It's as American as hot dogs, apple pie and that car company
that makes Corvettes.
And whether it was the full 5,280 feet or its shorter high school metric cousin, Pennsylvania preps lit up tracks in the mile, turning in national-leading marks this past weekend.
The most notable runs both occurred on big indoor ovals in Ohio at SPIRE and Youngstown State's WATTS.
In a meeting of top 10 finishers at the recent Champs National XC finale in San Diego, Drew Griffith of Butler ran down Connor Ackley of Hilliard Davidson (OH) in the 1,600 at the SPIRE Scholastic Showcase. Griffith, who was eighth at Balboa Park to the Ohioan's 5th, finished in 4:07.31, an almost 9-second PR over his big meet opener last outdoor season, while Ackley checked in at 4:08.23.
Always willing to set the pace, Griffith employed a different strategy, starting almost at the back of the pack over the first 300-meter lap. The Tornado junior worked his way up to the shoulder of the Ohio standout as the pair started the bell lap, finally making a pass that stuck with about 150 to go.
In addition to being PA#1 this year, Griffith also is the fastest ever in PA and claimed US#1 this winter at 1,600, with Ackley also a state leader and US#2. Other PA middle distance stars benefited from the pace of those at the front, with Ringgold junior Ryan Pajak (PA#4 & US#13 4:13.69) and Blackhawk's Ethan Papa (PA#9 4:17.34) also clocking PRs.
Watch the Mile Race at the Ocean Breeze Invitational
Most of the rewriting of the 1,600 and mile lists was accomplished at the Ocean Breeze Invitational on Staten Island, N.Y.
In the mile on the banked oval, Hatboro Horsham's Brian DiCola also stayed off the pace early on before taking the lead with three laps remaining. Soon after, the senior gapped the hot heat field, leading a total of seven Pennsylvanians under 4:20 for the mile. His 4:11.25 clocking was worth a 20-meter margin at the finish and puts the Penn State signee at PA#1 and US#11 for the year and No. 10 on the all-time state charts.
Susquehannock's Matthew O'Brien (4:14.27) and La Salle senior Ryan McGinley (4:17.60) stayed the closest, with Drew Brill (4:17.77) of La Salle claiming the second heat for fourth overall in the mile. A separate camera at 1,600 credited DiCola in 4:09.87, O'Brien in 4:12.85 and McGinley in 4:15.85 for Nos. 2, 3 and 5 thus far this year in PA.
All told last weekend, the top 9 and 10 of the 12 fastest so far this year in PA in the 1,600 all established lifetime bests, with 2023's 13 fastest and 18 of the top 20 times in the state being recorded.
Above - Sophia Rodriguez soars to a State Record
Back in Ohio at YSU, Dallastown Area eighth-grader Sophia Rodriguez turned heads and made headlines with another performance well beyond her years. Sitting in fourth after the opening 400 of the fast heat of the 1,600, she took the lead and control of the race less than 200 meters later.
The 14-year-old pulled away, adding to her lead on each lap. She crossed the line in 4:56.94, almost 13 seconds ahead of her 10th-grade sister, Victoria, in a 1-2-3 sweep for PA runners. According to MileSplit's indoor rankings, Sophia Rodriguez is the nation's fastest eighth-grader by almost 8 seconds at 1,600 and almost 45 seconds at 3,200.
Her performance Saturday also was worthy of an all-time comparison for middle schoolers at 1,600. According to MileSplit's database, Lexy Halladay-Lowry of Idaho leads the all-time list at 1,600 for 8th-graders, running 4:53.40 in 2016. The current BYU All-American also blasted a 4:48.43 mile at New Balance Nationals Indoor that same year.
Also making her presence known at Ocean Breeze was Claire Zubey. The Owen J. Roberts senior moved up to No. 3 on the 2023 PA mile list with her 4:58.83 performance.