The Friendly Face-Off: Joseph Fahnbulleh vs Elliott McArthur

The Question: Who wins in a matchup at 600 meters? One of the nation's best at 200 meters in 2019, or a rising freshman who had the No. 1 time nationally at 1,600 meters as an 8th-grader? 

The parties: Hopkins High School graduate Joseph Fahnbulleh and Mounds View's Elliott McArthur. 

Originally conceived in April following the Hamline Elite Meet from the minds of Hopkins High School (MN) head boys track coach Nick Lovas and Mounds View girls head XC coach Jimmy McArthur, the young high school pair agreed last week to the face-off and set the date for 4 pm on Tuesday, July 23rd at Hopkins High School.

Fahnbulleh is just a few weeks from enrolling at the University of Florida, where he'll join the Gators track and field team as a promising collegiate sprinter. 

But before that, he actually messaged McArthurt to ask, 'We gonna do this?' 

The distance was set at 600m, which is an appropriate middle ground for an athlete (McArthur) who had never run a track race shorter than 800m and another (Fahnbulleh) who has never run a track race longer than 400m -- although Joe had plenty of distance-running experience, having been a cross country runner for five years.

Minnesota was well-represented last June at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals. In the championship sprint races, Fahnbulleh added to his legacy by taking home national titles in both the 100m and 200m races, while McArthur took home two titles of his own in the middle school Mile and two-mile -- scoring the top two times nationally at those distances, 4:30.49 and 9:45.93. 

Those races concluded the track seasons for both runners, as Fahnbulleh took a break for several weeks before he heads down to train and compete in Gainesville, while McArthur was building a base for his upcoming cross country season with Mounds View.

Neither athlete had done any speed work over that time.

But it didn't stop the two from pondering a duel which could provide multiple levels of novelty: The graduating senior and the incoming freshman, the sprinter and the distance runner, two athletes among the best in the nation for their age. 

Teammates of both athletes helped get the word out about the race, and dozens of spectators representing both family members and students/graduates from half a dozen different schools showed up to cheer on the pair and they raced a lap and a half around the track.

Check out the race: 

Post Script

Fahnbulleh leaves Minnesota holding four state records, each of which were broken handily and is hands-down the greatest male high school sprinter to ever come from the state up to this point, and is one of the headline recruits at one of the nation's best sprinting colleges. McArthur last fall became one of the youngest runners ever to compete at Nike Cross Nationals with his Mounds View team and set a state 8th-grade record in the 1600m -- and US No. 1 time for his class -- with a time of 4:22.40 in the spring. He and his Mounds View teammates will try to earn a state title this fall and make a return trip to NXN.