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Archive for Sunday, April 20, 2003

Magnificent mile

Ex-Jayhawk Gruber beats record-holder Webb in top event

April 20, 2003

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The talk this week at the Kansas Relays was whether Alan Webb -- the young American distance runner who broke Kansas University alumnus Jim Ryun's long-standing prep mile record -- could win on Ryun's home track.

He couldn't because another Jayhawk wouldn't let him.

Kansas graduate Charlie Gruber overtook Webb early on the back stretch of the final lap and withstood a late charge by Webb to win the invitational mile run in 4:05.21 Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Webb finished second at 4:06.73.

"I didn't want anybody to come in and beat me on my home track," said Gruber, who graduated from KU last year but is taking graduate classes and is a volunteer assistant coach for the Jayhawk track squad.

"But you can't feed off one person too much, or someone else steals the race," Gruber said. "It was definitely a little motivation."

Gruber's victory motivated the few hundred fans that stuck around Memorial Stadium on a gloomy day to watch Saturday's events.

Early morning lightning postponed the premier day of the four-day event for two hours. Most of the afternoon went without a hitch, and officials made up considerable time.

But high winds, rain and increased lightning returned just after the mile race, forcing a stoppage with eight events remaining.

"One of these years we're going to get great weather to go along with the already great performances," said meet director Tim Weaver, who had to cancel nearly 40 events on last year's final day because of lightning.

"But, just like last year, we were certain that we made the right decision for our athletes."

The weather affected the mile race, as high winds and a slow start meant a sub-four-minute mile wouldn't occur.

Kansas University graduate Charlie Gruber, third from left,
prepares to make his move during the final lap of the men's
1,600-meter race. Gruber defeated standout runner Alan Webb (not
pictured) in the event Saturday during the Kansas Relays at
Memorial Stadium.

Kansas University graduate Charlie Gruber, third from left, prepares to make his move during the final lap of the men's 1,600-meter race. Gruber defeated standout runner Alan Webb (not pictured) in the event Saturday during the Kansas Relays at Memorial Stadium.

"The first couple of laps; I wanted to establish enough position; I wanted to be close to the front," said Webb, who held the lead after the second pacesetter -- former KU runner and current Free State High assistant coach Matt Norton -- dropped out midway through the second lap. "I definitely wanted to hold it together as much as I could.

"I knew that back stretch was going to sort of bite me in the back a little bit, but I didn't want to give up."

Webb didn't, but Gruber passed him less than a fourth of the way into the final lap, and then held on down the home stretch.

"I tended to get out front and be right behind him (in the past) with the leaders and the rabbit," Gruber said. "I kind of got lost and pushed to the back and spit basically out the back today.

"In years past, I would have panicked and wasted energy to get to the front, but I stayed patient and fought my way back to the front."

Gruber has beaten Webb twice in three career meetings. Webb said he would be ready for another meeting, as long as it wasn't on KU's Jim Hershberger track.

"I know Jim Ryun ran a lot of great races here, and the Kansas Relays have been around forever," Webb said with a laugh. "It was a really great weekend, and I think I learned a lot."

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