Gruber Aims to Dip Under Four Minutes at Kansas Relays GOLD ZONE
April 12, 2005
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Former Kansas Jayhawk and 2004 Athens Olympian Charlie Gruber will aim to break the four-minute mile barrier this year at the Kansas Relays GOLD ZONE. The last time it happened at Memorial Stadium was in 1996 by KU alum Michael Cox as a member of the Nike Track Club. Gruber is coming off a breakout year in 2004 and is hoping to carry that success over into this season, leading up to the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland.
In 2004, Gruber was the only American to qualify for the World Cross Country Team, World Indoor Team, and Olympic team for the United States. His season started off to a quickly in February when he was crowned the USA Cross Country National Champion in the 4k. During the Outdoor season, he won the 1500 meters at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., and was the 1500 meter runner-up at the Olympic Trials behind Alan Webb, whom Gruber defeated at the 2003 Kansas Relays. Gruber officially qualified for Athens on July 31 by running 3:34.71 (3:51.82 mile conversion) at the KBC Night of Athletics meet in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, beating the Olympic “A” time standard of 3:36.20 (3:53.43 mile conversion) making him the first University of Kansas Olympian since 1996, when pole-vaulter Scott Huffman and sprinter Pierre Lisk competed in Atlanta.
“I’m excited to be back racing at my alma-mater after missing the Kansas Relays last year,” Gruber said. “To be mentioned now along with all of the other Olympians that will be competing like Maurice Greene, Marion Jones, and Stacey Dragila is an honor,” he added.
While competing at Kansas, Gruber racked up numerous awards and championships. He was the Big XII Conference Champion five times, an All-American five-times, and holds school records in the 1000 meter run and Distance-Medley Relay. But it wasn’t until the Olympic Trials when Gruber added his name to other all-time great KU and American 1500m stars that includes Wes Santee, who was one of the first men to attempt to break the 4-minute mile barrier, and Olympic silver medal winners Jim Ryun (1968, Mexico City) and Glenn Cunningham (1936, Berlin).
Running under four minutes for a mile was once thought to be impossible, and some said that it would kill a man. However, that was before Roger Bannister did it in 1954. Gruber first accomplished that goal in 2001 when he ran 3:58.45. He and a number of other elite milers hope to dip under four minutes at 3:55pm on Saturday, April 23rd at the Kansas Relays GOLD ZONE in Memorial Stadium. Jason Lunn, a former Stanford great and three-time USA Champion, who also has dipped under four minutes, will give the Glenn Cunningham Men’s Invitational Mile a stacked field along with Gruber.
“I’ve raced Jason a number of times, and he’s a great competitor,” Gruber said. “He is definitely going to be tough to beat. We will plan to run fast and be under four minutes, and hopefully bring as many other guys as we can under that mark.”
Even though Gruber is now living the life of a professional athlete for Nike, he still continues to train with the current Kansas track team and same coach, Jayhawk distance coach Doug Clark.
“This is his first Outdoor race since the Olympics, and we’re excited to see what he can do to start off the season,” said Clark.
Since Gruber’s return from Athens, he’s become a local celebrity. He served as the Grand Marshall of KU’s Homecoming parade, got his own Relay’s poster and magnet, and has a Nike Olympic trading card. Along with all of this attention, he and his fiancée are in the middle of planning their fall wedding.
Kansas Relays Meet Director Tim Weaver expects many local fans will come out and see their fellow Lawrence citizen compete.
“It’s great to have Olympic medallists, world champions, and record holders competing at the Relays, but to have a former Jayhawk Olympian who still lives and trains here in Lawrence is one of the things that I am most excited for and what our local fans should be excited for as well,” Weaver said. “How many people do you know that have an Olympian in their own backyard? Charlie did great things while competing for the `hawks, and has continued to do so for team USA.”
The 78th Kansas Relays will run from April 21-23; the GOLD ZONE is Saturday, April 23 from 2:00 – 5:00 pm. For more information on the Kansas Relays, a complete GOLD ZONE schedule, and ticket information, visit http://kuathletics.collegesports.com/sports/c-relay/