By 1987 The Pathmark Invitational had reached a level the founders had not expected. We felt it would take at least 6-7 years before we'd have this many states, 32, in attendance. Remember, our first event saw a total of 18 states and a lot of opposition from many state high school athletic associations. It was, and still is, the policy of the National Federation to discourage national championships. As I stated in last month's piece, the phrase "National High School Championships" had been copyrighted by the NFHSAA thus preventing anyone else from using it. But, as written by Victor Hugo, "…there is nothing as strong as an idea whose time has come." And a National Championship, official or unofficial, was an idea whose time had come. Simply put, the United States was built by men and women who were the most competitive on earth. They gave up everything to pile onto tiny ships and sail across an angry ocean to a land that…? They knew not what, but they were determined to overcome every obstacle and they did. It was a natural progression their descendants would carry much of that same spirit. Americans have always wanted to know who is the best. Jim Spier's idea and Tracy Sundlun's vision brought that idea to fruition for the sport of track and field.
Thus, in its fourth year, the Pathmark Invitational had grown to include athletes from 32 states, the District of Columbia and a few from Canada. New Mexico, Montana, North Dakota, Alabama all were represented. California had become a major player sending over two dozen kids. Why did they come? The main reason I just mentioned, who's the best? We'd started a tradition that endures even now, the ring symbolic of the National Champion. Official? Unofficial? No one cared. To earn the right to wear that ring meant YOU were the best in the United States. But there were, and still are, other reasons. The meet is the finest administered competition in the nation.
With the generous grant from Pathmark, the meet was the first to provide Travel/Housing grants thus insuring every athlete who should be at the meet was given the opportunity to do so. It is no exaggeration to state over the 25 years the meet has been in existence; between $2,500,000 and $3,000,000 in T/H grants have been awarded.
The Pathmark grant has long since departed and today; NIKE makes it possible for us to continue this magnificent competition. BUT, as usual, I digress. Let's talk about the meets.
1987 may have seen the greatest high school meet of all time. As I've stated before, the 400m race was the greatest high school performance of my young life. William Reed vs Steve Lewis; East Coast vs West. There was a little bad blood between the two based on performances and non-performances of the year before. Lewis may have felt Reed had dodged him the prior spring and was more than a little irked about all the publicity the young Pennsylvanian was getting. Remember, Reed had split a SUB-45 anchoring the US 4x4 team at the inaugural World Junior competition in Athens the year before. The pair finished 1-2 in the 1986 ranking, Reed at 45.4, Lewis just back, 46.50. It is no stretch to say that Lewis came East for a showdown.
But that wasn't the only superb match up. Andre Cason faced off against Mike Bates in the 55; the 800 field was awesome, George Kersh, MS, Paul Vandegrift, PA and Mike Remigino, CT would change the All-Time list quite a bit; Brendan Matthias came down from Canada to do battle with Paul Thomas. A year prior, Thomas, running for Jesuit HS in Carmichael, CA, clocked a 4:14.4 for a full mile and failed to make the California HS state meet! California takes only the top two kids per league and Thomas' teammates, the Mastalir's, Mark at 4:05.58 and brother Eric, 4:05.66! were possibly the finest brother mile combo ever, poor Thomas wasn't even close despite ranking #37-US! The Two Mile was, perhaps, the best field in the meet. Originally it held four athletes who would go on to Olympic glory, three Americans and a Canadian. MARC DAVIS, TODD WILLIAMS and BOB KENNEDY for the US and NICK TSORIOS, Canada. However, after the mile Matthias was disgusted with his performance and asked to run the deuce. We, Spier and I, agreed. Thus, a fifth Olympian-to-be was added. This field resulted in what was probably the greatest 2 mile indoor ever run. More on that later. One of the best athletes I've ever seen, JOE GALEANO was in the hurdles against KELLY CARTER and ROGET WARE out of Michigan. A great mano a mano raced in the 4x4 saw HAWTHORNE, CA vs CENTRAL, Philadelphia with Reed on the anchor!
