Yeah, I remember it like it was yesterday.
How could I not? It was the crowning achievement of my adolescent life, the one time I put it all together (and I mean ALL together), and ran the race of my life.
With the 60th annual Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Track and Field Meet fast approaching, my mind always returns to that muggy May evening two decades ago, where I battled Muskegon’s Ramando Bernard in the 300 meter intermediate hurdles.
Interesting aside – my mom was one of Ramondo’s grade school teachers at Moon.
He’d gotten the best of me in the 110 meter High Hurdle finals, for the second straight year, and I was in an ornery mood when the 300 rolled around. I remember saying to myself as we climbed into the blocks, ‘This one’s mine,’ over and over again until I actually believed it.
It was over in less than 39 seconds – 38.8 seconds to be exact.
It’s three hundred meters, three-quarters of lap, with eight hurdles in the way. It’s the race for the kids too feral to run the 400 open, a race already reserved for the craziest of runners.
Instead of folding on the corner, I felt like I had been launched out of the turn. Bernard followed, matching me hurdle for hurdle for most of the final straightaway. Only on the second-to-last hurdle did I sense some separation, though I didn’t ease lest the win be taken from me.
As I crossed the finish line, I had no idea it was a city record. Even more than that, I had no idea the time would stand for 21 years. The hurdles had been raised from the ‘low’ hurdle level to ‘intermediate’ – one hole up – just a few years before, and the city intermediate record was held by my great rival, Western Michigan Christian’s Mark VerMerris, who’d popped off a 39.3 the year before (I came in third behind Ramondo).
You could see why I had no reason to believe the record would stand longer than a season of corn.
So sat two records for essentially the same event, the 300 meter lows and the 300 meter intermediate records, rather cumbersomely beside each other in the official city meet program.
Make no mistake, the athlete listed as the 300 lows record holder, Muskegon’s Derick Stinson, who ran an ineffable 36.6, was the greatest hurdler the area has ever seen.
36.6. Let that sink in.
Stinson also owns the high hurdles record, clocking in at a blistering 14.1. That time is so sick, he would have won most average races by nearly two full seconds.
So, I have no pretense when it comes down to a race between Mr. Stinson and me.
He’d have smoked me and there’s no two ways about it
But two records were listed in the official GMAA program, and on that hot May evening I’d broken one of them, as the stadium announcer (perhaps it was Jim Moyes?) soon let me know.
I would go on to suffer a cruel fate at regionals, and then vindicate myself at some European meets.
And then I hung up my racing spikes.
So after 20 years of waiting for someone, anyone, to best that city record, I have just one thing to say: ‘Come, guys…break it already.’
That probably isn’t going to happen this year, not for dearth of talent, though. As a track coach myself, at Muskegon Catholic, I know as well as anyone how much the lack of normal practice time the weather in 2014 has plagued area runners. My own runners barely got outside before Spring Break, what with ice piled high along our favorite preseason running course, the Scenic, let alone the foot of snow remaining on the track. When everyone returned from vacation, the next two weeks of meets were wiped out due to, wait for it…snow, wind, and icy rain. We finally got in a couple meets the last couple of weeks, but I can’t remember a time we’ve had to head into the city meet with just two meets under our belts.
But then, adversity brings out the best sometimes. Maybe the ruthless conditions made one or two prospective hurdlers rougher then rock.
Having endured that, Friday evening they’ll find themselves looking down the straightway in the 300 intermediate hurdles realizing they have a decision to make: To fade or to flourish…because rarely is there any other choice.
Certainly not in the 300.
And maybe they’ll run the race of their lives.
I for one would love to see it. I will be right near the finish line ready to congratulate him when he does do it. I’ll tell him I expect his record to stand for 20 years too, and that I hope he’s there when someone bests his best.
‘Cause every record has to fall sometime.
We wouldn’t keep them if they never changed.