ICYMI: Ryan Watson Ran One of VA's Fastest 3200s Ever

One of the remarkable aspects of the VA Showcase is how some athletes take the opportunity to break through personal goal barriers and end the weekend with a greater reputation and presence then they started.

A prime example of this came on Day 2 (Saturday) of the Showcase as Ryan Watson, a top-rated distance runner in the state of Virginia, took advantage of the stellar competition to propel himself toward joining a small but exclusive club of Commonwealth distance runners.

Competing in the invitational two-mile, the Justice senior cautiously stayed in the top half of the pack for the first mile, before unleashing a ferocious kick in the final 800, one which carried him to a fourth-place finish. His time of 9:09.89, also translates to a 9:07.04 for 3200 meters, which puts him in a prime position to join the handful of sub-9-minute 3200/2 Mile runners that are spackled along the columns of the Virginia High School League record book. Here is the current list of runners who have broken the nine-minute barrier for the indoor 3200 (several times were converted from two miles).

1 Alan Webb       South Lakes          2001 8:42.14c (8:45.19 2mi)

2 Drew Hunter Loudoun Valley 2015 8:45.16 3200

3 Jim Hill        Oakton               1979 8:54.03c (8:56.9h 2mi)

4 George Watts    Thomas Edison        1975 8:54.12c (8:57.0h 2mi)

5 Bobby Lockhart  John Handley         2002 8:54.64c (8:58.04 2mi)

6 Sean McGorty Chantilly 2013 8:55.38 3200

7 Adam Visokay Albemarle 2012 8:56.93 3200

8 Gannon Willcutts W. Albemarle 2016 8:57.25 3200

9 Steve Ferri     Bishop O'Connell     1977 8:58.20c (9:00.1h 2mi)

10 Peter Dorrell   Blacksburg          2008 8:58.56c (9:01.70 2mi)

11 Matt Keally     Ocean Lakes         2002 8:59.57  3200

12 Webb        South Lakes          2000 8:59.96  3200

While the crowd at the Virginia Beach Sports Center may have been surprised with Watson's effort, the Wolves distance ace was only keeping up with his own progression schedule. On the previous day, his 4:18 time in the mile run broke another personal best by eight seconds.

"(Breaking nine) has been a long-time goal," said Watson, who recently committed to Penn State, where he will run and possibly major in business. Knowing that "it was going to be a fast heat, Watson, who's previous best time of 9:23 came at last year's outdoor state meet, decided that keeping in contact with the lead pack would be a good strategy for the first half of the race. "I decided to get into the pack where I felt most comfortable."

As he crossed the first mile, his self-check came out positive. "I was still feeling good, so I decided to go for it." Four laps later, Watson discovered that his surge still had life, so he upped the ante, passing runners over the final 800 to finish just 5.24 seconds off the winning pace of Gary Martin of Archbishop Wood (PA), who won in 9:04.65.

Watson has a plan of improvement. During the fall, he trains with Justice cross-country coach Ron Kronlage, a mainstay at the Falls Church school, who has decades of experience with the harriers. However, after the season, Kronlage, who teaches many of the higher-level Math class at Justice, focuses his entire attention on academics, and does not directly work with the track teams. To supplement his training, Watson has enlisted the help of Run CCG, an online coaching service, which is used by several of the state's top distance runners.

"It's high-level coaching," said Watson. Although he does not train with the staff in person, he finds benefits from completing the workouts sent to him. "I run them, and then text the coaches and we talk about it." Years ago, this concept may have seemed unorthodox, but in the COVID age, any open line of communication is a plus.

Going back to the sub-9 plan, Watson, who was talked into running cross-country after the then- JEB Stuart coaches saw him running as an eighth-grader at a team sponsored 5K race, continued to elicit details of his plan.

"I'll run Nationals here in Virginia Beach," said Watson, which means he'll have two more shots on the blue embanked oval. I'd like to run a 1000 or 800, just to see what my time is like. I have to make sure that I am training well and staying healthy."