The Field Events were also packed with quality. I recall writing in the Preview article for the program a piece highlighting THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. These were the top seven high jumpers in the US. Two neighbors from Virginia Beach, KEITH HOLLEY and ANDRE CASON squared off in the Long Jump. LARRY MOORE and Holley vied in the triple along with MACARTHUR ANDERSON.
All this and I haven't even mentioned the Girls!
The 55m was loaded! ESTHER JONES, CARYL SMITH, CARLETTE GUIDRY and MONIQUE EVERETT (two Olympians — can you guess which two? Neither won the race.) The 55mH had a terrific field but is best remembered for one of the greatest falls in history! Also, one of the best "escapes" took place the day after the meet. More later.
THE GIRLS: One of the finest athletes in LSU history, ESTHER JONES looked OK in the trials and semis but took second in both. Soon to be Olympian CARLETTE GUIDRY took her in the trials and CARYL SMITH in the semis. Junior MONIQUE EVERETT was strong while a young Long Islander, DIANNE ADKINS loomed as a contender. and the final was eagerly anticipated. When the gun sounded, Guidry sped to the front with Everett close; Smith and the tall Jones were just back. Both came on with Smith out leaning Guidry for the gold. Both clocked 6.86. Adkins, running the race of her life, took the bronze with Everett and Jones in a photo (7.03-7.03-7.04.)
JANEENE VICKERS, who won AOY honors outdoors, came in to take on TASHA DOWNING in the 400 winning in 54.95 (#8-AT) with junior Downing back in 55.49. One of the finest athletes to ever come out of New York City, SHOLA LYNCH took the measure of New Jersey's JASMIN JONES, 2:10.60 — 2:11.72. Sister NNENNA LYNCH won her ring in a great race against Maine's WENDY DELAN, 4:55.46 — 4:55.54 with Delan's finishing surge leaving her just short. Frosh MONICA RUIZ set two national frosh records, 9:55.05 (3000m) and 10:35.19 (two miles.) But the gold medal went to DENISE BUSHALLOW, 10:30.47.
One fascinating note; the entire Villanova XC team that won the NCAA title ran in the meet. The Lynch sisters, IRENE RUOPOLI, CHRIS GENTILE and KATE FONSHELL. Not a bad haul for coach Marty Stern.
MONIQUE EVERETT won the hurdles, 8.01 with Virginian great LISA WELLS, 8.09 and NYC legend MONIFA TAYLOR third, 8.10. Another Virginian who went on to do something rarely achieved, making an Olympic team in two different events, SHARON COUCH was leading the race when she hit the final hurdle, did a cartwheel almost resulting in a flip and failed to finish. I can still see her flailing through the air but, miraculously emerging unhurt. (Byrnes Bonus: In what two events did Couch make the Olympic team? First one to email me the answer wins a new Boeing 747 jet! No? How about a copy of Jack Shepard's HS Annual? firstname.lastname@example.org
The 4x800mR was a huge disappointment…to me. NOTRE DAME set a new HSR, 9:13.50 BUT my team, WANTAGH held the old mark and we left the record books.
The high Jump was a superb competition with New Yorker ALISON SMITH besting Florida's HOLLEY KELLY, 5-11.25 — 5-10. In the Triple Jump another Wantagh kid set a national record, SUZANNE SILVIS going 37-5, a new freshman mark.
THE BOYS: Before I get into this, I should make something clear, some years the Boys fields are superior to the Girls and vice versa. This year, 1987, was one for the books, for the Boys books. Take a look.
ANDRE CASON, who went on to set a World Record in the 60m dash bested MIKE BATES, who went on to a splendid career in the NFL, 6.27 — 6.37. Another NFL star-to-be, TICO DUCKETT took fifth, 6.51 (6.45h.) The 400m race between WILLIAM REED and 1988 Olympic champion STEVE LEWIS has been covered in an earlier article. Suffice it to say, this was the greatest high school race I ever saw. Remember, Yale's track was a flat, board track with four lanes. Reed clocked 47.69 to Lewis' 48.60! What would they have run on todays super fast surfaces? Low 46's? Who knows?
