The Epic Prospect Invite 1600m: A Second Look Back

One of the deepest 1600m fields in IHSA history occurred at the Prospect Invite

images by Colin Boyle


Race video courtesy of ---> Run Hersey

Let's take another look at this past weekend's epic boy's 1600m race that took place at the Prospect Wanner Invitational. The event garnered a tremendous amount of pre-game hype because it was ticketed as the main event. Aside from the usual quality suspects that Prospect attracts every year, there were several outstanding at-large entries entered. Zach Dale (Sr., Hoffman Estates Conant), Bryce Richards (Sr., Mundelein), and Dan Santino (Jr., Chicago St. Ignatius) would no doubt make their special entries in the most appreciative way.

The best way to provide a litmus test of something special is to watch the preceding races. The first section of three was won by Elliot Nabatov of Wheeling. The junior won what was essentially a junior varsity level race in 4:35.38. No bad. The penultimate race was a few notches better as Whitney Young junior Sam Wischnewsky ran a strong last lap to win in 4:28.98. His time was good enough to win many races held around the state. However, it was going to take a much faster time Friday evening than 4:28.98 to hold up.

Let's put things in perspective before the race of the year took the starting line. The weather conditions were perfect and ripe for a great night of racing. The temperatures were still in the upper 50s and light wind at 9:15 pm. In addition, there were some quality meets around the state featuring some of Illinois' finest. At Sandburg's Pete Struck Classic, Connor McCue (Jr., West Aurora) ran 4:13.15 to beat out Ryan Clevenger (Sr., Downers Grove North) who hit his season best in 4:14.61. Chris Torpy (Jr., Sandburg) clocked 4:15.30 in that great race. Not to be outdone, Keagan Smith (Jr., Huntley) blazed 4:14.92 to win the Lincoln-Way West Warrior Invite title.

Dale put the hurt on a recording breaking field; 12 of the 15 runners surpassed the state qualifying mark of 4:22.04

But it would be the Prospect Wanner Invite that all eyes would be on. True to the report that Dale was going to go and set a fast was certainly factual. Here is the original account:

The race got out as expected with Dale opening up and ripping a fast 100m and then min 26-seconds at 200m. He settled down momentarily as Richards joined him at the hip at 250m. Heath Warren (Jr., Springfield) was surprisingly there as well. The first 400m was negotiated in 60.4 courtesy of Richards- Dale was there as well. The rest of the 15 runner field was less than two seconds off the pace.

Richards aggressively moved in front and pushed the backstretch perhaps to Dale's liking. It was clear this was going to be a fast affair. As Richards continued his assault, Warren and Connor Madell (Sr., Lyons Twp.) were desperately trying to hold on to the scorching pace that hit the halfway toll in 2:04.4. It is not known if Dale was irritated by the pace being pushed by someone other than himself because he turned up the heat to near maximum entering the all important third circuit. He was clearly in control despite Richards and Warren hanging around. The rest of the litter was spread out all over the place but looking solid.

Dale passed the 1200m in 3:07.6 and just about in the clear. He reached for another gear with 300m to go and it was all but over for his opponents. There was no way he was going to lose this race. The only calculation was how fast the winning time would be. If Dale wouldn't falter the meet record was going to be destroyed. As it were Dale continued his strong surge and won easily in 4:09.72- good for a state best and US#2 for the distance. Warren finished well in a lifetime best 4:12.31. A very surprising Jared Christensen (Sr., Rockton Hononegah) sprinted like a mad man over the final straight to snag third place away from Matt Plowman (Sr., Elmhurst York) 4:13.41-4:13.51. Richards faded to a very good 4:13.66 The rest of the supreme class followed with Pavlo Hutsalyuk (Sr., Chicago Lane Tech) 4:14.81, Madell 4:14.88; Santino blazed a super time 4:16.75 but "only" finished in 8th place. In all there were 10 runners that broke 4:20. This was the deepest and fastest "mile" field of the season, including the dandy over in the south suburbs at Sandburg High School.

Coach John Powers and his star pupil University of Illinois bound Zach Dale

It would be interesting to see where a historic race like this fits in the annals whether it's regular or post-season. Several notable distance running fiends and historians indicated that May 1, 2015 ranks right up there among the great ones. To be honest this may be the fastest and most competitive race of the season including the state championship final at the end of the month. One thing is for sure Illinois is among the very best when it comes to the MILE/1600m.

The final layout:

1) Zach Dale (Conant) 4:09.72

2) Heath Warren (Springfield) 4:12.31

3) Jared Christiansen (Hononegah) 4:13.41

4) Matt Plowman (York) 4:13.52

5) Bryce Richards (Mundelein) 4:13.66

6) Pavlo Hutsalyuk (Lane Tech) 4:14.81

7) Connor Madell (Lyons Twp.) 4:14.88

8) Dan Santino (St. Ignatius) 4:16.75

9) David Rodriguez (Hersey) 4:17.24

10) Charlie Kern Jr. (York) 4:18.44

11) Vince Zona (Lyons Twp.) 4:20.96

12) Jack LaLonde (Downers Grove South) 4:21.46

13) Mike Anderson (Prospect) 4:25.28

14) Matt Cozine (Prospect) 4:30.83

15) Nebil Mohammed (Niles North) 4:35.76