In the entire history of Virginia distance running, only 17 boys have ever broken the nine minute barrier for 3200m. After this past weekend, its now 20 boys and quite a few more could join them too. Right now the state leader in the event is Nathan Atchue (8:54.24) who won the Dogwood Track Classic.
Right behind Atchue is Charlie Ortmans (8:54.32) who has broken 9 twice this season and Bazil Mathes (8:56.18) who finished second at Dogwood for his first sub-9 performance.
These times rank sixth, eighth, and 11th all-time.
Historically these have been the years with a sub 9 performance: 1975, 1977, 1979 (2), 1982, 2002 (2), 2004 (2), 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 (2), and 2018 (2).
These dates show us a few things. First, that it is extremely rare to see a sub 9 performance. It has only happened in 31% of the years since the first sub 9. The second is the phenomenon of athletes "running up" or competing with what they have to compete with.
Though barriers are important (4:20 in the Mile, 9:00 in the 3200, 50 in the 400 and so on), most athletes chase competition rather than just a time. That means when one person is fast, others will be trying to compete with them. That is why you see the dates above in spurts where maybe a junior had to run against a fast senior and the following year broke 9 themselves.
There will always be outliers but for the most part, you will see multiple athletes close at the top of the leaderboard whether it is at 8:59-9:02 or 9:17-9:19. Its usually very close. The biggest outliers though are Sean McGorty and Drew Hunter 2012-2016. They just dominated.
Knowing all this, it makes this year just that much more impressive. Three guys are already sub 9 and we think another 4 or 5 could break through as well.