The coach of the last distance runner to break 9:00 in the 3200m had a feeling that the barrier would be broken this year. In fact former long-time Louisiana Tech coach Gary Stanley, who coached Bonnable's John Ratcliffe to his 8:53 in 1982 had feeling it could be more than one.
Friday night, in Huntsville, AL., Jesuit sophomore Brady Mullen ran a 8:59.21 at the RunningLane Championships to become the first Louisiana distance runner in 41 years to accomplish the feat.
The only distance runner in Louisiana history to run faster than Ratcliffe was Salmen's (Slidell) Bobby Beck. Beck ran an incredible 8:43.84 at the AAU Junior Olympics on July 29, 1979.
Saturday, Stanley weighed in on Mullen's accomplishment.
"Bobby Beck was the fastest high school kid in the nationat the end of the year in August," Stanley messaged MileSplit LA state editor Jerry Byrd. "Ratcliffe was No. 4. It will be interesting to see where the time ends up being ranked. Shoes, tracks, and training have evolved--particularly the new super shoes. Bur ranking is still meaningful. Beck was so incredibly good. I think the closest Louisiana to Ratcliffe his senior year was about 30 seconds slower. Possibly 35-40 for Beck. I don't care what shoes the kids are wearing now, what the Jesuit coach (Cullen Doody) has done is incredible. Hats off to a really good coach and a tremendous program."
After doing some digging, Stanley said Beck was actually No. 2 to "a kid named Nelson."
According to Wikipedia, Burbank, California's Jeff Nelson ran a national record in the two mile--the predecssor to the 3200m-- of 8:36.23. And he did it before a national television audience at the Pepsi Invitational at the University of California on May 6, 1979.
New Orleans native Frank Trammel is a Louisiana distance legend. As a runner, he was four-time All-American. He carried that success into an equally successful high school coaching career, earning NFHS National Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2014.
Trammel shared his thoughts on Mullen's accomplishment as well.
"Cullen needs to be commended for a job well done," Trammel said. "We are in a new era in distance running in Louisiana. Brady (Mullen) reminds me of John (Ratcliffe)--again Gary did an awesome job with John's career."
As for Doody, while he is amazed at what Beck and Ratcliffe accomplished, he thinks Louisiana is capable of getting to a place of producing those kind of times.
"It's crazy to think Louisiana had two guys running 8:40s and 8:50s all the way back then," Doody said. "We can get back there, but we have a long way to go. It takes more than one guy to have a great team."
Doody knows a thing or two about assembling a great team of distance runners. His Jesuit cross country was the first LHSAA team in history to perfect score and place all seven runners in the Top Ten in the highest classification at the 2022 LHSAA State Cross Country Championships.
Catholic's Legendary Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame coach Pete Boudreaux called the 2022 Jesuit cross country team "the best ever."