If nothing else, we live by a simple creed: Anything you can do, I can do better.
When it comes to one of the oldest sport we have – track and field – we have a long tradition of keeping records down to fractions of a second.
We love to keep records. World records. National records. State records. School records.
Walk into almost any high school in the area and one can find a display of track and field records.
We set out to find the ones that have collected the most dust – the ones that have been hanging around the longest.
Records that were set when tracks were made from cinders and shoes had neither swooshes nor stripes.
One school record blew away the others – both for the accomplishment itself as well as for how long it’s stood.
Carl Johnson was a student at Lewis and Clark when the school as we know it today opened in 1912. As a senior in 1915, he set the school record in the long jump with a leap of 23 feet, 4 1/2 inches.
“It means a lot to the kids on our track and field team,” LC coach Bret Bohlen said. “For them to see an Olympic silver medalist, that went to LC, at the top of the records makes them realize how many great athletes have come through LC and that to beat that record would be something very special. It’s a high standard.
“To see a record stand that long is incredible. The tracks back then were nowhere near what they are today and for Carl Johnson to jump that far is amazing. For his record to stand for 104 years shows you that jumping 23-4 1/2 is a tremendous jump. Kids at LC get around 21 or 22 feet, but hitting the 23-foot mark is very hard to do. This record is very special to the LC track program, and when a future athlete breaks his record it’s going to be quite an accomplishment. He will have broken a very important record.”
If Johnson turned in that jump today, it would be the best Class 4A mark in the state by a full inch. Fellow LC Tiger Keani Guthmueller is one of the 10 best long jumpers in the state this season and he just turned in a personal best 21-10 1/2 at the Pasco Invitational.
There is quite a history attached to Johnson’s school record.
For starters, it earned him a berth in the national meet – the Interscholastic Track and Field Games – where he placed second. North Central sent sprinter Evan Person to that same meet and he finished second in the 440.
Johnson competed in track at the University of Michigan and qualified for the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium. He earned a silver medal with a jump of 23-3 1/2 – an inch shy of his school record.
Nick Chalich set the javelin record at Central Valley in 1957. Since schools no longer use that particular javelin in competition, the mark is untouchable.
“Dan Vickery’s 13.8 (seconds) record in the 110-(meter) hurdles will likely stand forever,” CV coach Chuck Bowden said of the 1979 hand-timed record. “That is possibly the most impressive of all our records. Even if you convert it to 14.04, I don’t see that being broken at CV or in the Greater Spokane League.”
As you look through the lists of school record-holders from around the area, you find many familiar names.
Three Olympic athletes still hold school records in the Spokane area: Johnson; Gerry Lindgren (Tokyo Games, 1964), who still holds the school distance records at Rogers; and Annette (Hand) Peters (Barcelona Games, 1992) who does the same at CV.
There could have been four Olympians if you include two-time Olympic pole vaulter Brad Walker from University, who cleared 16 feet as a Titan. His personal best high school vault, however, is 13 inches shy of Tyson Byers’ school record.
Lindgren’s school records in the mile and 2 mile (4 minutes, 1.5 seconds and 8:40, respectively) have stood since 1964. Converted to the 1,600 and 3,200 equivalent for comparison, they are 4:00.1 and 8:36.98, respectively.
Tracking the oldest girls track and field records is more of a challenge.
Equal funding for girls sports didn’t happen until Title IX came along in 1972. Prior to that, records weren’t exactly treated with the respect they deserved.
That’s what makes Becky Clark’s high jump record at Mead something special.
Clark found a flyer for an All-County girls track and field meet at Medical Lake High School and presented it to her coach, Joanne Christopher. She offered to help round up some athletes to put together a team.
Clark was an avid high jumper. She not only taught herself how to jump with the traditional Western Roll, but she was one of the first jumpers to embrace Dick Fosbury’s backward approach – joining only Fosbury himself, then a jumper at Oregon State, and Canadian record holder Debbie Brill, who had her own backward style dubbed “The Brill Bend.”
Some meets had high jump pits filled with sawdust in 1968.
“I couldn’t chance flopping in a sawdust pit,” Clark recalled. “At this meet they had a foam pit, so I flopped.”
She cleared 5-8 to win the meet, setting a school record that still stands, although it was lost for about a decade after the school took down its wall of records to remodel the school.
Part of the challenge of reinstating Clark’s record stemmed from the fact there was no official record made of such a track meet. Girls sports were not covered in local newspapers – including this one.
Add to that dilemma that some modern events weren’t held until recently. Girls did not throw the javelin or compete in pole vault.
“I remember when my coach came up to me when I was a sophomore,” said Annette Helling, then at Central Valley. “Bill Berg was my coach and he told me he was thinking of having me run the hurdles. I want to say it was the first year girls ran the hurdles.”
She protested, telling the CV coach that she was a sprinter.
“That’s what I want you to do,” he told her. “I want you to sprint over the hurdles.”
She did. Her 14.13-second personal best in the 100 hurdles and 43.12 in the 300 still stand as CV records.
Helling became the girls track coach at Mead, then transferred to Mt. Spokane when that school opened.
Her favorite season was when both of her daughters were together on her squad.
Her youngest daughter, Ashlee Pedersen, holds the 400 record and is part of three school-record relay teams.
But they aren’t the only family to share records.
The Mead School District’s high jump records are held by a mother (Clark) and her son (Casey Clark, 7- 1/2), who jumped his final two seasons at Mt. Spokane.
“I remember being an athlete and looking up at all those records and thinking, ‘Wow,’ ” Helling said. “Now, as a coach, I look at them and I have a whole new level of respect for them and the work that it took to get up there.”