WESTPORT, Conn. – Until this year, former Westhill High School runner Kevin King had been the gold standard in Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference distance running. But after this winter, the new king of the 52-year-old league is Staples High senior Henry Wynne.
Wynne won two gold medals last weekend at the New Balance Indoor Nationals. He won the mile and anchored the distance medley relay with a brilliant come-from-behind leg. He finishes his indoor career with five individual league records in every distance from the 800 to the mile. He is also on four relays that hold Staples school records.
Undoubtedly more will come in the outdoor season. One of the most treasured is King’s 1,600-meter time of 4:07.26, set in 1981. Wynne, who will attend the University of Virginia, could also wipe out the 800 record of 1:50.86 set by Danbury’s Parker Boudreau in 2008. Two longtime Staples records set by Tom Sheeran in 1989 (1,600 and 3,200) could also fall. This winter, Wynne erased two longtime indoor records in the 800 (by Westhill’s Norm McHugh in 1986) and 1,500 (by King in 1980).
Wynne’s magnificence is not lost on longtime track observers. Some feel he might be the best the league and even the state has ever seen.
“I have never seen a kid like that,’’ said Westhill’s Ed Lane, who has been involved with the sport since the 1960s. “Sheeran and King were great runners. But they could not do the stuff that this guy did.”
What makes Wynne such a wonder is his range. He can run excel in anything from the 400 to 5 kilometers – he was the New England cross country champion. Usually, long distance runners do not have the foot speed to race well in shorter events. Middle distance runners usually lack the stamina to run more than a mile.
“He can run three quality races, times that would be nationally ranked, in the same meet,’’ Lane said. “Sheeran and those guys couldn’t do that.”
Veteran track coach Jim Gerweck thinks Wynne might be the best miler in state history. “If he’s not the best, he’s certainly in the conversation,’’ Gerweck said. “You’d have to put him up there. What he did this indoor season is something that has never been done before.”
Wynne has a several traits others did not. “He’s a unique physical specimen,’’ Gerweck said. “He almost looks like a basketball player.” Wynne’s upper body and core strength is unique among distance runners and allows him to generate power for shorter distances.
He’s also a terrific tactician. In the mile in Sunday’s race at the New Balance meet, Wynne stayed tucked behind the leaders but exploded past everyone on the final lap. In the distance medley Friday, Wynne faced a big early deficit. He didn’t try to make it all up at once. He waited until precisely the right time to make his move.
“He has a lot of confidence in his ability,’’ Lane said. “When a guy knows he has a great kick, it’s hard to beat. You can’t run away from him, and you can’t outkick him. You could wait until he has a bad day, but he never has one.”
Wynne’s final season will begin in a few weeks. He’s a once in a generation athlete and ranks right with Steve Young, Bobby Valentine and other FCIAC legends. “You’re not going to see any one like him for a while,’’ Lane said. “I can’t wait to see what he does in college.”