Henry Is A Wynne-er

As a rule, “06880” does not profile Staples High School athletes.

For one thing, they get plenty of publicity elsewhere.

For another, if I do one, then every mother and father of every athlete in every sport will flood my inbox, screaming demanding requesting I write about his or her son’s or daughter’s remarkably astonishing wonderfulness.

But rules are made to be broken.

Just as Henry  Wynne was made to break records.

Earlier this month, Running Times named Henry — a Staples senior — its national Athlete of the Week. They said:

Wynne’s mother, a runner, had to toss him out of bed as a freshman to join the high school cross country team. Once he took to running, he preferred speed over distance. He’s become remarkably consistent with fast times. He’s a workhorse who often triples in meets….

Comparing Henry to the legendary miler Steve Scott, the story continued: 

Henry Wynne

Henry Wynne

It’s a little too soon to say whether Wynne, a 17-year-old Staples High senior bound for the University of Virginia, could become another Scott on the American middle-distance landscape. But Wynne appears to be on his way.

His wire-to-wire 4:11.73 victory at (Boston’s) Reggie Lewis Center came less than 48 hours after Wynne had tripled in a meet…. (At) the Fairfield County conference championship, Wynne won the 1000m (2:34.59), 1600m (4:29.99) and 3200m (9:30.54), all in a night’s work to help Staples repeat as team champions.

While Wynne used the occasion as training — 3 tempo runs, said Staples head coach Laddie Lawrence — it was hardly ideal preparation for the biggest race of his life at Boston. Still,…the 6-foot-3 Wynne led from the gun, seeking to avoid congestion in the 11-man field and run a fast time.

Wynne’s 4:11.73 made him the nation’s 2nd-fastest high school miler this season behind Edward Cheserek’s 4:10.94….Wynne, a 12-time state champion in track and cross-country, will likely pick up some more titles as he doubles and triples in his remaining meets before gearing up for indoor nationals next month at the New York Armory.

Wynne expects to run the mile in New York. Both he and his coach feel he could have a 4:06 in him. New Balance was Wynne’s first “solo” mile of the winter (that is, without doubling or tripling), and he was still not totally fresh….

Wynne, 2nd in the national outdoor mile last June in a tactical race, running 4:11.59, has come a long way since his lacrosse days when he agreed to try cross country after his coach told him to stay in shape in the off-season. When cross country started, he stayed in bed, pleading with his mother, “Do I really have to run?”

Henry’s mother Julie, who would soon run the New York City and Hartford marathons, replied with a firm, “Yes!”

After being an uncommitted runner as a freshman, Wynne matured as a sophomore, quit lacrosse and started on his quest to learn all he could about track racing. One thing he found from coach Lawrence was that you could excel on low mileage. Wynne does about 35 miles a week, a touch more in summer. On that program, he won last fall’s state and New England cross country titles.

“My philosophy,” said Lawrence, in his 44th year of coaching, “is not how much you do, but how you do it.”

Henry Wynne leads the pack in an indoor race. (Photo courtesy of MSG Varsity)

Henry Wynne leads the pack in an indoor race. (Photo courtesy of MSG Varsity)

This winter, Wynne has spiced up training with interval work on the school’s indoor, 10-lap-to-the-mile track — not a “real” track but a rubberized surface around basketball courts.

On a Sunday, the day after a meet, Wynne will run an easy 4 miles, then, if the weather is decent, grab his clubs for golfing with friends. He had a putter in his hands as a toddler and currently posts scores in the 70s and 80s.

No grueling Sunday long runs like his rivals do? “I like to recover,” said Wynne.

15 responses to “Henry Is A Wynne-er

  1. He’s probably the greatest track athlete Staples has ever had.

  2. Except for Per Haar.

    • Who’s Per Haar?

      • Per Haarr was a Norwegian exchange student at Staples in 1958. He lived with the Mitchell family (Ed, Norma, Jack and Bill). His accomplishments — shattering track records in running and field; winning a long jump meet despite a sprained ankle; setting standards for excellence, grace and sportsmanship — are legendary. He could have been an Olympic decathlon champion, but died while serving in the Norwegian military — he fell while on a long run through the woods back to his base, fell into a river and drowned. Longtime Staples track coach Laddie Lawrence has kept his memory alive.

        • That’s a novel waiting to be written. Dan, you should do it!

          • Thanks, Frank. Great idea — but it would be a true story. Truth in this case is far, far stranger than fiction. One example: In a huge meet in New York Per Haarr obliterated the record by such a wide margin that none of the three timers believed it — even though all had the same time.

            You can’t make this stuff up. Both Paul Lane (former Staples football and track coach) and Laddie Lawrence (current Staples track coach) are superb sources of information. I wrote a short piece years ago for Sports Illustrated on Per Haarr — fact-checked and all.

            • Sorry. That’s what I meant by “novel.” Very poor choice of words! Anyway, you should consider it as your next project. Would be fascinating to get a local perspective.

              • I was in late elementary school when Per Haar attended Staples but he was a hero to us. When I ran track at Staples in the early/mid-60s the memory of his off-the-charts achievements was very fresh. Kudos to Laddie and Paul — and to you, Dan — for keeping the memory of this superb athlete and sportsman alive for all these years.

  3. Per Haar’s story is amazing too–but Dan knows all the details, so I think he’s the person to tell that one. In any event, Henry’s accomplishments are quite impressive. I remember in college many years ago when the coach had the varsity soccer quad do a timed mile in preseason. No one ran below 5 minutes. I think the fastest time was 5:01 or 5:02.

  4. U. Zooelly N. Trouble

    The “Sage of Staples” should favor his audience with more athletic stories.

  5. Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson

    By the way, Edward Cheserek, mentioned in the article as having a faster mile time, is a Kenyan, so Wynne is actually the fastest American high school miler this year.

  6. No disrespect to Cheserek, but he was recruited to the US by missionaries who knew of his athletic prowess, and is the age of a college Freshman. BTW, Henry already is a three time All-American.

  7. Sally Campbell Palmer

    It’s great to hear about the accomplishments of local kids! I remember Per Haar, tho I graduated in 56, he was in my sister Susie’s class. Pretty much everyone in town knew who he was and rooted for him, he was a really nice guy.

  8. Glad you broke your rule and wrote about this Staples athlete.

    Henry Wynne is also another member of a long line of superb Staples runners – who developed under coach Laddie Lawrence to become place winners and champions as individuals and as relay team members at FCIAC, State and New England meets. It has been great reading about all of them over the years. And it is great to see that the line not only keeps going but can keep getting more outstanding!!

    And thanks for filling in details on Per Haar- it is always nice to hear the stories of young men who become legends!!

  9. Henry reminds me of another miler I once saw – Jim Ryun. Henry is a natural runner that works hard, has a supportive family, an excellent coach, and great teammates. It’s nice to see him achieve personal honors and still be a leader that cares about his high school team.