I was late leaving the finish line at then-Woodward Field to get to the discus circle inside the opposite corner at the Frontier League track and field meet at Eastern Washington University.
I wanted to see Vinnie Pecht throw the discus a couple of times.
Turns out, I was in the right place at the right time.
About halfway there, I saw Pecht step into ring. I stopped and watched as Pecht levered his long arms, spun his big frame and let fly. The discus rose into the evening sky and just kept floating away before hitting the grass, taking several bounces and skidding to a spot dangerously close to the starting line.
Everyone that saw the discus soar well beyond the measuring crew knew something special had happened.
I ran to the ring, arriving just in time to hear the announcement: 207 feet, 2 inches.
That was 23 years ago this spring and the mark still stands as the best in Washington high school history.
In two decades of writing about almost every sport imaginable at The Spokesman-Review, the only beat I had from the beginning to my retirement in 2011 was high school track and field.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I miss track stories and results in my newspaper. It also caused me to clean out the box I brought home from work, where I discovered a piece of paper.
I always had a feeling that I had witnessed many outstanding athletes, but I didn’t know how many until that old scrap paper piqued my interest. So I ordered the latest edition of the Track & Field Annual and went down memory lane.
I ended up with a list of the top area athletes I covered in each event. I also counted how many others were still in the top 100 on the state’s all-time list for each event.
My memory was right: There were a lot of great athletes doing great things, exploits I got to chronicle.
In the 35 events I saw, 15 athletes or relays teams were the best in The Spokesman-Review Washington circulation area at the time. Six were state records, though Pecht is the only one still standing. Overall, 13 remain in the top 10.
That doesn’t mean I saw West Valley’s Rashad Toussaint triple jump a state-record 50-8 3/4 at Hart Field, but I did see him jump many times.
I saw the metronome-like 3,200-meter run at the 2006 state meet by Mt. Spokane’s Megan O’Reilly that ended in a state record of 10 minutes, 5.81 seconds.
Those two performances slipped to No. 2 in state history, along with Becca Noble’s 2005 time of 2:03.73 in the 800 for Rogers.
Speaking of No. 2, I saw five of those marks.
Two of those are titanic – well, at least by University Titans, sprinter Anthony Buchanan and pole vaulter Tyson Byers.
Byers’ 17-1 vault in the night sky of the district meet at Central Valley in 2002 remains one of the more remarkable things I saw. In the final two meets of his career, I was afraid to miss a jump that might lead to him topping the 17-4 3/4 of Orting’s Casey Carrigan in 1969.
Buchanan ran 10.43 in the 100 and 21.13 in the 200, at the time (2000) second to JaWarren Hooker of Ellensburg. Buchanan’s times remain fourth and third, respectively, on the all-time list.
Noble is still No. 2 in the 400 with a 53.3 and she was the fastest I saw in the 200 at 24.62.
Speed and the horizontal jumps were a little thin in my time. Nine times for the boys and seven for the girls are in the top 100 for the three springs, and the all-time area total is 50 out of 600 spots. For the long and triple jumpers, I saw just nine of our 29 in the top 100.
On the flip side, this area is well known for its distance runners, but because of legends named Lindgren (Gerry) and Hand (Annette), in the 1,600 and 3,200, I only got to see O’Reilly reach the top.
Even with what the distance runners have done, especially at North Central, since I faded into the sunset, I still covered 36 of the area’s top 58 runners in the two events for the boys and 20 of the 37 for girls. Area distance runners account for almost 25% of the top 100 spots for four combined events.
GSL athletes make up the bulk of the top athletes, but in 11 of the events the No. 1 spot on my list goes to small schools, which includes West Valley, even though the Eagles were in the GSL for a while. Besides Pecht and Toussaint, Stacey Adams is the top of my 300 hurdles list back in 1998.
There are a pair of javelin throwers on the list, or a quartet.
Jamie Weisner of Clarkston, which was in the GSL with West Valley, East Valley and Cheney, tops the girls (148-10 in 2011) and David Musson of Colville had a then-state record (212-7) in 2007.
The javelin specifications changed in 2002, restricting the flight for safety reasons. Mead’s Allison Beatty (155-3 in 1997) and Ryan Eddington (217-3 in 1993) were the best I saw with the “old javelin.”
Pullman also put three on the list in long jumper Ricardo Colon, hurdler John Cassleman and Kate Hutchinson in the discus. Newport has a pair, high hurdler Aric Walder and shot putter Adam Castle. The other is Lakeside’s Anandae Clark in the pole vault.
Some marks were made after my last season, but I covered athletes who were promising underclassmen and reached their best later.
I just wish I could get my fix this weekend.
I’d be waiting for my morning newspaper to see if NC junior Allie Janke, the fastest 1,600 runner from our area, could win her third consecutive championship and find 5 more seconds to challenge O’Reilly’s 3,200 time. Would junior Jordynn Hutchinson of Mead defend her shot put title, which was the sixth won by the family, and challenge three-time champion Courtney’s family record of 47-7 while surpassing sister’s Corissa and Ashley?
And I would be helping at the small school meet at Cheney, hoping to see the next Rosalie Fish, whose inspiring story of running for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women had a profound effect on my life.
But then again, I can probably say that about hundreds of kids I met thanks to track and field.
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