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Teenaged phenom Hobbs Kessler turns pro, signs with Adidas

The American U20 1,500m record holder will still attend Northern Arizona University, but he won't compete as a collegiate athlete

Photo by: Instagram/willisnick

American record holder Hobbs Kessler has announced that he is turning pro and signing with Adidas. The 18-year-old from Ann Arbor, Mich., has had an incredible season, breaking the American high school indoor mile record (he ran 3:57.66 in February) and national U20 1,500m record (his 3:34.36 in late May bettered Jim Ryun‘s 55-year-old mark of 3:36.1). Kessler was set to join the track team at Northern Arizona University (NAU) this fall, but he now plans to only attend as a student. 

Since his breakout performance in the indoor mile earlier this year, track fans have debated whether Kessler should turn pro. He committed to NAU last fall, but after such an incredible run (and continued success throughout the season), it became clearer and clearer that Kessler already has what it takes to compete as a professional.

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In an interview with the website Track and Field News, Kessler said his mind was made up and that, despite his great runs this year, he was sure he would stick to the collegiate route. Then he went to the Portland Track Festival in May, when he ran his American U20 1,500m record, and he started to reconsider his options.

“The 3:34 was the turning point for all of this,” he said. “I’m in a position now that I don’t know that I will be in later, so I’m jumping on the opportunity that I have now and riding my momentum forward.” Kessler said he talked the decision over with multiple people from his family and team, and they all told him that going pro was the right call.

“It’s a bummer to miss out on the college [and] NCAA experience, but the positives outweigh the negatives,” he said. “Now I’m in a good position. My name is hot and I have a really good setup here running-wise and this gives me the ability to stay with my support system.” 

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When asked about the prospect of turning pro in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, which occurred before his decision to sign with Adidas, Kessler said, “the benefits of going pro would have to outweigh missing the experience of going to college.” While he will be missing out on the NCAA experience, he is still going to attend NAU and live with members of the school track team. 

Kessler currently trains in Ann Arbor with former University of Michigan coach Ron Warhurst in a crew with two-time Olympic medallist Nick Willis and other high-profile athletes. Kessler will continue to work with Warhurst as a pro, and he will return to Ann Arbor in the spring and summer when he’s not at school.

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Kessler has had a year of many firsts, and he has another coming up on Thursday evening, when he will race the 1,500m at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. He qualified for the trials with his run in Portland last month, a result that gives him the fifth-best seed time in the entire field. The first round of the men’s 1,500m kicks off at 6 p.m. PT.