Eastview junior wins 2nd consecutive state 800-meter title

After dusting the top Minnesota high school middle-distance runners for the second year in a row, A.J. Green is ready to take his act on the road.

The Eastview junior successfully defended his Class AA boys 800-meter championship Saturday at Hamline University, winning by almost five seconds and coming within a fraction of a second of the all-time state meet record. Next up: the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle, a national meet for elite high school athletes.

Green is the top seed in the boys 800 in the Brooks PR Invitational and is the only runner in the field with a seed time below 1 minute, 50 seconds. His winning time at state was 1:49.93, and he ran 1:49.83 in the Section 3AA meet one week before state. His race in Seattle will be Saturday, June 15.

The following week, Green will go to the USA Track and Field Under-20 Championships in Florida.

“There’s a lot of pressure on me to win, but I always tell myself I just have to run my race and let the chips fall where they may,” Green said.

After winning the state 800-meter championship in 2018, Green doubled down on his training. He resumed running cross country, a sport he did in middle school but later dropped. He was an All-State runner for an Eastview team that qualified for the state meet last fall.

This spring, he added the 400 meters to his regimen. “The 400 helps me with my final kick in the last 200 meters,” he said. “Cross country helps with pacing in the middle of the race when you’re not going as hard but you still know you have to be ready for the last kick on the last lap.”

He ran only a few 800-meter races during the regular season this year. Green was defending South Suburban Conference champion in the 800 but did not run the race at that meet, entering (and winning) the 400 instead.

“I train for the 800, so I don’t want to run the 800 every single time because then it gets a little boring,” he said. “I ran some 400s and 1,600s and then last fall I ran cross country.”

His victories in the section and state meet followed a similar pattern. He held back in the preliminaries, running fast enough to qualify for the finals without draining himself. His preliminary time at state was third fastest, but Green ran almost 6 seconds faster in the finals.

“My coach always tells me just to go as slow as possible to win” in prelims, Green said. “I have to try some, but I try not to go all out and die off the next day. I try to conserve as much energy as possible and turn in the best time I can the next day.”

He said he’s thought about running more 400-meter races next year, but noted the 400 and 800 might be a difficult double because those races are only about 30 minutes apart. A more manageable combination is the 800 and a leg on the 4x400-meter relay. Green anchored Eastview’s fourth-place 4x400 relay at state Saturday.

Angelo Paulucci, Kole Peterson and Sam Morgenstern also ran the 4x400, which finished ninth in 3:22.73. All four runners on the relay are juniors.

Colby Rubischko, Gabriel Mahlen, Samuel Erickson and Morgenstern finished eighth in the 4x800 relay in 8:01.42. Erickson is the only senior in that group.

Theoretically, Green could run the 4x00 and 4x800 relays as well as the open 800, but the rules limit him to three track events. Whichever way he goes next season, he said he’s optimistic about more relay success for Eastview next year.

“if we all come together and train over the fall, winter and spring we’ll be in prime position to get two (relay) wins next year,” Green said.

The Lightning scored 19 points in the three boys events in which they competed and placed 14th in the Class AA team competition. Hopkins’ victory in the 4x400 relay pushed the Royals two points past Rosemount for the team title.

Eastview senior Tazara Oliver competed in the Class AA girls discus last weekend. Her first throw of 109 feet, 4 inches was her best, and she finished 15th.

Apple Valley senior Brandon Pehrson ran in the boys 300 hurdles preliminaries. He had the 14th-fastest time of 41.21.

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