Connor Burns wins 2022 C3 in 15:01 in brutal conditions

Updated 11-14-22

Southern Boone County High School senior Connor Burns makes news just about every time he races. Often he also makes history when he puts on and laces up racing shoes. It's hard not to make noise after he became just the third high school junior to break the 4-minute mile barrier. A feat he accomplished in June at the Festival of Miles in the Men's pro race where he ran 3:58.83 to place 5th, and surpassing Jim Ryun as the fastest non-senior high school miler in U.S. history.

This Fall as a senior, he ran 14:57 to set the Gans Creek Classic meet record. He then ran 14:32 in winning the Chile Pepper Festival to break the Missouri high school state record. Burns also added wins at the Jefferson City Jim Marshall Invitational, the Tri-County Conference meet, Bowling Green Invite, and the Class 3 District 3 meet.

At state, he got to watch on Friday as Class 4 and 5 runners competed in decent conditions. The temperatures were just about ideal but wind slowed everyone, especially on the 500+ meter start stretch that is covered twice in 5k, where it hit runners straight on. The wind was help though on the last 4/5ths of the shorter "Schweizer Stretch" that curls around and down the homestretch.

Friday night though, the heavens opened and the rain poured. Which made for soaked and muddy conditions on the course. That, along with bitterly cold temperatures, no sun until the last race, and continued winds that reached an estimated 25-mph at times, made for brutal conditions for Class 1, 2, and 3 runners.

Burns though blasted off the start line at 12 p.m. in the Class 3 boys race, way from his freshman brother Brian and the rest of the field. He went thru the first kilometer in 2:50, leaving some small school runners and fans gasping in amazement by the sight of his pace and 17-second, 100-meter lead. 

Burns got a word or two of guidance and support from father Marc as he curved down the hill just after the pond at 1250-meters. He angled this way and that, trying to avoid the muddiest parts of the course path. Burns hit the 2k mark at 5:45 with a 2nd k split of 2:55. Burns then hit the wall of wind for the second time from 2,000-meters to 2,550-meters. He went thru 3k in 8:55 with a 3rd kilometer split of 3:10.

Wearing an ear band and arm sleeves to help manage the chill, the University of Oregon commit kept pushing. No emotion, just focused, hoping to put down a course and state meet record that wouldn't be touched for a long time. The 4th-kilometer saw him split 3:02, clocking in at 11:57 overall. His lead had grown to 57-seconds.

As he flew down the homestretch, with the wind at his back, he seemed to have conceded that a new course record, and the chance to smash it, wasn't to be with the day's conditions. In the last 40-meters Burns celebrated a bit with a pointed index finger gesture and a big of a smile for a second or two. He crossed the tape in 15:01.

It was an astonishing performance. The effort was likely equal to 14:40-14:45, if not faster, in decent conditions.

Thirty to forty minutes later, Burns sounded like he had a year ago after winning his first state cross country title. He was happy to win, but unsatisfied, disappointed. Last year it was evident he wanted to run the fastest time of the two-day state meet and it's 5 boys races, as well as a course record.

This year it was the seemed the same. He was happy to win, but wanted more. Burns acknowledged the conditions kept him from a course record, but that was his last time to ever race Gans Creek, a place he has raced and worked out on so much that he knows it like the back of his hand. Although, the 2025 NCAA Division I Championships will be in Columbia at Gans Creek, so maybe he'll have to shoot for the 10k course record then.

While Burns was happy to win and disappointed the conditions keeping from running faster, he was looking forward to the Midwest Regional meet in Terre Haute, IN., eight days later and the chance to qualify for XC Nationals. Doing that would give him a chance to compete against the country's best and the chance to probe that he's not just a great miler or 2-miler on the track, but one of the very best over hill and dale.

No matter the time at state, Burns put on a show. His effort was eye-popping. He could have cruised to an easy victory and saved some for the post school season, but he didn't. He dug deep and emptied the tank.

Fans were treated to a spectacular performance, one that may not stand out as his fastest performance, but if with the conditions, it may battle Chile Pepper race as his best race of the season.

State was another peak on the Connor Burns resume. A great performance that will be remembered, like so many of his other races, including possibly Sunday at Midwest Regionals, with a trip to nationals on the line.