The 800 winner has to be one of our sports hardest luck guys, GEORGE KERSH. He missed out on two Olympic teams by a combined total of about .43 and .03! In 1988 his 1:45.35 left him .44 out of third and four years later he clocked 1:44.00 losing to Jose Parilla's 1:43.97. Today Kersh, on of high schools greatest middle distance runners, is an assistant coach back at his alma mater, Pearl HS in Mississippi.
The Two Mile: The field has already been covered. Now to the race. The field of 12 stayed bunched for six laps. This alone is evidence of a great race. They were running at a sub-9:00 mile pace and eleven were still in contention. The race produced the TOP FIVE indoor times of 1987! MARC DAVIS, 8:24.14-8:58.34; TODD WILLIAMS, 8:26.41-9:00.39; PAUL THOMAS, 8:30.58-9:01.76; TJ MCARDLE, 8:32.05-9:06.05 and BOB KENNEDY, 8:34.92-9:08.44. The winner, Canadian Brendan Mathias, 8:22.64-8:54.46 only moved away over the final two laps. With six kids under 9:10 and eleven of the twelve finalists at 9:12.76 or better, this establishes the race as one of the finest ever, if not, THE finest.
HAWTHORNE, CA had the reputation as the best high school 4x400m relay school in the nation and they came in to prove it. Their competition, William Reed's CENTRAL PHILADELPHIA squad. Despite Reed's 46.1 anchor, the Westerners prevailed 3:19.44 (#4-AT) to 3:19.82 (#8-AT.)
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN turned out to be THE MISERABLE FLOPS (and I don't mean Fosbury!) Jim Spier and I crossed paths and I asked who had won the high jump and how high had they gone? He answered 6-09.75 and WILLIAM LENOIR, AL. I was stunned! Who'd ever heard of William Lenoir? All the 7 footers in the field cleared 6-08 and went home. Never assume anything.
I should have written about THE TREMENDOUS TRIUMVIRATE of Andre Cason, Keith Holley and Larry Moore, all from the Virginia Beach area. Cason won the 55; Holley edged him in the long jump 25-03.25-24-10.5 with Moore besting Holley in the triple jump, 51-07-51-03.5.
WHAT A MEET!!!
1988 saw another increase in states represented as ten newcomers entered. But we lost four from '87 so the total states in attendance was 38. The meet had truly become national in scope. But after the greatness of 1987 it would be impossible for 1988 to grow in stature. Frosh DERESA WALTERS, NY set a frosh mark, 10:31.54 (#14-AT) finishing second to LAURIE GOMEZ, 10:22.82 (#7-AT.) MONIFA TAYLOR's 7.81 was a new high school record (hsr) and #3-AT. She had to run that fast to beat LISA WELLS, VA, 7.84 (#5-AT.) The aforementioned SUZANNE SILVIS broke the soph record with her triple jump of 38-07.
SAMUEL TILDEN, NY clocked 1:41.15 in the 4x200mR for a new hsr with HAWTHORNE, CA two strides back, 1:41.57, also under the old mark. Tilden came back to take the 4x400mR, 3:48.64 (#3-AT.)
THE BOYS meet was also rather lack luster. Soph STEVE ADDERLY, FL posted a new soph 800m mark of 1:54.28 while losing to NY's DENNIS WEBSTER, 1:54.03.
BOBBY KENNEDY, who would go on to greatness representing the United States, won the mile, 4:10.59. The 55mH saw a great race between SCOTT FLETCHER, NC and BRETT SHIELDS, PA, won by the Tarheel, 7.22-7.24, the #'s 4 & 6-AT. Back in the pack was another hurdler of note, although he didn't make the final here, one Derrick Adkins, 4th in his semi, 7.47. He got better.
The pole vault saw the entrance of TOMMY RICHARDS, CA one of Olympic champion Bob Richards's sons. He went 15-6 to take the gold. Later, he would take top honors in the pentathlon with 3755 points, #2-AT. KEITH HOLLEY returned to successfully defend his long jump title with an effort of 25-01. He beat a junior from PA, DION BENTLEY, and 24-10.5. Far down in the results was another kid of whom we would hear much in the future although he had to move to another event, ALAN JOHNSON, Olympic and World hurdle champion. His jump of 22-07.5 was good enough for 13th.
