Hobbs Kessler, a 17-year-old runner from Ann Arbor, Mich., broke the U.S. high school indoor mile record on Sunday at the American Track League (ATL) meet in Arkansas, where he ran to a third-place finish in 3:57.66. The ATL has been a chance for some of the world’s top track and field athletes to get back to high-profile competition early this season, but Kessler didn’t let his youth and inexperience on such a big stage stop him from dropping the biggest result of the weekend. His time beat the previous high school record of 3:57.81 that Drew Hunter set in 2016.
Nick Willis broke 4:00 in the mile for the first time on February 8, 2003.
Hobbs Kessler was born on March 15, 2003 — the first person born AFTER Willis' first sub-4:00 who has gone on to break 4:00.
Kessler ran 3:57 Sunday — & a 37-year-old Willis ran 3:56 in the same race! pic.twitter.com/Wf7eIbboRB
— Jonathan Gault (@jgault13) February 8, 2021
A lifetime best
Kessler’s run is impressive no matter how you look at it, but perhaps the most mind-boggling stat is the jump he made on Sunday from his previous mile PB. Going into the ATL race, he had never even broken 4:20 in the indoor mile (according to the USATF website), and now he has dipped more than two seconds under four minutes. Last summer, he ran an outdoor mile PB of 4:08, which is impressive, but still so far off his new lifetime best of 3:57.
With his result, Kessler (who has signed to run at Northern Arizona University) moves into second place all-time in the world U20 rankings for the indoor mile (behind fellow American German Fernandez, who ran 3:55.02 in 2009). He is also just the 12th American to run a sub-four-minute mile in high school, and he owns the third-fastest time among those runners, coming in after Alan Webb (3:53.43) and Jim Ryun (3:55.3), both of whom ran their high school PBs outdoors.
Kessler finished in third on Sunday, crossing the line behind second-place Nick Willis of New Zealand and Algeria’s Takieddine Hedeilli, who took the win in 3:56.79. Willis is a two-time Olympic medallist in the 1,500m (one silver, one bronze), and he has broken four minutes in the mile for the past 19 years. In fact, Willis ran his first sub-four mile in February 2003 — a month before Kessler was born.
While Kessler was unknown to many people heading into the ATL mile, Willis was well aware of him, as the two train together in Ann Arbor. Moving forward, though, Kessler’s name will be well known in the running world, and many fans of the sport will wait eagerly to see what he does next.