Two-Time National Cross Country Champion Lukas Verzbicas Signs NLI with Oregon

EUGENE, Ore. -- Lukas Verzbicas, who in December became the first back-to-back Foot Locker cross country national champion in a decade, has signed a National Letter of Intent to join the Men of Oregon's track and field team next season, Associate Athletic Director Vin Lananna announced Wednesday.

Following those wins, Verzbicas was named the Gatorade national boys cross country runner of the year, an honor he claimed for the second season in a row.

Lukas Verzbicas is a phenomenal competitor from a gifted athletic family and is one of the most exciting young stars in track and field, said Lananna. Our entire staff is thrilled to welcome him as the newest member of the Men of Oregon and this special community. I know that the passionate fans of Track Town, USA, will embrace him with open arms.

Verzbicas, from Orland Park, Ill., also became the first high school runner to sweep both major national cross country titles - the Nike Cross Nationals and Foot Locker national championships - when he won those two races in December.

He first won the individual 5,000-meter title at the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland on Dec. 4 with a time of 15:59.2. A week later, at the Foot Locker national championships in San Diego, Verzbicas became the first repeat champion since Dathan Ritzenhein in 1999-00. He ran 14:59 (5,000 meters) to win by more than 11 seconds.

It's a dream come true going to Oregon because the whole history behind it is just tremendous, Verzbicas told Flotrack on Wednesday. The whole team dynamic and how they bring it together is just tremendous.

The whole atmosphere is just amazing, he said. You couldn't get that anywhere else.

Verzbicas is a two-time Illinois Class 3A state cross country champion for Carl Sandburg High School and will graduate early, having skipped his junior year on an accelerated academic program. He ran a personal-best 13:54.00 in winning the 2010 three-mile Illinois cross country state title.

The native of Kaunas, Lithuania, led the U.S. in the mile among high schoolers with a time of 4:04.38 as a sophomore in 2010. That was the winning time from the adidas Grand Prix in New York. He also holds the national high school indoor record in the 5,000 meters at 14:18.42, set in 2009 at the Nike Indoor National meet in Boston.

Verzbicas is the first men's track and field signee of a 2011 class that will be announced later this week, and is expected to be among Oregon's best for the second year in a row. The Men of Oregon's 2010 signing class was rated No. 1 nationally by Track & Field News.

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