As John Hogan began the fourth and final lap of his mile race at the Adidas Meet of Champions Classic in April, he was in 10th place. The leaders had surged 40 meters ahead. And yet, with his lungs burning, the simplest thought suddenly floated into the Lowell High School senior's mind: Let's try to win this.
"I knew that I probably wouldn't," Hogan said. "But I had a lot left, so I wanted to pick off as many of those guys as I could."
Hogan ripped off a 58-second final lap and finished in 4:12.46, good for second place behind Villa Park's Garrett Corcoran (4:10). Hogan had run the fastest mile time in San Francisco prep history. His adjusted 1,600-meter time of 4:10.99 smashed his previous best of 4:20.34, which he'd just run the previous week.
"I knew I was better than that time, fitness-wise," Hogan said. "I'd just never had the chance to prove it."
During his first two seasons at Lowell, Hogan was a sprinter, focusing upon the 100 and 200 meters and maxing out at 400 meters. For a local track club, however, Hogan qualified for the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic nationals in the 800 meters following his freshman and sophomore years.
He considered pursuing distance running full time as a junior when his godfather, Ron Elijah, who holds the course record at the Dipsea Race -- the oldest trail race in America from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach -- weighed in.
"Ron was the first person to tell me, 'You can do it, you can make the switch,'" Hogan said. "That meant a lot. He told me I could run 4:10 before I'd ever run a mile."
With Lowell track coach Andy Leong, Hogan feels he has been blessed with the perfect mix of coaches.
"Andy knows his stuff when it comes to running," Hogan said. "He gets me to any meet I need to get to."
That included the Adidas Classic, held at Azusa Pacific University near Los Angeles. Hogan had been scheduled to run in a slower-paced mile race, but Leong met with the two tournament officials beforehand and made his case: Hogan could hang with the best.
"I like to feel I have a good reputation," Leong said. "If I say someone is that good, they can trust my judgment. [John] had the desire, and he had the speed."
After that race, Cal came calling. Hogan snapped up the offer. Next season, he will be teammates with Corcoran in Berkeley.
During lunch at Lowell, Hogan routinely knocks out a 20- or 30-minute run. Ten miles is a normal day for him. He is currently managing tendinitis and bursitis, and makes sure to stretch and ice accordingly.
"I realized that you're not going to be able to run pain-free -- it's just not going to happen with this much mileage," Hogan said. "I've learned to deal with it."
He hopes to run both the 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters at the CIF State Championships, which begin June 6. However, first he needs to qualify for state at the Academic Athletic Association-San Francisco Section trials (Saturday) and finals (May 31) at Kezar Stadium, either by winning the race or running an at-large time.
"I'm really building up my speed and confidence," Hogan said. "At state, there's going to be guys who're among the best in the nation, but if I can be anywhere close to them heading into that last lap, I think I'll have a really good chance."