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Niwot grad Cruz Culpepper looks to break 4-minute mile

Washington-bound runner going for iconic mark in Grand Junction Saturday

Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
NIWOT, CO – NOVEMBER 4:Niwot High School’s Cruz Culpepper on Nov. 4, 2019.(Photo by Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
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Despite a pandemic shutdown, and despite not having trekked a high school-sanctioned meet in eight months, Cruz Culpepper has continued to build a storied running legacy with his jump to college nearing.

One more thing to pack: A sub-four minute mile.

Saturday, the recent Niwot graduate will attempt to cross under the hallowed time at Colorado Mesa State University in Grand Junction at the Team Boss Colorado Mile.

Last month, Leo Daschbach became just the 11th high schooler to accomplish the feat in a meet in California, per Sports Illustrated. Culpepper, now, will attempt to do it at altitude.

“I know I’m in very good shape and there’s two or three other, not including the pacer, really good professionals that are in the race,” Culpepper said. “I just want to go in and try to win. And I think that’ll come with a fast time.”

The attempt at history comes four months after Culpepper nearly punched his place into the Sub-Four Club. At the track at the University of Washington — where he’ll attend in the fall — the reigning two-time state cross country champ grabbed national running headlines when he clocked his mile at 4:00.10. He dove at the finish line but just missed.

“Yeah, a tenth of a second,” he said.

The mark ended up being the third-fastest time by a 17-year-old in U.S. history, per the Denver Post. A few fractions faster Saturday would be nice, he said. But it isn’t everything.

“In the grand scheme of running, breaking four isn’t that good,” Culpepper said. “It’s been done by like 500 different Americans. It definitely would be a cool thing to have to my name in high school but it’s nothing crazy. I know I’m in way better than just-breaking-four-minute shape right now. So, hopefully I’ll be able to do it. But if not, I have more accomplishments and stuff to get done later that are way more important.”

Culpepper said his mile in Grand Junction may be his last chance to crack the mark before he joins the Huskies as a college runner in September. He may also give it a try at Stumptown in Portland next month but said on Thursday he isn’t sure.

If he does break it Saturday, it’ll be the second time this month he shook up the running history books. On June 13, he ran the fastest 800 ever by a Colorado high schooler, per MileSplit, going 1:48.50.