Behind The Numbers
Brown-Worley Rivalry, One for the Ages
By Harry Hall
Sports rivalries ignite sports passions. For generations, sports fans have debated and argued about Frazier-Ali, Evert-Navratilova, Palmer-Nicklaus.
For the last year, Texas track has enjoyed its own, as two athletes have continually outdone the other. They have elevated the state’s high school distance fortunes, possibly influencing it for years.
For months, Reed Brown of Southlake Carroll and Comal Canyon’s Sam Worley, have pushed and challenged each other to feats never seen in Texas distance running history.
As both now part ways and move on to college competition, either one could build the case for superiority.
In last fall’s xc season, the Oregon-bound Brown won the Foot Locker National Championship, easily defeating future Texas Longhorn Worley, who placed 8th. But at the Texas state championships, Reed could only take 4th against Worley’s 6A title. Worley also placed runner-up in the National Nike Championship where Brown managed 6th.
But cross-country was only a warm-up for spring.
At April’s Texas Relays, Worley and Brown were the only high schoolers invited to run the Jerry Thompson Mile Run. Worley took it with a PR 4:00.61, making him the 11th fastest HS miler of all-time defeating, among others, Olympic 1500-meter silver medalist Leo Manzano. Brown placed 4th in 4:03.23.
Then question then went from, “Who was better?” to “Could one or both run a sub 4-minute mile?”
They met again six weeks later at the UIL Texas High School Track and Field Championships at Mike A. Myers Stadium. The sub-4:00 wasn’t in play, as the race was 1600 meters, and conversions don’t count. (the mile is about 10 yards longer).
Neither runner was fresh. Reed won the 3200 the day before; earlier in the night, Worley captured the 800.
From the gun Reed pushed the pace. Through three laps, the duo left the field and were just off a four- minute clip. Throughout the race Worley lurked. On the final backstretch, Worley surged, taking a short lead. On the homestretch, Reed responded and opened a half-step gap. But Worley made one more move, and won 4:02.49 to Reed’s 4:03.30.
The one-on-one rivalry was finished, and it was hard to say that Worley didn’t get the better of it.
But the two were still focused on history. Each one would take at least one more shot at the sub-4:00.
On June 1, at the Festival of Miles in St. Louis, Brown ran his last half in 1:56.88 to finish in 3:59.30, making him the 4th fastest high schooler of all-time, and the first high schooler in Texas history to break 4:00.
Worley took his final shot at the Brooks PR Meet, June 17 in Renton, WA. He won, but only in 4:02.04.
Like Brown, his high school career was complete.
Unlike most rivalries, many of which go on beyond the athletes’ prime and sometimes become sideshows or almost caricatures of themselves, this one stops with the stock of both rising. Sure, they will meet many times more, but their fabulous high school careers are over, each one claiming remarkable achievements.
I’m not sure either possesses the speed for the 1500 (incredibly, Worley’s 400 PR is only a :50), so one or both will move up to the 5/10k. They will almost certainly meet again, for bigger stakes.
The rivalry might just be maturing.