There certainly have been a lot of big breakout stars that have emerged across the state this season, but none bigger than Kingsway junior Kyle Rakitis.
Rakitis started to open a lot of eyes when he dropped a 4:10.15 1,600 at the Holmdel Twilight meet on May 15, and then last weekend he put together an epic performance at the South Jersey, Group 4 Championships last Friday at Washington Township High School in Sewell.
In the 1,600 last Friday night, after a long weather delay, Rakitis blasted a 56.0 final 400 and came from behind to edge Southern's Jackson Braddock right at the line, finishing first in 4:08.58, the fastest time ever run in state sectional history (all Sections and Groups combined). Braddock crossed second in 4:08.65. Braddock was unfortunately DQ'd for interference. Rakitis also split 1:53.1 on the 4x800 last Friday that placed fifth.
The next day, Rakitis placed second to Braddock in the 3,200 in 9:26.61, and came back later to nip Braddock in the 800 to win the two-lapper in 1:53.13, which broke the South Jersey, Group 4 sectional record. Rakitis has also run a PR of 9:14.53 in the 3,200 this season.
NJ MileSplit recently caught up with Rakitis for an in depth Q and A before he runs the 1,600 at today's State Group 4 Championships at Franklin High School.
Rakitis talked about how his training for hockey when he was younger made him realize that he could be a talented distance runner, and how his current training with a state champion from Kingsway has helped his development, and much, much more.
So, kick back and enjoy our latest installment of Feature Friday as we shine the spotlight on Kingsway junior Kyle Rakitis, who has quickly become one of the best milers in the country.
Kyle Rakitis Interview
NJM: What's your reaction to what you accomplished at the South Jersey, Group 4 meet, winning the 1,600 in a state sectional record 4:08.58, running 1:53 point in the 4x800, placing second in the 3,200 in 9:26 in the 3,200, and winning the 800 in a SJ Group 4 sectional record 1:53.13.
Before I start, I want to thank all my coaches, Coach Hess, Coach Murray, Coach Carter, Coach Herrigan, and Coach Lynch. Without them, I wouldn't be as fast as I am. But most of all I want to thank my mom and dad for making me the person I am today, and helping me get to where I am today.
I was very happy with the way I ran last weekend. Last year at our sectional during the indoor season, I had trouble with doing the triple, so coming back this year and doing what I did, made me very happy.''
What does it mean to you to now be the fastest miler in state sectional history? No one in state history had ever broken 4:10 in a state sectional race before!
It means a lot! Running under 4:10 at our sectional just gave me a lot more confidence going into states and makes me believe that I can run a lot faster.
How about your strategy in the 800 and 1600, Kyle. Was your plan all along to wait until the last straightaway to try to catch Braddock the way you did?
Pretty much, regardless of whether the race was fast or slow, my plan was to race with Braddock. I have been training very hard for the past few months, so I knew I could race with him.
What was the feeling like when you passed Braddock and got across the line just ahead of him in the 1,600? Must have been a thrilling feeling?
I have lots of respect for Braddock, he's one of the best runners in the country, and winning that race felt incredible.
Obviously, Braddock came into the race with a state leading 4:06.25 in the 1,600, so are you surprised by what you did in that race or did you feel like you had a good shot to run that fast and win?
Unfortunately for Braddock he was DQ'd after that 1,600 and you guys won't get to race again in the 1,600 this weekend or at the Meet of Champions. What's your feeling on the way that race ended with that DQ? Did you feel like it was a good call or bad call?
What are your plans for this weekend at the State Group 4 Championships, Kyle?
At the moment, I will only be running the 1600, the 800, and the 4x400.
What are your time goals for your races this weekend?
Your performance last week makes you the favorite to win the 1,600 at the Meet of Champions. Every NJ track and field athlete dreams of winning a Meet of Champions title. What are your thoughts on what it would mean to you to become a Meet of Champions winner?
There has only been one Sub 4 miler in NJ high school history and that happened over 50 years ago? How much of a goal is it for you to break 4 minutes in high school, and what would it mean to you if you were able to get under 4 while still in high school?
It would be amazing to break 4 minutes in the mile while still being in high school. With there only being a handful of guys to do so, it would be an honor to be on that list with those guys.
During this indoor season you ran 4:17.39 for 1,600, so tell me what's the biggest difference between yourself then and now. Obviously, you are much more fit. What specifically can you point to as the areas you've worked on the most in your training/workouts to drop your times so much?
Our opportunities were very limited during the indoor season, and I knew I could run a lot faster than 4:17. The way we progress in our training, I'm at where I was I expected to be at. I have also been training with former Kingsway state champ Tom Cooke (2012). We push each other to our limits and make each other better runners.
How, when and why did you get involved in track and field? How did the whole track and field thing happen?
What do you love the most about being a track and field athlete and about being a distance runner?
What I love the most about Track and Field and being a distance runner is how competitive this sport is. If you want to beat someone or win a race, your going to have to give it your all.
I would say my first huge breakthrough moment for me was finishing third in the Freshman Mile (4:28.56) at the New Balance Nationals. To be up there as one of the top freshmen in the nation made me believe I could run with anyone.
What do you feel are your greatest strengths as a distance runner? Obviously you have a big kick!!!
I feel like my biggest strength as a distance runner is my range. Not a lot of runners can run very fast from the 800 all the way up to the 5K.
Who is your favorite college/pro distance runner to watch and why? And what have you learned from watching them?
While I love this sport, I really try to just focus on how I run. There are a ton of great runners, but I try to be the best runner I can be.