Senior Nolan Hester Wins 2021 Kentucky Dream Mile

Luke Napier

With a time of 4:18.82, Nolan Hester took the 2021 Kentucky Dream Mile victory at Saint Xavier High School on Friday, April 30th. 

In a field made up of the top 16 mile runners from the state of Kentucky, the Kentucky Dream Mile was bound to be a candidate for race of the year from the start. It didn’t disappoint. Conditions were nearly perfect for a fast race, as only a slight headwind faced the runners down the back stretch of the Brother Thomas More Page Stadium. 

Heading into the race, multiple Tigers qualified in the weeks leading up to it. However, only two including Nolan Hester and Sami Hattab would toe the line. Hester, who is undefeated in his final outdoor season as a Tiger, was seeded 5th with a time of 4:22.59. However, he was still one of the favorites leading up to the race, as he had yet to go head to head against some of the other competitors seeded ahead of him. He was also the KTCAA Class AAA Indoor State Champion in the 1500m, with a school record and nation leading time of 3:58.27.

Hattab, a sophomore, was more of an underdog coming into the race, as he was seeded 14th overall. He was also the only sophomore to qualify and one of the youngest participants this year. 

The 15 Dream Mile qualifiers step to the line as Head Coach Kyle Yochum fires the starting gun. (Mike Garcia)

The gun went off at 9 pm with 15 of the 16 runners present. Within the first 100m of the race, Hester launched to the front of a tight pack separated by less than two seconds and settled in nicely. Though many thought that the race would begin in dramatic fashion with a fast opening lap, quite the opposite ensued, as they came through the 400m mark in 1:07–remarkably slow for such a fast field. This would continue through the second lap, as Hester continued to lead, coming through in a time of 2:15 at the halfway mark. 

Nolan Hester leads the pack through the second lap as the field bunches up. (Mike Garcia)

Once they hit that halfway mark though, the pace slowly began to ramp up, with Hester coming through the third lap in the lead going 1:04 for the previous 400m. It was still anybody’s race with 400m to go, but Fern Creek’s Jimmy Mullarkey and Madisonville’s Jackson Watts were able to separate themselves from the pack along with Hester within the first 100m of the lap. 

Watts briefly took the lead on the turn, making a strong move that worried some of the home crowd, but Hester quickly parried with a surge of his own on the backstretch to retake the lead. With 200m to go, Mullarkey moved to the outside onto Hester’s right shoulder, but Hester, feeling Mullarkey’s presence, took off one final time and cemented his victory coming off the final turn. From there on, Hester cruised to the finish, growing his lead with each stride on his way to first place. His final 800m split was 2:03.12 seconds faster than his first 800m, as well as a 57.43 final 400m, the fastest split of the night. 

Hester charges down the home stretch on his way to a 1st place finish. (Mike Garcia)

Not far behind him came Sami Hattab, finishing in 7th place with a time of 4:29.06. It was an impressive finish for Hattab, as it was a Personal Best in the event and a sign of things to come for the young sophomore. He will surely be a contender for next year’s race, as he has a bright future ahead of him. 

Sami Hattab (left) sprints down the final straightaway to a 7th place finish. (Mike Garcia)

Hester was only the third ever Tiger to win the event—the first since Matthew Thomas in 2016. Created in 2010 as a way to bring together the best milers from the state of Kentucky, regardless or region or division, the Dream Mile has become a distinguished event that many of the top distance runners aim to compete in each year. Hester’s win was a remarkable accomplishment, especially as he led for almost the entirety of the race.

Hester acknowledges the home crowd as his victory is officially announced. (Mike Garcia)

“My best part of my race is the last part, so once I see that finish line, my mentality just spikes and I go after it,” Hester said. “I had a lot left in the tank so [that] really helped me kinda just spread the gap.”

With just under 6 weeks to go in the season, Hester will more than likely be the favorite to win the State Championship on June 12th. In a thrilling performance, St. Xavier’s own Nolan Hester won the 2021 Kentucky Dream Mile, a race that will surely be remembered forever.