Here is what US miling great Jim Spivey said about US distance running today. Some good observation from a former 3:49 mile runner. Like others on this forum he points out US distance running was indeed better 20 years ago.
"U.S. distance running has been pretty bad for the last decade or so, what do you contribute this to?"
Jim Spivey: The loss of older foreign athletes competing in college is a major part. Yes, it does take scholarships away from American athletes. But why should a 5000 meters be won in 13:55? I can remember in 1980, watching Sulimen Nyambui of UTEP running 13:20's to win, and thinking, I have to get better. I would much rather have a higher goal to achieve, than to say I was a NCAA champion running 14:00. Others included Henry Rono (world record holder in the steeplechase, 8:05); Sydnee Maree of South Africa and now a USA citizen (current American record holder at 1500 meters, 3:29.77); and others. Some were as many as 8-10 years older than me. I may not have liked it, but it made me a better athlete. I believe that if the state cross country meet at Detweiller is won in 14:50, the next year's returning athletes think, "Hey, if I can run 15:05, I have a chance to place high." When Marius Bakken came in for the one year, he put a resurgence in Illinois distance running. He ran 14:30 early in the season, and everyone though, OK, this is what I have to do. You saw the Torres brothers, Don Sage, and then Mr. Pifer come from Marius' racing.
In 1994, I was ranked #2 for the USA in the 1500 meters at 3:36, and only two athletes had run under 13:40 for 5000 meters (Bob Kennedy and I). We had no depth. Compare this to 1983, when I ran 3:50.59 (3:34) for the mile at age 23 in Oslo to finish second, but was ranked the fifth fastest American. Scott, Maree, Byers, and Harbor had run faster. I knew that to be number one, I had to beat other 3:50 milers.
Well, at one time the US had a quite a few 3:50 milers. In the early 80's the US was a powerhouse in the mile. Only Great Britain was better in this event. Can you imagine Lunn running with Scott, Spivey, Maree, Byers, and Harbor. Tim Hacker is another 3:50 miler you could add to this list from the 80's.