Breaking through

It’s a thrilling night to remember as Scott Bauhs runs a sub-four-minute mile and sets a new Chico State record

SUPER FAST! <br>Chico State runner Scott Bauhs is in it to win it.

Chico State runner Scott Bauhs is in it to win it.

Photo By Andrew Boost

Stop me if you’ve seen this movie.

Our handsome, young hero embarks on the ultimate showdown of man versus time. The dramatic buildup reaches a fever pitch, and the words “will he do it?” become a mantra.

There’s a gun, a not-quite-so-perfect opening, followed by three faultless acts, supporting actors and a cast of thousands. Breathless, silent anticipation is soon replaced by jubilation and a dream realized.

If Scott Bauhs’ feat at the Chico State Distance Carnival on April 12 was, in fact, scripted, the author could be accused of drippy melodrama, home-crowd favoritism and a dénouement you could see a mile away.

The Wildcat junior captured the Men’s Invitational Mile in 3 minutes, 59.81 seconds, setting a new Chico State standard (Kim Ellison’s 1971 time of 4:01 was one of the school’s longest-standing marks) while becoming its first sub four-minute miler.

“I told people all week I wasn’t certain it was going to happen, and that was the great thing about it,” Chico State distance coach Gary Towne said. “If it was a total slam dunk, it wouldn’t have been as exciting. But the fact that he did it, given it could have gone either way, it makes it that much more special.”

While the 21-year-old Bauhs is the 308th American miler to break the four-minute barrier, he’s only the sixth NCAA Division II athlete to do so, and the first in 21 years.

Bauhs was aided by a pair of rabbits in teammates Clinton Hayes and Michael Wickman (1:52 and 1:50 half-milers, respectively). After Hayes carried the field to a nerve-fueled 59-second opening lap, Wickman settled in, as he and Bauhs came through the half in 1:59.6. Midway through the third lap, Wickman dropped off, leaving Bauhs to go the final 600 meters by himself. His time of exactly three minutes through 1,200 meters meant he’d have to clock a sub-60-second final lap.

With 100 meters remaining, it could have gone either way, but Bauhs ran a thrilling 59-second final lap for the history-making finishing time, buoyed by a raucous home crowd.

But even when hand-held stopwatches indicated he was damn near close to, if not slightly under, four minutes, Bauhs’ race remained unofficial. After a few agonizing moments of limbo, Bauhs’ official time was mercifully announced and the crowd once again roared.

“It’s great to do it here, rather than some Stanford meet, being eighth place and no one really cares that much, where people cheer for the race,” Bauhs said, clearly appreciative of the crowd’s track acumen.

“Chico’s a running community and people understand how incredible this event was as a chance to see history being made,” Chico State Athletic Director Anita Barker said. “This may never happen again on this track, and it’s pretty cool that we got to see it live.”

Ellison, the man whose record is now second-best at Chico State, agreed.

“For 36 years, I’ve come back to track meets and everybody says, ‘Remember that night?’ “ said the long-time Paradise High English teacher. “Now, we have a new night to remember. I hope I can come back here in another 30 years and remember the night that Scotty Bauhs ran under four minutes.”

Bauhs’ list of accomplishments continues to grow. His time of 1:03:04 at last October’s San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon was the fastest time ever by an American 21 years or younger. After a 10th-place finish at the U.S. Cross Country Championships in February, Bauhs placed 52nd overall at last month’s 12-kilometer World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“My stock just went up some more,” said Bauhs, who also represented the United States at the Ekiden Relays in Chiba, Japan, last November. “I’m not just that guy who ran that half-marathon last year, but I can run short distances, too.”

Even by Bauhs’ standards, this may signal (much) bigger things to come. The mile isn’t even his best event—or at least the one he focuses most on. After winning the 10,000-meter national championship last May, he finished second to teammate Charlie Serrano in the 5,000. Towne says training for the mile didn’t stray too far from Bauhs’ regular training, but he did notice something new with Bauhs—wicked closing speed that enabled him to clock 59-second quarter-mile bookends.

Englishman Roger Bannister was the first man to break the four-minute mile on May 6, 1954, in 3:59.4. What the world thought to be physically impossible in Bannister’s day is now the standard by which professional runners are measured. This emphasizes best, perhaps, why it was so vital Bauhs cracked four at Chico State. The achievement transcends the all-weather oval and sends a message to the nation that, yeah, some pretty amazing things can and do happen here.

“Having someone like Scott here, or a Nobel Laureate like Jeff Price, raises the bar for the entire university and underscores that great success can be accomplished in any supportive environment,” Chico State President Paul Zingg said. “They signal what we are capable of achieving.”