By Rich Sands, @sands
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
HONOLULU (08-Dec) — Over the last six years, Sam Prakel has established himself as one of the most consistent American milers. In addition to his impressive record on the track –he’s the only athlete to make every final of the men’s 1500 meters at the USATF Outdoor Championships since 2017– he’s also built a superlative resume in the road mile. He’ll put that reputation on the line Saturday in the sixth edition of the Kalakaua Merrie Mile, the opening act for Sunday’s 50th Honolulu Marathon.
The elite mile features a unique mixed-gender pursuit format, with the women getting a 29-second head start over the men on the out-and-back course alongside Waikiki Beach. Prize money is awarded based on the overall order of finish, regardless of sex. “It’s weird thinking of the women as competition,” Prakel told Race Results Weekly during a chat in the Hawaiian capital today. “I know there are some really talented ladies in the field. It’ll be a good challenge. We’re going to hunt them down; that’s the goal.”
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The 28-year-old Prakel has enjoyed considerable success in road miles. He finished third at the New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in New York in September, has won the past two editions of the Downtown Yakima Mile in Yakima, Wash., and captured the 2020 USATF championship in Des Moines. “I like road miles because it’s a simple concept,” he said. “You just line up a bunch of people on a road and run as hard as you can.”
On the track, he ran his streak of USATF 1500 finals to five this past June, but it was a disappointing race. He entered the homestretch in the lead, but wound up ninth, falling short of his goal of qualifying for the U.S. squad for the World Athletics Championships. “I was motivated to make the team. And I think I was in a good position to make the team, I just didn’t have the extra gear the last 100,” said Prakel, who had worn the Team USA jersey for the first time a few months earlier, finishing ninth in the 1500 at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. “I’ve thought a lot about that race and what I can work on for the future.”
He rebounded to lower his 1500 PR to 3:34.92 in July. In fact, in 2022 he improved his best times in a wide range of events, from 800m (1:46.39) to 3000m (7:46.06) and 500m (13:15.96). His mile PR of 3:50.94 came indoors in 2019.
The 5000m clocking came this past weekend on Boston University’s fast 200-meter oval. While he isn’t planning a move up to the longer race just yet, Prakel was encouraged with the result. “We didn’t know what to expect because it was only my third 5-K,” he explained. “I just got out in the very back of the field and wanted to relax for as long as possible and zone out and then slowly move up. I ended up having a lot more left at the end than I thought, so I was able to close hard and make up that extra time and dip under 13:20. Putting in a little more volume and a higher level of training this fall put me in a position to run a big PR like that.”
He credits his coach, Andy Powell, for his consistency. The two have worked together for almost a decade, beginning when Prakel was a student at the University of Oregon and Powell was the distance coach in Eugene. When Powell took the head coaching job at the University of Washington in 2018, Prakel (who was just beginning his professional career at the time), moved with him to Seattle.
“Sam has been the most consistent American miler in the U.S.,” Powell told Race Results Weekly via e-mail. “He has been hurt only once and that was nine years ago and only sick one time, for two days, in the last ten years.”
Prakel is a volunteer assistant coach with the Huskies, which allows him to train alongside one of the deepest groups of runners in the country, including 2022 NCAA 1500 champion Joe Waskom, Canadian Kieran Lumb and Brian Fay of Ireland. “It’s just fun to be around the excitement of a college team and having a big crew to work out with,” Prakel said. “Watching them enjoy that experience has helped me and having that many sub-4 milers on the team is almost like having a professional group.”
After the Merrie Mile, Prakel will begin to focus on the 2023 campaign. “I still have unfinished business in the 1500,” he said. “Yeah, I’ve made five finals in the 1500, but I’ve never finished higher than sixth.”
Come July, he hopes to move up to third or better, which would earn him a spot on Team USA for the World Athletics Championships in Budapest. “Getting the [qualifying] standard doesn’t matter and getting a world ranking doesn’t matter unless you can finish top three at USA’s,” he said.
He also hopes to earn a spot on the U.S. team that will compete at September’s World Athletics Road Running Championships in Riga, Latvia, which will include a road mile for the first time. He even scheduled his wedding to Katie Landwehr (the Big Ten champion in the steeplechase for Michigan State in 2016) for next October to clear the way to potentially compete in that event.
Still, he tries not to get too caught up fixating on far-off races. “I focus on individual days and doing what I have to do that day,” he explained. “I wake up in the morning and look at what’s on the training log for the day, and if I can do that, it just adds up. That’s what I did this fall. I tackled each day by itself and at the end of the training block I put forth my best effort. I’m to try to take that same approach next year and make the most of the opportunities I get.”
Talk about Prakel on the LetsRun.com messageboard: MB: Andy Powell: “Sam (Prakel) has been the most consistent American miler in the U.S.”