Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Ex-Prep Phenom to Run Ringling

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Ex-Prep Phenom to Run Ringling

Article excerpt

SARASOTA

COMEBACK CONTINUES: Back from a serious bike crash, he will compete today

Lukas Verzbicas wore green spikes when he became only the fifth high school runner in history to break the hallowed 4-minute mile barrier.

A week earlier, in 2011, he wore black-and-orange spikes when he set the national prep record in the 2-mile run.

This past summer, both pairs were dangling from the television set in his hospital room.

They were placed there for inspiration.

Verzbicas, one of the best high school runners of all-time, was faced with the possibility of not walking again.

While triathlon training on July 31 in Colorado Springs, the 19- year-old slammed his bicycle into a guard rail.

He was traveling an estimated 30 mph.

"Once the ambulance came, I don't remember much after that," he said. "But the actual accident, that's pretty well stuck in my memory.

"I have flashbacks. I can relive it any moment I want."

Verzbicas suffered vertebrae damage and a broken collarbone from the accident. He also had a significant amount of blood in his lungs.

His doctor said there was a possibility that he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

But remarkably, little more than five months after the horrific accident, Verzbicas has recovered and is planning to run in today's 10th annual Ringling Bridge Run.

Danny Duncan, a track coach at Lemon Bay High School who befriended Verzbicas on Facebook four years ago, persuaded him to run in what will be only his second race since the accident.

Verzbicas has been at the national training center in Clermont, going through five workouts a day with the 2016 Olympics in mind. He wants to compete in the triathlon.

"It will be a good training session for me and a good way to get out of the same routine," Verzbicas said about running in Sarasota this morning.

It will also be the first time Duncan and Verzbicas will have met face-to-face, despite being close friends for the past four years.

Duncan talked to Verzbicas nearly every day that he spent in the hospital recovering.

"He's a good motivator," said Verzbicas. "He'll always be one of those people you can rely on when things are tough. He was always there to remind me, 'Hey, you can do it. …

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