The Delaware Mile Challenge Delivers With Sam Parsons Making History

By Kyle Merber

April 13, 2022

If only Thomas Jefferson knew how long it’d take for every state to have a sub-four minute mile. Maybe he would have written some additional bonus incentives into the Constitution. On the surface, there is nothing comparatively difficult about breaking the barrier within the confines of invisible lines drawn on a map, but it creates a reason to put together a high-level track meet in parts of the country that have never had one.

The few exceptions to that statement about difficulty would maybe be places like Alaska, due to variable conditions, or Colorado, since it’s all at altitude, or New Jersey, because of the pollution. But despite these obstacles, a sub-four has been run in each of these states. However, there remain several states that have never hosted a race in which that milestone is broken — including Delaware.

Enter: Tinman Elite’s Sam Parsons, a native Delawarean, who wanted to cross The First State off the short list of those that remain without a sub-four. On Saturday night, the burden Delaware has been carrying for 235 years was finally lifted thanks to Parsons’ 3:58.17 mile on his old high school’s track. In addition to the men’s race, there was an impressive women’s field assembled, with Molly Sughroue winning in 4:34.56.

In an exclusive text message interview with The Lap Count in response to a congratulatory message, Parsons shared that racing at The Long Island Mile ‘really inspired me to do my own.’ I will never forget the hug Sam gave me after the race. It was his first time breaking four, and I was a few days removed from sports hernia surgery. He picked me up in the air in celebration and when he shook me it felt like I re-tore my adductor!

As badly as I want to take all the credit for being the first person to ever put on a track meet, Parsons worked with his high school coach, Patrick Castagno, to make what I am sure was one of the more rewarding experiences of his career happen. Of all the pressure-filled environments to compete in, there are few less understanding than competing in your hometown, where the expectation is that a state title ten years ago means you’re currently destined for Olympic gold. For Parsons to still show up and execute in those conditions is impressive.

Now just Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming still need a sub-four. These remaining states aren’t necessarily a hot bed of professional running talent, and are pretty sparsely populated, so it makes sense. How do you expect a kid from Hawaii to believe he’s capable of running a sub-four minute mile if he’s never actually seen it? It’s a chicken or the egg situation! New Hampshire is the most surprising one left on the list (@Eric Jenkins), although Dartmouth’s Steve Mangan ran 4:01 to win Heps in 2013 on their flat 200m track (which converts to sub-4). And while not exactly what we are looking for, Elle Purrier-St. Pierre’s average tempo run in Vermont would probably net more points on the World Athletics scoring tables.

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Kyle Merber

After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.