Venters Places Second to Lead Kansas Contingent at the Festival of Miles

Emily Venters of Lawrence Free State placed second in the girls' elite championship race, highlighting a strong day of racing by several of Kansas' middle distance and distance standouts Thursday at the 10th annual Big River Running Company Festival of Miles in St. Louis.

Venters posted a time of 4:51.87 in a race that started slow and finished in a flurry. The pack of 15 girls got out in 2:30 for the first two laps and then put on the burners. Madison Mooney of Broomfield, Colorado won the race in 4:50.66 followed by Venters and Victoria Findley of Blue Springs South (Mo.), who clocked 4:56.71.

Sophie Scott of Blue Valley North was fifth in 4:59.17 - a career best and the first time she has gone under 5:00 for the mile or the 1600 meters - and Manhattan's Cara Melgares was seventh in 5:02.08.

"I felt really good about (the race)," Venters said. "It went out a little differently than what I expected, kind of slow, but it actually worked in my favor and it made me feel really good the rest of the race. At the end, I was able to kick harder than I ever have been able to do."

Victoria Robinson of Lansing made the podium at this year's Festival of Miles, finishing third in the girls 800 meter run. Robinson turned in a career-best time of 2:14.97, finishing just behind Parkway (Missouri) Central's Lizzie Dejoie (2:13.66) and La Salle-Peru's (Illinois) Rachel Hickey (2:14.51).

It was Robinson's first time running at the Festival of Miles, which features championship 800 meter races for boys and girls, and she said she enjoyed the high-energy atmosphere.

"I was fresh today, so I felt really good in the last 200 meters," Robinson said. "I just gave it all I got and left it on the track."

In the boys' high school elite development mile, St. Thomas Aquinas' Alex Gill was the only competitor from Kansas. Gill, the 5A state champion at 1600 meters last weekend, ran a measured race and found an extra gear in the last 200 meters to finish fourth in 4:16.74.

Jed Helker of Edmond Memorial (Oklahoma) won the boys' developmental mile in 4:13.77.

"The race was just kind of this big pack and I was trying to hang on to the pack," Gill said. "With 300 to go, people started going and I decided I would start going. I passed a few people and had a strong finish."

In the girls' high school elite development mile, Olivia Sovereign of St. Thomas Aquinas placed fourth in 5:06.91 and Clara Mayfield of Manhattan was sixth in 5:10.52. Both times were career bests for each runner.

Mazie Larsen of Gretna, Nebraska won the race in 5:01.54. Sarah Murrow of St. James Academy was originally entered in that race, but scratched on race day.

In the men's elite mile, former Manhattan High School standout Reid Buchanan - now running for the Mammoth Track Club - placed seventh in 4:00.44. That race was won by Morgan McDonald in 3:57.52, but the show-stopper was Reed Brown

 of Southlake Carroll (Texas), who became just the 10th U.S. high schooler to break the 4:00 mile when he finished third overall in 3:59.30.

Brown is also the first high school runner ever from Texas to run sub-4:00.

Another high schooler who brought the crowd to its collective feet in the pro races was Caitlin Collier, a junior at Bolles HS in Jacksonsville, Florida. She won the women's elite 800 meter run in 2:03.32 -- the fastest time ever run for 800 meters by a Florida prepster.