EUGENE, Ore. -- Bernie Montoya wanted to do something special in front of the Olympic trials crowd, and so he showed them a burst of speed in the final 300 meters of Saturday's Nike Elite Camp boys mile, closing in 55 seconds to win in 4:08.01.
"I was thinking run your race strong," Montoya, of Cibola (Yuma, Ariz.) said. "I was coming back from a two-week break, so if it's there with 300 to go it's there ... When I made my move I heard the crowd go 'oooh' and I wanted to pay those guys back and run a heck of a kick for them."
Nike's high school invitees arrived in Oregon on Tuesday to begin the shoe company's third annual summer camp for elite cross country runners. They had seats at Hayward Field for Thursday night's 5,000 meter finals at the Olympic trials, and Friday morning they had a guided tour of Pre's Rock, the memorial at the site where Steve Prefontaine died in a car accident in 1975.
"I'm a huge fan (of Prefontaine)," Montoya said. "It's amazing. I never thought I would be in that spot. It was really cool to go there."
So filled with all of that inspiration, the high school runners came to the track somewhat conflicted about whether to run as hard as possible in the mile races. Some knew that given a few weeks' lay off, it was not possible to run at their best.
Jacob Burcham of Cabell Midland (Ona, W.V.), who began a break from training after he won the New Balance Nationals mile, was third in 4:11.22.
"It's the best atmosphere you can get in track and field in the United States," Burcham said. "Nick Symmonds talked to us before the race and one of the pieces of advice he had, he said the crowd is going to be loud and everything so don't go out in a 55."
Nick Ryan of Fayetteville-Manlius (Manlius, N.Y.) took the pace early and kept it honest, running 61.5 for the first lap. The second lap slowed to 65.5 and the third lap was about 65.1.
There was still a pack running together when Montoya took off, going even earlier than he did to win the adidas Dream Mile in New York City earlier this month. Jake Leingang of Bismarck (Bismarck, N.D.) was second in 4:10.60. Ryan, Ben Malone, Cody Brazeal and Andrew Gardner all finished within .05 seconds.
The girls, or at least some of them, weren't eager to race four laps.
The pace dawdled with an opening lap of 80.6 seconds and a second of 76.5.
Amy-Eloise Neale of Glacier Peak (Snohomish, Wash.) decided she'd had enough of that and picked up the tempo on the third lap.
Hannah Meier of Gross Pointe South (Gross Pointe Farms, Mich.) bit on the faster pace and ultimately had the best kick in the field, winning the race in 4:55.68. Neale was second in 4:56.18 and Wesley Frazier got third in 4:56.46.
"I've never raced at Hayward Field. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Neale said. "It was amazing to see the energy in the stadium, and then you stand on the line and see yourself up on the Jumbotron."
Neale was disappointed that the pace went out so slow. She thought it might be an opportunity to get a PR, something she hadn't done in the mile this season. And the prospect of a time over five minutes in her first race at Hayward Field didn't set well.
"My first race of the season I ran 4:57, and it started snowing half way through that," she said. "So yeah, I wanted to be better than that."