Throwback to another era

For Milford Klaassen of Hillsboro, the glory of accomplishment rests

in working hard to be the best you can be?even if you?re not always

the best in your field.

Klaassen, having invested countless hours to refine his technique, set

a Hillsboro High School record in the shot put that has lasted 31


And he didn?t even win his event.

It was the 1969 Cottonwood Valley League meet. Klaassen unleashed a

throw of 54-103/4 to set a new school and league record.

His league record lasted mere minutes. Gary Melcher of Marion,

Klaassen?s arch rival during his high school career, stepped in the

ring and heaved the shot an amazing 58-63/4.

?It didn?t bother me all that much,? Klaassen recalls. ?I knew I had

done the best I could. I would have loved to beat him, but to me that

wasn?t the big deal because I knew that I couldn?t beat him by my

senior year.?

Indeed, Melcher went on to beat Klaassen?and everybody else?at the

regional and state track meets that year. He also was state champion

in the discus and javelin. His shot put record still stands at Marion

High School.

But Melcher wasn?t Klaassen?s only competition that year. The late

?60s was a golden era of sorts for shot putters in this area.

?There were about four of us who were always competing with each other

wherever we went,? Klaassen recalls. ?You had to throw over 50 feet

just to place. That probably was as much my incentive as anything.?

Klaassen managed five first-place medals his senior year, but didn?t

win every time out. He placed fourth at state on a cold and wet day.

It was the only meet in 1969 when he didn?t throw at least 50 feet.

Klaassen started throwing the shot put in grade school. He credits

coaches Lee Albrecht and Glenn Schrag with getting him started.

In high school, Klaassen came under the tutelage of Don Penner, who

continues coaching Trojan throwers today.

?He?s the one who really encouraged me, and where I really learned the

technique,? Klaassen says. ?He was a shot putter in high school and

college and knew what he was talking about.?

Penner says, ?The thing I remember about him was that he had

tremendous explosion right at the end (of a throw), which is really

what it takes.?

Klaassen first broke the HHS school record during his junior season

with a throw of 53-41/2. He raised that mark to 54-31/2 his senior

year before launching his final record-setter at the league meet.

Klaassen went on to play football and throw the shot at Tabor College.

He set a school record there with the 16-pound shot of 49-2. That

record has since been broken, but not his mark at HHS.

?When you think about 30 years, that?s ancient for anything to last

that long,? he says. ?There have been some guys who have thrown who

have had the ability to break it, but they haven?t been dedicated to

the event.?

Athletes since 1969 have generally grown bigger and stronger than

Klaassen was, but he says body size and strength aren?t the most

important factors for throwing the shot.

?I think technique is probably the most important part,? he says. ?A

lot of the meets I was at?and a lot I see now?the little guy with the

good form is going to beat the big strong guy (with bad form) every


His former coach agrees.

?In high school, you don?t have to be that big if you?ve got good

technique and good explosion,? Penner said.

Klaassen said in his day, strength and conditioning through

weight-lifting was not taken seriously?at least not by athletes.

?In high school we lifted weights during basketball season?(coaches)

made us if we weren?t out for basketball,? Klaassen said. ?But we

spent most of the time messing around. I don?t know that it benefitted

me much. I got most of my strength from farm work?bucking bales and

throwing silage out of the silo. It was a different kind of work.?

From the start, Klaassen liked throwing the shot and found he had some

natural abilities in the event. But his success came from working on

his technique.

?It?s something that you can?t be shown how to do, then just go out

and do it,? he says. ?It doesn?t work that way. I depended a lot on

Coach (Penner) telling me what to do, and then I worked on it.?

School records were frosting on the cake, Klaassen said.

?I took it seriously, but I wasn?t obsessed by it, either,? he said.

?In high school, it was just an event that I did. I don?t know that it

was ever in my mind that I had to break the record. It just happened.?

He also set the school record in the discus, a mark which has since

been broken.

Klaassen has fond memories of his track experience.

?It was something where I didn?t have to depend on anybody else,? he

says. ?If I messed up, it was my fault. If I did good, it was my


?I felt good even though I didn?t win a lot of meets,? he adds. ?I did

as good as I could, the competition was just better. That didn

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