How record mile by Stanford's McGorty stacks up with history


We now know Stanford's Sean McGorty ran a fast mile on Saturday – 3:53.95 at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Track and Field Championships in Seattle. But to really understand the accomplishment, we need perspective.

McGorty crushed Stanford's absolute mile record (including indoors and out), which was Olympian Jeff Atkinson's 3:55.16 from 1986. But because the mile is rarely run outdoors in collegiate competition, a better comparison would be with Stanford's all-time best 1,500-meter times. Using the USATF's accepted 1,500-to-mile conversion factor of 1.08, we've come up with a top-5 list of Stanford's best metric mile/mile performances (with actual 1,500 times in parentheses).

1. Michael Stember, 3:52.32 (3:35.11, 2000)

2. Gabe Jennings, 3:52.43 (3:35.21, 2000)

3. Grant Robison, 3:53.01 (3:35.75, 2008)

4. Sean McGorty, 3:53.95 (2016)

5. Russell Brown, 3:54.97 (3:37.56, 2007)

We also acknowledge that, to be fair, there is a need to account for the smaller track size that McGorty ran on -- 307 meters indoors rather than the 400-meter outdoor standard . The question was how to determine how much of a handicap did McGorty have? A cursory search for a formula or conversion factor was unsuccessful.

Here is a brief description of each of Stanford's top five 1,500/mile runs:

1. Michael Stember (3:35.11; 1,500; Aug. 18, 2000; Monte Carlo): Stember surpassed the Olympic 'A' standard of 3:36.80 in Monaco, at the Herculis Zepter meet. After making a mad dash down the stretch to finish third at the U.S. Olympic trials in Sacramento in 3:37.04, Stember still needed to reach the 'A' standard to make the team. He tried and failed twice -- at two hastily organized meets at Stanford staged solely for the purpose of getting Stember to the 'A' standard -- before earning it in Monaco, finishing 10th of 17 runners. If Stember failed to reach the standard by Sept. 11, his Stanford former teammate Jason Lunn would have taken his spot in the Olympics.

2. Gabe Jennings (3:35.21; 1,500; Sept. 3, 2000; Rieti, Italy): Jennings and Stember finished one-two in the mile at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March of 2000 and duplicated that performance over 1,500 meters in June to help bring Stanford its first NCAA outdoor championship in 66 years. As good as those performances were, the Cardinal duo topped even that by finishing 1-3 in the 1,500 at the Olympic trials. Jennings ran his 3:35.21 in the run-up to the Games, in Rieti, Italy, finishing seventh in a field of 13.

3. Grant Robison (3:35.75; 1,500; Aug. 2, 2003; Heusden, Belgium): Robison won the NCAA 1,500 title in 2003 and went on to finish third at the U.S. outdoor championships. His 3:35.75 was achieved at the Heusden-Zolder meet in Belgium on Aug. 2, 2003. The time met the Olympic 'A' standard for the 2004 Athens Games and allowed him to make the team despite not finishing among the top three at the Olympic trials.

4. Sean McGorty (3:53.95; mile; Feb. 27, 2016; Seattle, Washington): In his only mile of the 2016 indoor season, McGorty raced to a 3:53.95 during a ferocious duel with Washington's Izaic Yorks at the MPSF Indoor Championships on University of Washington's 307-meter track. McGorty and Yorks, who won in 3:53.89, ran the fastest times ever by American collegians indoors. Only two outdoor miles by Kansas' Jim Ryun (1966, 1967) and another by North Carolina's Tony Waldrop (1974) were faster among American collegians – indoors or outdoors – than what McGorty and Yorks ran Saturday. McGorty broke Stanford's absolute mile record, the 3:55.16 held by Olympian Jeff Atkinson outdoors since 1986. This was the fastest 1,500/mile race by a Stanford runner on American soil or against collegiate competition.

5. Russell Brown (3:37.56; 1,500; June 9, 2007, Sacramento, California): Brown ran his 3:37.56 to finish third at the 2007 NCAA outdoor championships, trailing only future Olympians Leo Manzano and Lopez Lomong. The confidence Brown gained from that race helped launch a professional career, he said. Brown was among 11 top-5 NCAA outdoor finishes in the 1,500 from the decade of 2000-09. Brown also won the Pac-10 title in the 1,500 in 2007.

Here is where McGorty's mile stacks up on all-time lists:

No. 1 performance at Stanford indoors or outdoors.

No. 2 performance among American collegians indoors on any-sized indoor track.

No. 4 collegiate performer indoors or outdoors.

No. 4 performance in collegiate history for any-sized indoor track.

No. 5 performance by an American collegian indoors or outdoors.

No. 10 performer among collegians indoors or outdoors.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by dennis
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 6, 2016 at 11:59 pm

The mile has always been such an exciting event in the history of track and field, and sadly, since the conversion to metric, it is rarely run. It should still be run by elite runners of college and the world more often to bring more spectators and participants into the event. Ever since Roger Bannister of England broke the four minute miles it is the running events I enjoy the most. Congratulations to Sean for a terrific mile run.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Why is it becoming increasingly impossible to open a restaurant on the Peninsula?
By Elena Kadvany | 27 comments | 4,939 views

Firing Judge Persky as a tennis coach was a big mistake
By Diana Diamond | 23 comments | 2,755 views

Electric Buses: A case study
By Sherry Listgarten | 2 comments | 2,120 views

It just takes time
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 506 views

Helping Partners Become Couples (vs. Helping Couples Become Partners)
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 271 views



On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Register now