Lukas Verzbicas enters PMCU Oceanside Turky Trot in quest to make US Olympic T&F and Triathlon teams, by Don Franken

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Lukas Verzbicas Photo.jpg
Lukas Verzbicas, photo courtesy of Don Franken

Lukas Verzbicas is one of the most talented athletes on the planet. In high school, he won the famed FootLocker Cross Country series on two occasions. He broke four minutes for the mile and also 8:30 for two miles in the Nike Pre Classic. After a year in college, Lukas focused on the triathlon and was terribly injured, with the medical staff telling his parents that he might never walk again. 

Verzbicas is running the Oceanside TurkeyTrot. In this piece, written by Don Franken, former promoter of the famed Sunkist Games, and FootLocker cross country series, we see how far Lukas has come. Follow Lukas as he continues his journey to make a U.S. Olympic team. 



Lukas Verzbicas Enters PMCU Oceanside 'Turkey Trot' in
Quest to Make U. S. Olympic Track & Field and Triathlon Teams

 

Lukas Verzbicas, a Lithuanian-American triathlete who is one of the finest young U. S. middle distance running prodigies, has entered the PMCU Oceanside 'Turkey Trot,' Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28th) in Oceanside, CA. Verzbicas is once again running and competing after a near end-of-life 2012 cycling accident left him severely injured.

 

Verzbicas was born in Kaunas, Lithuania and moved to the U.S at the age of nine-years-old. He attended Carl Sandburg HS in Orland Hills, IL and on June 4, 2011, Verzbicas crushed the national prep record in the two miles, running 8:29.46 at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, OR. His mark was well below German Fernandez's previous prep two mile national record of 8:34.23 (2008).  


A week later, in his final prep race in the High School Dream Mile at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York, Verzbicas become only the fifth high school runner to break four minutes in the mile with a time of 3:59.71.  With that effort, Verzbicas joins an elite group of running legends, including Alan Webb, Jim Ryun, Tim Danielson and Marty Liquori.  

 

Verzbicas will compete in the 5 Mile Run at the PMCU O'Side 'Turkey Trot' on a fast, slightly downhill scenic course along the Oceanside coast.  "I will be running for the win," said Verzbicas. "I am still coming back from my spinal cord injury last year and am in a heavy training block right now. I am very excited to run alongside 10,000 of my fellow Southern Californians for my first Thanksgiving down here in San Diego.  It is also very encouraging to be part of an event that gives back so much to its community.  I'm honored to be a part of it."


Verzbicas lives in Chula Vista, CA and trains there at the U. S. Olympic Training Center. His goal is to make the upcoming U. S. Olympic teams in the triathlon and in track and field in either the 10K or 5K at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

 

Only 20 years old, Verzbicas is also a world triathlon junior champion and has had as much success in the triathlon as he has in distance running. He briefly attended the University of Oregon, but left the school after running just two cross country races. "My running was 'going backwards' through dead legs caused by increased training instead of the cross training I was used to," he said. "As a full time runner I actually got slower and that's when I realized I needed to swim and bike to be at my best as a runner."


But Verzbicas' goal of making the 2012 U. S. Olympic triathlon team was ended on July 31, 2012 when he was involved in a near fatal bicycle accident while training in Colorado Springs, CO.  The accident left him with an almost completely severed spine, several broken bones and the surgeon telling his parents that he would never walk again. Verzbicas had temporary paralysis in his right leg following the accident.  Then, two months of solid rehabilitation following enabled him to sit up, walk and later to begin running.  His rehab work included strength and flexibility training under the tutelage of his coach, world-renowned runner Joaquim Cruz of Brazil, the 800m Gold Medal winner at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, CA. Cruz has been invited to be official starter for the 5 Mile Race at the PMCU O'side 'Turkey Trot.' 


"The surgeon told my family I wouldn't walk again, but thankfully no one told me that," Verzbicas said.  "After I had a little twitch in my legs, I decided if my legs can move that much, then I will not just run but I will be better than I was before. I am feeling better running now and know I have just a little ways to getting back to full strength. I will get there. Going thorough something so difficult made me mentally stronger and now I also appreciate my life much more."  


Verzbicas gets his athletic prowess from his parents, who were both competitive runners. His mother is a former Lithuanian record-holder at 3,000m. "Both my parents were competitive runners and later coaches so I grew up on the track with them," he said. "I looked up to Steve Prefontaine as my inspiration as a child.  He was my inspiration as a child to run as fearlessly as he did. Running is a gift I've been blessed with and so I feel the burning desire to pursue it as it is what I'm most passionate about.  I've run faster as a prep because I'm a triathlete and the cross training helps build a bigger aerobic base while avoiding overuse injury."


Lukas is used to tough challenges.  "Growing up in the Midwest I've had to train through many treacherous Chicago winters where I ended up with frostbite once after a run in negative degree weather.  I was also tackled once by a German Shepard when I passed his owner in the early morning hours.  I got a nice bite wound in my quad but thankfully the dog didn't have rabies and I healed quickly," said Verzbicas.



In the past seven years, the Oceanside Turkey Trot has raised over $140,000 for its participating charities.   Race proceeds from the PMCU O'Side Turkey Trot support the 'Move Your Feet Before You Eat!' Foundation, as well as local Oceanside and North County Schools, and participating non-profits.  The race allows participants to personally select their beneficiary from a wide variety of worthy non-profit organizations and local Oceanside Schools. All finishers will get finisher medals, while winners in each division will receive medals with special gift certificates and other prizes for overall Top 3 placements in the women's and men's divisions.


Please visit http://osideturkeytrot.com for race day details and registration, becoming a volunteer, making a donation and to register for the organized training programs. 

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Top Five Boy's U. S. High School Milers

Alan Webb, 2001: 3:53.43

Jim Ryun, 1965: 3:55.3

Tim Danielson, 1966: 3:59.4


Lukas Verzbicas, 2011: 3:59.71

Marty Liquori, 1967, 3:59.8


Top Two Boy's U. S High School Two-Milers

Lukas Verzbicas, 2011: 8:29.46

German Fernandez, 2008: 8:34.23

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