Dylan Throop says he has never run an all-out 400 meters. Prior to a quick road trip to Edison, N.J., this past weekend, the General McLane senior also had never run a 5,000 -- time trial or race -- on the track.
Even a novice track fan probably could guess that the defending PIAA Class AA XC champion will rack up some more track 5Ks -- and maybe a 10,000 or two -- as he takes his running career to the next level.
On Saturday night, Throop averaged under 70.8 seconds for each of the 12.5 laps in dominating the marquee event of the GSTC High School Fall Showcase, turning in one of the fastest track 5,000s ever by a Pennsylvania prep.
"It felt incredible," Throop said Sunday of his 14:44.99 while traveling back from the meet at Thomas Edison Park in the Garden State. "Just being able to go out at night on a nice lit track and kind of run independently from everyone but yet still be conscious about trying to get a good time, it definitely felt great."
According to MileSplit's database, his performance is No. 4 all time in the state behind Noah Affolder (14:18.26), Zach Kinne (14:38.43) and Dalton Hengst (14:44.58). While Throop's run was basically a wire-to-wire solo performance that ended in an 18.5-second victory, the trio above him on PA's all-time list all benefited from a truly competitive race all around them.
Affolder was third in the 2017 Texas Distance Festival hot heat that featured 10 sub-15:00 runs, while Kinne was sixth at the same meet in March 2019 that had 14 run in the 14s. Meanwhile, Hengst finished deep in a collegiate field at the Bison Outdoor Classic at Bucknell University to open a remarkable 5K-3K double for the then unattached senior in April 2018.
Noting that a 14:50 run in New Jersey would have made him "a happy guy," Throop put himself at the front of the elite race, getting an added bonus in the form of his first race with a rabbit. According to Throop, the pacesetter even being part of the equation for the boys' hot heat was a result of some pre-race miscommunication between the Lancer standout and the masked, hat-wearing runner.
"They had us do introductions where we would run by and say out name, and right before it was my turn, I was talking to the rabbit from the girls race," Throop said of the chance meeting. "I asked him, 'Can you give me splits for like 72, that's what I'm planning to run today?' I just meant for him to give me the clock times, and he's like, 'Yeah, I think I can probably do a mile at 4:48.'
"I was like, 'Oh, you don't need to do that. I was just looking for splits.' He said, 'Oh, I can definitely do splits.' I didn't know if he was being serious or not (about pacing), and it turns out he was being serious. He ended up pacing me for three laps. At the end of the race, he told me that I beat his PR so that was kind of fun."
Throop noted that he planned to be "a little bit more conservative for the first part" but cruised through the opening 1,600 in 4:39. On his own after the metric mile, the eventual winner strung together a trio of 69-second laps while the rest of the field had slowed to 72s to 75s per lap.
"I definitely didn't notice it in the race because I was trying to get into a relaxing pace," he said of picking up the tempo. "I thought I was hitting them pretty consistently, but I guess I got a little juiced in that 2nd K. It happens.
"Around that time, I heard (Downingtown West senior Aiden) Barnhill was kinda close, he wasn't on my tail but he was like 5-10 seconds behind, so I knew I was a little bit pressed there. Every time I try to win a consistent race, I always make sure that I am well ahead of everyone else by the second or third lap and that was what I was able to accomplish. The plan was to do 72s and cut down in the last K almost, try to hit like 68s or 69s."
Through 3K, Throop was clocked in 8:45.71 and had an almost 13-second gap on a field that included a state independent school champion from Virginia, other top Pennsylvanians, and New York and New Jersey runners. His advantage was almost 23 seconds at the bell as the University of Pennsylvania commit closed in 69.4.
"Coach and I dialed in a track workout last week," Throop said of any change in his XC training to prep for his track 5K debut. "That was about it. We had a few reps I did there and of course I did a few tempo runs on the roads but not much changed.
"I think my mileage tapered off from last week in preparation because I did not want to be too fatigued going into it. I was pretty well rested before the competition."
Throop's top performance on the track prior to the 5K was a 9:38.87 as a sophomore in the PIAA AAA 3,200 final at Shippensburg. His 1,600 PR, a 4:36.29 indoor run at Youngstown State in January of this year, almost was bettered en route to his New Jersey victory.
"I was actually doing really well when he was running with us," Throop said of his debut with a rabbit. "I was kind of upset that he couldn't hold it for a couple more laps. It was definitely a new experience that I liked."
Over the past two XC seasons, Throop has met few who have been able to match his ability to keep the throttle firmly planted to the floor. For the second consecutive fall, he opened eyes statewide with a 15:30 performance, with the 2020 clocking coming during a seemingly endless parade of dual meets for District 10 teams.
Throop noted that the effort September 19 at Fairview came as somewhat of a surprise on a more challenging layout than last year's run at Lock Haven's West Branch circuit.
"They have a pretty intense 5K course up at Pleasant Ridge (Park) that has quite a bit of hills so I was pretty surprised when I was able to clock in that 15:30 especially when I wasn't feeling like superbly good in the morning," Throop said. "Of course, Michael (Grechanyy of Fairview) was my only competition from D10 there, and he ran a great race, too.
"I was definitely surprised I was able to pace myself for a 15:30 and kind of repeat what I did last year on a much easier course. That's definitely when I realized I was in great shape, but over the summer, I noticed a really large improvement in my training, too."
In looking at the remainder of the 2020 XC season, Throop is laser focused on defending his Class AA title.
"Goals, of course, are states and obviously since we have a new venue for districts, I'm trying to set a pretty good precedent there, if we continue to have the meet there," he said. "If not, then I guess I'll take whatever time I get.
"Really, states is kind of where it's at right now. And looking to maybe edge on (Patrick) Anderson's time (of 15:25.6) last year would be pretty great. That's kind of what I'm concentrating on is a 15:20 effort."