Behind The Numbers
Reed Brown's Next Challenge: Meeting High Expectations
By Harry Hall
When Jimmy Johnson took helm of the Miami Dolphins, he arrived wearing two Super Bowl Rings he'd won with the Dallas Cowboys. NFL fans and officials universally wondered, "How many championships will the Dolphins win?"
Four years later, with just two playoff wins, Johnson quit.
Johnson found himself in an unenviable position: Where winning it all only meets expectations. Most of us spend all our lives scratching and scraping, trying to get to the next level, battling self-doubt, and critics who think we can't do it.
The challenges make reaching the pinnacle all that more gratifying.
But even if he had won another championship or two, Johnson wouldn't get any of that.
The impossibility to exceed expectations frequently leads to a disappointing end.
It's why I feel for Reed Brown as he prepares for his freshman year at Oregon.
Just hours before graduating from Southlake Carroll High School, Brown just did something only nine other high schoolers have done. Brown ran a sub 4:00 minute mile.
But does that performance portend greatness? Or has he peaked?
There's a precedent for each outcome. Of the nine who preceded Brown, four occurred in the last two years, so I'll give them time to build on their already impressive resumes.
Of the other five, Jim Ryun the first member of this club, is by far the most accomplished. He ran 3:59 as a high school junior in 1964, propelling him to the first of three Olympic teams. He set the mile WR and earned a 1500-meter silver medal in the 1968 Olympic Games. Marty Liquori accomplished the feat in 1968, made the Olympic Team later that year, and was twice ranked number one in the world in the mile/1500.
Alan Webb, who broke Ryun's high school record in 2001, won some national titles and set the mile American Record of 3:46.91, but he made just one Olympic team, and was eliminated in the 1500 prelim.
After breaking 4:00 in high school in 2011 and setting a national prep record of 8:29 for the two-mile, Lukas Verzbicas' collegiate running career lasted just two races. He quit the Oregon team to pursue a career as a professional triathlete.
Verzbicas won the World Junior Championship and the ITU Pan American Cup in 2011-2012, but then was badly injured in a cycling accident, and has struggled since.
While many factors go into unfulfilled expectations, one big culprit in this mixed bag of potential superstar results might be lofty expectations. Even Ryun drew criticism for only winning an Olympic Silver.
Outside of him, and maybe Liquori, the others were disappointments.
Now Brown enters a national stage where he's expected to add his name to the list of distance running legends.
Years from now, we'll see extent of Brown's success. But whatever turns his career and life take, it's highly unlikely he would find himself at the bottom of this sub-4:00 list. That distinction undoubtedly goes to Tim Danielson, who as a California high schooler in 1966, ran 3:59.4, his only sub4:00. In 2014, Danielson began serving a 50-year prison sentence for murdering his ex-wife.