Vandalia-Butler senior Danny Neff has emerged as the prohibitive favorite to win the OHSAA
Division I state title in the 1,600 meters – and perhaps even the 800, too. With a 2009 personal best of 4:09.8 the Vandalia Butler senior is currently ranked fifth in the nation in the mile.
VANDALIA – Danny Neff has emerged as the prohibitive favorite to win the OHSAA Division I state title in the 1,600 meters – and perhaps even the 800 meter crown, too.
With a 2009 personal best of 4:09.8 the Vandalia Butler senior is currently ranked fifth in the nation in the mile.
“This is my final chance and I want to go out with a bang,” said Neff, the defending D-I state champion – both indoors and outdoors – at 1,600 meters. “I want to set a state record before I am done. I want to leave my mark on the record book.”
He also has the state’s best time (1:53.49) in the 800 meters, but with Quincy Downing (Glenville, 1:55.56), Jake Hilner (Wadsworth, 1:55.87), Moise Frisch (Whitmer, 1:56.13), and Devon Snack (Brunswick, 1:56.52) following in close pursuit there will be a much smaller margin of error.
He even has the Dayton area’s (and Ohio D-I’s) best showing (9:25.46 at the recent Greater Western Ohio Conference championships) in the 3,200 meters, even though he has only competed at that distance once all spring.
“We’re going to run Doug (Norris) in the 3,200 instead because we think it is a race he is much better suited for,” said the Aviators’ veteran distance coach, Andy White. “He has a tremendous amount of endurance while I am unsure if he will ever have the kick that his cousin does.
“But he’s a special runner in his own right, and he’s coming back next year. He is also Danny’s first cousin.”
Two weeks after the upcoming state championships, Neff will travel to Greensboro, North Carolina for a very realistic opportunity to win it all at the Nike high school outdoor track and field nationals.
“We are so excited to be scheduled to run in… meets where I won’t be expected to win by everybody all of the time,” the probable pre-race favorite – despite his protestations – said. “I’ll be a little fish in a big pond, and hopefully all of this hard work is going to pay off.”
Heartwarming tales of above-average local athletes who trained breathtakingly hard their entire lives in order to transform themselves into national level performers are among the most enjoyable yarns told anywhere.
But this story isn’t one of those.
Neff only started to take training for track and field seriously a little over a year ago, and only then because a string of serious knee injuries had forced him to forgo team sports forever.
What this story is really about is a uniquely talented runner with a ton of natural ability and the will to succeed. A gambler, a true racer at heart, this man thinks that he can take anyone. And history shows us that – more often than not – he’s going to be right.
Neff accepted a full-ride track scholarship to the University of Georgia earlier this year, but not before a spirited recruiting war broke out between the Bulldogs and the mighty Buckeyes of The Ohio State University over his future services.
MVP caught up with Neff after a recent practice, along with Norris, a junior at Butler and a state title contender in his own right at 3,200.
We’ll talk with both of them in a rare and unusually detailed interview.
We also talked at length with Coach White, about strategy, cousins, and the state of interscholastic middle-distance running in general.
So, tag along as we learn what goes through the mind of a national championship caliber performer and his entourage during the crucial preparation phase before a series of high profile races.
We have a lot of ground to cover…