It was a crazy fast race, and Kyle Rakitis was faster than anybody.
Rakitis, Kingsway’s Virginia-bound senior, out-raced an absolutely stacked field in the Group 4 1,600 Saturday, closing in 2:02.20 for his final 800 and 58.37 for his final 400 and winning in 4:09.12 at Franklin High.
He’s the first repeat winner of the Group 4 1,600 at states in 23 years.
It wasn’t easy.
Seven runners came through the 800 between 2:06.64 and 2:07.92, which is bananas.
With a lap to go, the lead group was down to five runners – junior Akshay Vadul of Edison led the pack at 3:10.23, Clifton senior Jacob Heredia was 2nd in 3:10.30, Rakitis was sitting 3rd at 3:10.75, senior Andrew McCabe of Ridge was just behind in 3:10.87 and West Windsor-Plainsboro North senior Nikhil Makker came through in 3:10.91 – in 5th place but only four meters behind the leader.
What a race!
The last lap was insane, with all five contenders running sub-63.
But Rakitis was fastest of the group and crossed the line in a season-best 4:09.12, not far off his lifetime best.
Heredia closed in 59.98 for a 4:10.28 in 2nd, McCabe closed in 60.91 for a 4:11.78, Makker closed in 61.58 for 4:12.49 and Vadul closed in 62.80 for a 4:13.03.
Those five now rank No. 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9 in New Jersey this year.
All five negative-split the race:
2:06.92 / 2:02.20: Rakitis
2:06.64 / 2:03.64: Heredia
2:07.71 / 2:04.61: McCabe
2:07.40 / 2:05.09: Makker
2:07.26 / 2:05.77: Vadul
That’s just bonkers.
Rakitis has a 1,600 PR of 4:08.58 from his win at last year’s Meet of Champions and a full mile PR of 4:10.09 from outdoor nationals last year at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. That converts to a 4:08.64.
So however you look at it, he’s only about half a second off his lifetime best as we go into Meet of Champions / Nationals weekend.
Rakitis ranks No. 2 in South Jersey history, behind only Ocean City’s Brett Johnson, who ran 4:08.51 full mile (which converts to 4:07.07) in a meet in West Long Branch in 2008.
The last runner to win the 1,600 at Group 4 states in consecutive years was Overbrook legend Murad Campbell, who ran 4:15.69 in 1998 and 4:12.02 in 1999.
With Villanova-bound 4:05.91 miler Marco Langan of Bridgewater-Raritan and 4:08.07 1,600 runner Jackson Barna of Ridge – the Meet of Champions 3,200 winner last year – both skipping the state meet, Rakitis becomes the top seed for next weekend’s Meet of Champions (if he decides to run it).
The next four-fastest seeds are all out of the Parochial A race – Delbarton junior Collin Boler and three Union Catholic milers – soph Jimmy Wischusen [4:10.87], senior Shane Brosnan [4:10.14] and senior Myles Plummer [4:10.69].
Next-fastest seed out of states is Haddonfield senior Seth Clevenger, who won Group 2 in 4:11.90, then Delbarton junior Brian Boler [4:12.04], then Heredia, McCabe, Makker and Vadul.
What a year for the mile!
Vadul ran 4:13.03 and he’s the 13th-fastest miler in New Jersey!!!!!