By Craig Pearson
TERRE HAUTE — Before the prodigious achievement Saturday, Jordan Fife had been knocking on the door of a 4-minute mile for a few weeks.
However, the casual observer wouldn’t have known it from watching the first half of Saturday’s race at the Meyo Invitational at Notre Dame.
Go to www.flotrack.org and click on Meyo Invite on Flotrack to watch Fife pass the entire field minus one runner to break the 4-minute mark with a time of 3:59.74. If Fife started his kick a split second sooner, he would have been the first of three men to break four minutes.
The former Indiana State All-American settled at the back of the pack on the 320-meter track — most indoor tracks are 200 meters.
Fife crept up to ninth place out of the 13 runners by the end of the third lap, but he still had quite a bit of ground to make up.
Fife has always been confident in his kick, whether he was racing the steeplechase in track or in the elements on a cross country course.
But the burst he has left and his long stride down the final stretch is amazing as he passes all but Wisconsin runner Jack Bolas in a photo finish.
“It went out pretty quick, knew it would be. The rabbit in the race is a guy that trains with me [with Team Indiana Elite],” Fife said. “A lot of the college guys just went right with him. I tried to feel out the pace. I was content to be in last for the first lap or two.
“I didn’t really want to get into too much traffic. Slowly started picking myself up. I just tried to get myself into the lead pack and started moving from there.”
The 320-meter track makes it a little easier than most indoor tracks, but still tougher than a 400-meter outdoor track.
“I think it makes it a little easier, you can open up a little more on the longer straightaways,” Fife said.
Fife, a member of the Brooks Running team, trains with Team Indiana Elite in Bloomington.
The former Indiana State runner surprised himself in his first indoor track race of the season with a time of time of 4:02.
“Out of nowhere, I was on the radar of the four-minute mark so I just wanted to go after it,” Fife said.
At last weekend’s IU relays, Fife just missed getting under four minutes, finishing in 4:00.13 with many of his former ISU teammates cheering him on.
“It was really exciting. It was a perfect setup with the crowd and everything. I wish I could have dipped under for everyone that was there,” Fife said. “I don’t think I’ve ever raced somewhere with the crowd like it was last weekend.”
“It was definitely a special day [Saturday at Notre Dame]. It’s pretty exciting, especially after last weekend being so close.”
Fife’s training is going “really well,” he said. “I haven’t been healthy for this long of a stretch for a while. When you put consecutive weeks of good training, things work out.”
In two weeks, Fife will compete in the 1,500 meters at the USA Indoor Championships at Boston, but his main goal is the Olympic Team Trials for the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Two days after the USA Indoor Championships, he’s heading to Flagstaff, Ariz., to train at altitude for a month. He’ll have a few more races to prepare for the Olympic Team Trials, which take place June 27-July 6 at Eugene, Ore.
Fife, who ran and played high school basketball at Seymour before coming to ISU, is the fourth native of Indiana and reportedly the 300th man in the world to break the 4-minute mile mark.
Breaking the four-minute mark is not the novelty it was around the time Roger Bannister became the first man to break the mark in 1954.
• Editing error — During Saturday’s mix of boys and girls basketball and the massive schedule of college basketball, I made an error during the editing of Tom James’ story about Terre Haute South’s boys basketball game at Indianapolis North Central.
You might know Tom from his quality Colts articles.
He wrote that Terre Haute South won its second ever road game in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference.
Rather than take the time to verify that, I highlighted the copy and deleted, thinking that couldn’t be true. To get to the point, it was careless not to check. The Braves, who were a couple points from winning their first two MIC games this season at Lawrence North and Center Grove, had only one other MIC road win before Saturday. It also came at North Central. South beat the Panthers 67-65 in overtime, coming back from a 16-point first-half deficit on Feb. 12, 2000.
Armon Bassett led a team to the Class 4A semistate and still couldn’t win a MIC game on the road, which is a testament to the fact that the MIC is the best in the state year in and year out.
The Braves have a chance to finish 18-4 in the regular season and with a few postseason wins could surpass the mark of Bassett’s semistate team that finished 22-6 before losing to Greg Oden and Mike Conley’s Lawrence North team.
The Braves’ turnaround from a 9-16 record last season is one of the most impressive feats in the state.
Craig Pearson can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (812) 231-4357.