Lukas Verzbicas' debut on the track where he begins running for the University of Oregon next fall was a smash hit.
The 18-year-old from Orland Park crushed the national high school record for the two-mile with a time of 8 minutes, 29.46 seconds in Saturday's Prefontaine Classic at Eugene, Ore.
"It just felt like it was all coming together the last few weeks,'' Verzbicas said in a text message. "8:29 is the exact time I planned and believed I could run. All I did was come here and execute.''
Running in a field with some of the world's elite distance runners, including double world champion Bernard Lagat of the United States, Verzbicas hung onto the back of the pack until the final three laps.
A relatively slow pace in the first mile -- 4:11 -- allowed Verzbicas to stay in contact for more than half the race, giving him a better shot at the record.
"It didn't hurt,'' he deadpanned in the text message.
As the front-runners pulled away, the recent Sandburg High School grad still kept his focus. A crowd alerted to his quest helped spur Verzbicas through the final lap, when he need to run faster than 65 seconds for the record. He did that easily, covering the final 200 meters in 30 seconds.
Lagat won in 8:13.62. Verzbicas was last among the 11 who finished in a field of 14.
"Before the race, I knew I couldn't embarrass myself in front of thousands of these people so I got really concentrated,'' he said. "The crowd was amazing and made me feel good the entire race. It's one of those moments when you feel so well that you don't even feel the pain while running."
Verzbicas' time was 11 seconds better than his previous personal best, which is the national high school indoor record.
Only in the last two weeks has Verzbicas, a world-class junior triathlete, been focusing only on running. He is training for the World Junior Triathlon Championships in September.
After next week's high school dream mile at the Adidas Grand Prix meet in New York, he will return his attention to triathlon training.
"I can't wait to come to Oregon and perform in front of such a crowd every race," Verzbicas said.