Due to one of the great changes of pace in history, Keith Holley set a national high school mark that still stands, 52-07.5 in the triple jump. Change of pace? Here's the story. On his final attempt, I felt Holley had been bothered by the sound of the starter's gun. I told the official to give him another attempt. The official balked and I insisted. Just prior to Holley's attempt, the official complained to Meet Director Tracy Sundlun and Sundlun began chewing me out for interfering with an official. In the middle of his tirade Holley raced down the runway, hopped, stepped and jumped to a new national record! Sundlun, without a pause, stopped in mid-tiradic sentence, and said, "Good call Byrnsie", patted me on the back and went over to congratulate Holley.
1989 saw a slight loss in teams. We picked up three, Wyoming, Nevada and North Dakota but lost several leaving us with a state attendance of 34. Still, we weren't overly concerned as the total state representation through our first five years had reached a total of 44. The '89 meet saw the emergence of several kids who would go on to greatness. We have always maintained one of the reasons for the success of our sport at the international level is the athletes' early exposure to Elite competition. We are the only nation in the world with a high school system for sports. Most other nations have clubs where a young athlete goes, joins and is mentored by many Elite athletes thus speedily enhancing his/her own abilities. Our system contains far more potentially fine athletes many of whom are lost due to poor coaching, apathy, lack of funding, attraction of other sports and a host of other reasons. As a former coach I've seen first-hand how poor much of the high school coaching is, a topic about which I've written previously. One example and a horrible one at that, the triple jump. The best female tj'ers in the US are no match for those Junior (19 and under) athletes from the rest of the world. Rarely does an American Junior woman advance beyond the first round of competition. Making the final is a dream as evidenced by the fact that in the eight competitions since the event was added to the World Junior program, only TWO of our kids advanced to the finals, Lisa Austin in '92, 10th — 40-09 and Erica McLain, '04, 11th — 42-03.5 (43-07.75 qualifying.) One year, no American met the qualifying standard and this nation was not represented. But, I digress. Sorry
If the 1987 meet was, perhaps, the greatest of all time, the 1989 was certainly one of the weakest. DERRICK LOVE, MD took both sprints, 6.28-21.99 with NYC's MIKE WILLIAMS breaking Floyd Heard's junior class mark, 22.05 better than the hand timed 22.0, which converts to 22.14 FAT. More importantly, one of William Reed's records, his sophomore mark of 21.7 falling to TYRONE TURPIN's 21.78 out of H1.
Denver's ALBER RANSOME clocked an impressive 48.18 with BRAD SUMNER taking the 800 in a rather pedestrian 1:55.29. (Ed. Note: Being at the "nationals" had become so important to the nation's athletes that Sumner's team, McQuaid Jesuit of Rochester, competed in the NY state meet the day before, drove from upstate NY to Annapolis, arriving at about 2:00am. As I recall, Sumner won the 1000m the day before. More on this later.)
The mile, won by TODD ORVIS, 4:13.99, saw our first great brother combination. Out of Rhode Island, ANDREW and NEAL BUTLER take 2-3, 4:14.70-4:14.81.
Texan JAYSON LAVENDER tied the junior class record of 17-0 held by Joe Dial and had a great miss at 17-3. No one else was close. The meet's best individual performance on the Boy's side had to be DION BENTLEY's long jump of 25-11.5, #3-AT and a meet record. For you oldsters reading this, Bentley broke the mark of 25-5.25 set by a pretty good football player, Eric Metcalf. The best event? The triple jump won by Georgian BRIAN TABOR, 50-5.5 with 2-3-4 all over 49-4. The leader going into the final round was MARCUS SUTTON, out of North Forsyth, NC, at 49-7. The final round was one of the best ever. Jumping 3rd from last, TYRELL TAITT, NC tied for the lead with a jump of 49-7. Tabor raced down the runway and landed 50-5 into the pit. Sutton's final attempt came up agonizingly short, 49-7.75!
