TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Billed as a duel to decide Florida's best high school miler. 'Deak vs. Vasquez' lived up to the hype. And then some.
In the end, it was Flagler Palm Coast senior Sam Vasquez who came out on top, running a national high school leading time of 3:47.63 in the 1500 meters at the FSU Relays at Mike Long Track Saturday afternoon.
"I was going for the time today," Vasquez said. "I wanted to get the fastest time in the nation and I did it."
Vasquez finished third overall in the race, behind Florida State's Maarten van den Heuvel (3:46.93) and North Florida's Jerry Reckart (3:47.09) — who was running unattached.
Reckart led much of the race, until van den Heuvel was able to kick him down in the last quarter mile to earn and NCAA regional qualifying time.
"The last 500 or last 400 was just one big sprint to get back to first place," van den heuvel said.
Tallahassee junior Ryan Deak — who won last weekend's National Scholastic Indoor Championships mile title in 4:09 — finished with personal best time of 3:49.01 Saturday, good enough for fourth place behind Vasquez.
"I just wanted to have the leaders drag me along (to a good time) like they did," Deak said. "It worked out that way, I had a great race."
The runners remained packed for much of the first two laps behind pacesetter Steve Dibari of FSU. The pack came through 400 meters at about 60 seconds, but according to Deak, who moved into second place on the next lap, the race slowed down.
"At the half the pace really slowed," he said. "I think we hit 2:03 or 204 and we went out in 60 so I could tell the race was going to be slow. I was just wondering where everyone was."
After the Dibari fell off, van den Heuvel moved to the front of the pack after the 800-meter mark.
"I was planning on pulling right on pace with the pacemaker, (at) like 2:02," van den Heuvel said. "Hopefully there would be someone in front of me, but there was no one there."
At that time, Vasquez started to make his move.
"I just wanted to go out in 61 (seconds) and then just pick off people," said Vasquez, who holds the FHSAA state series 1600-meter record. "I was in the back on the third lap."
According to Deak, Vasquez was able to get ahead with about 500 meters left. With 400 meters to go, Vasquez had gapped Deak by two meters and moved into second place.
Van den Heuvel was still boxed in behind, but broke free to overtake the leaders in the last lap, out kicking Reckart, who had led through going into the final quarter
Deak was unable to make up the space as the race reached its climax coming off the turn with 100 to go.
"I gave it all I had in the backstretch, (but) I just couldn't react to Vasquez," Deak said. "He had an awesome kick and an awesome race today and I just couldn't catch him. I fell apart the last 50 yards."
Vasquez, who recently ran 4:13 for 1600 meters unchallenged, said he knew he had to make some space before the final straight.
"I saw Deak there and I know he is a fighter and a great runner," Vasquez said. "So I just wanted to get in front of him."
In the second heat of Saturday's 1500 Gold division at the FSU Relays, Pensacola Washington's Chris Nickinson placed second (11th overall) behind former Lyman runner and current Florida State freshman Kevin Cook with a school record time of 3:55.15.
Chiles High's Alex Miletich placed ninth in the heat and 18th overall with a time of 3:58.98.