low humidity. The venue, absolute perfection. And the athletes, primed and promising to assault the record books of two states in the two-mile – with hand-timed 3000's and FAT 3200's for good measure.
The results would show two new state all-time bests at several distances by two talented seniors, Craig Forys of Colts Neck NJ, and Paul Springer of Unionville PA. The full results would show other great performances, including the 1:52.96 800 by Elliot Rhodes of Germantown Academy. (full summary below).
But this night belonged to the 2 mile crowd.
Proving that it takes more than two runners to break two records, Forys and Springer smartly used the planned and completely selfless support of two West Chester Henderson runners and Boyertown's Jason Weller; along with each other; to post what is most probably the best one-two prep 2-mile ever run on a PA track. When the clock stopped, Forys ran 8:48.99, Springer 8:52.86 and Weller 9:08.42. (See Splits and Records below).
In only his second year as a high school coach, Unionville's Bill Moss spent the hours leading up to the race virtually glued to the finish line area, talking about the race to come and his amazement at the athlete who will be leaving his program in a few short weeks. As Moss watched the start of the race, it looked for a brief second like the perfectly laid plans may hit the track. Springer was pushed to the inside and stumbled just after the start, buried in the back of the pack. After righting himself, he quickly worked his way to the outside and within 50 meters, had settled in behind West Chester Henderson's Andrew Jervis and Chris Aldrich, along with Forys and Weller.
The race was on.
Henderson coach Kevin Kelly had wanted to have an elite two-mile field since he successfully launched this meet in 2006. Forys, Springer and Weller fit that wish perfectly. Working with Colts Neck coach Jim Schlentz and Moss, the three developed a plan to share the load. On the drawing board, the plan called for Jervis to take the first two laps, Aldrich to take the third, and then for Weller, Forys and Springer to each lead the 4th through 6th laps before letting the race become every man for himself.
That's how they drew it up. And except for Springer's blip at the beginning, that's exactly how it unfolded.
Forys was all praise for the track itself and his competitors immediately following the race. "I can't say enough about the track and facilty... and the guys in the race, they were the reason it all happened."
Jervis led the first lap in 65.6, and followed up with a 67.1 for a 2:12.7 800. Aldrich picked it up for the third lap, splitting a 68. Again, Forys..."The Henderson kids did it perfectly."
Springer describes the plan and how each athlete got ready to take their turn at the front, keeping the pace that would be so vital to setting any records. "We'd each move out by the 300 mark and then cut back in after the next person had passed."
Lap four was the responsibility of Weller. He nailed it, running a 66.0 that Schlentz says "made the race."
Heading into laps five and six, both Forys and Springer knew it was crunch time. First up front for the start of the final mile was Forys. "The 5th and 6th laps are usually the ones that hurt the most," Springer understated. "So Craig running a 66 on the 5th lap was great."
Forys was equally as complimentary of Springer when talking about the Unionville runner's effort on the 6th lap. "He dropped a 66. That kind of made the race right there because that's where I was in pain and if he wasn't there to pull that, I don't know where I would have ended up."
Forys said Springer let him go by for the 7th lap. At that point, Forys said, he was feeling great again. "So I started rolling with 600 left to pick it up a little."
Springer says that even when Forys opened a small gap, he still felt strong. "But I don't think I quite had the pop since I haven't done any true speed yet."
Forys continued to open a gap and had about a two second lead as they hit the bell lap. Forys had run a low-65, while Springer was a 66. As Forys opened it up on the backstretch, he closed through the 3200 mark in a 61.5, and according to Schlentz, ran 2:06.7 over the final 800.
Not to be lost in this race were the great times by Weller, 3rd place in a PR 9:08.42 and 4th place 9:18.92 by Germantown Friends' Max Kaulbach, whose mark set a Friends' League and school 3200 meter record by over 24 seconds. Weller was pleased with his time, especially considering that he had a tough dual meet on Wednesday, running the 800, 1600, 3200 and 400. "I tried to stay with them, but it was a tough pace. We were really flying. Weller hopes to join the sub-9 club at states.
As for Forys and Springer, they both have the Nike Outdoor Nationals 2-mile on their respective radars. "If the weather is like last year" (70's and comfortable) says Springer, "we may be able to do it again." Forys was simply happy to get it done now. "I had a shot last year, but with low iron, it didn't work out. With this weather, this is probably my last shot to do it."
Forys will run the requisite New Jersey meets, but isn't expecting to do anything quick until NON, and then a week later, in the 1500 at USATF Junior Nationals. He's anxious for that race after splitting 4:04 point on his DMR anchor at the Penn Relays. Springer will focus solely on the 3200 at districts and states, and then go for mile PR on this same track on June 8th at the Pennsylvania Distance Festival, a week prior to NON.
Both Forys and Springer will look back on May 4th as a special night of racing. Both will remember the help they received from Jervis, Aldrich and Weller. But both won't forget the contributions they received from each other. "Hopefully," Forys said, "Paul got a little bit out of me helping, because he helped me a lot."
No Craig, we don't think anyone who was privileged to see this race with forget either.
Craig Forys (by Colts Neck coach Jim Schlentz)
65.6 (Andrew Jervis - Henderson).
67.1 2:12.7 (Jervis)
68.0 3:20.7 (Chris Aldrich - Henderson)
66.0 4:26.7 (Jason Weller)
66.5 5:33.2 (Craig Forys)
66.0 6:39.2 (Paul Springer)
65.1 7:44.3 (every man for himself)
61.5 to 3200
2:06.7 last 800
Paul Springer (by Unionville coach Bill Moss)
The Records Broken:
Forys broke the 8:52.0 NJ 2-mile record held by Charlie Logan of Bernards which was set in 1979. Forys also set the 3K state best time with a hand 8:15.5, breaking the 2004 8:17.90 by Mohamed Khadraoui, Kennedy HS NJ.
Springer broke the 8:56.56 2-mile record set by Lewisburg's Chris Spooner in 2004. He also broke the 8:58.9 3200 state best by Perkiomen Valley's Mike Connelly in 1983 with a FAT time of 8:49.84, and the 8:21.07 3000 time of Interboro's Bo Smart with a hand-timed 8:18.4.