Our only national record on the Boys side was in the 4x200mR, 1:28.25 by HAWTHORNE, CA. Coming close, ROB PENDERGRIST, ME in the pentathlon with marks of 7.62 (55mH), 21-10.75 (LJ), 37-0.5 (SP), 6-7 (HJ), 2:44.33 (1000m) and ending up #2-AT. But the field was quite impressive as the #4, #5, #9 and #11 All Time performances were turned. BRIAN KELLEY, MA effort, 3554, set a new Junior class record.
One of those who would become a legend in the annals of our sport in the country competed again…and again…in the wrong event. Jumping 6-6.75 and finishing 12th, ALLEN JOHNSON. Still, not bad for a hurdler. THE GIRLS saw the emergence of ANGELA BURNHAM. She took the 200m here, 24.80 (24.70-H4 - #7-AT.) besting ANDREA LEE, WI, 24.88.
The 800m was another lack luster race but back in third, 2:17.02 was a young woman who would make a couple Olympic teams, SARAH SCHWALD. I'm finishing this up on the eve of the Millrose Games and I still recall Schwald and Cheri Goddard (Kenah) fighting it out on the final turn of the Girl's mile with Schwald cutting Goddard off and 17,000 people booing her for it! How many high school kids can boast of angering 17,000 people?
The Triple Jump was another fine event as the top three, MILLICENT SHABAZZ, VA, JENNIFER McDERMOTT, NJ and MARCHELLE PAYNE, VA all turned in top ten efforts, 40-1.25 (#3), 39-10.5 (#5) and 39-3 (=#9.)
The Pentathlon saw two national class records set. TELISA YOUNG, PA winning with 3559, Junior mark and CARRIE POLLOCK, WI 3184 good for a new frosh performance.
One of the reasons for the mostly average marks had to do with the track. For several reasons we were forced to move the meet from Yale. For a time it looked like there would be no meet. At the last minute we gained entry to the United States Naval Academy's facility. Decent track but nowhere near the quality of Yale. Two stories of that meet must be told.
The first has to do with Jim Spier and the hotel. He knew there were several teams and individuals coming down from the New York meet. Accordingly, he told the desk clerks to hold the rooms Spier needed for those people. He got to bed about 1am after putting out the inevitable fires sparked by an event of this size. At 2:30 his phone rang. It was the coach from McQuaid, "They have no rooms for us." Spier got up, dressed and went to the lobby. The clerks had ignored his orders to save the rooms and let them go. Spier gave the wonderfully understanding coach a handful of money and told him the next closest rooms were nearly 20 miles away. The coach THANKED Jim and took his kids back into the van and found some rooms. There's a great ending to this story. Not only did Sumner win the 800m but McQuaid's 4x800mR squad becomes our first team to break 8:00 finishing in 7:59.3!
The other story concerns yours truly. My son and daughter-in-law usually worked at the meet in whatever capacity where needed. My grandson, another Mike, was about 5-6 (years old) at the time. Suddenly, about 10pm, the fire alarm sounded. Spier and I headed for the front desk where I, pompous jerk that I was, emphatically told everyone within ear shot, "If we find out who did this, I want them prosecuted! No excuses, none. They WILL be arrested!" Just about at the end of my tirade, who comes around the corner with tears streaming, my grandson. "I'm sorry Granddad, really sorry." Needless to say, the police were NOT called and I learned a valuable lesson.
At meet's end we sat down and felt pretty good about what we'd achieved. The toughest task had been finding a place to hold the event, we did that; next, getting the kids from the New York state meet to Annapolis, got that taken care of; finding adequate housing (when I went there to meet with the Annapolis folks, they were openly skeptical as to my claims we'd fill EVERY hotel room, then they had to open a slightly unfinished hotel to partially accommodate our contestants, parents, officials, fans, etc) we handled that and so…we went to bed happy.
That's all for now. Next month we'll move into the 1990's and see one of my personal goals fulfilled. What? Having EVERY ONE of the 50 states represented.
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