Math can shed light on the fastest Trojans of all time

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
It’s no mystery why the vintage track and field records at Hillsboro High School are in field events.


After the 1980 season, the records established in running events were unceremoniously retired when Kansas high schools switched from English standard measurements to the metric system.


Field events continued to be measured by the standard English units, but the language and distances of running events changed.


Venerable races such as the 100-yard dash and mile run were succeeded by the odd-sounding 100-meter dash and 1,600-meter run. The infamous “quarter-mile” became the 400-meter dash. And so it went.


That was 20 years ago. Even though all but a few diehard track-and-field fans have made the adjustment by now, it still begs the question: How do the great runners S.M. (Standard Measure) stand up against the great runners M.S. (Metric System)?


We can say with some certainty that Jerry Harder is the best long jumper in HHS history because no one has bettered his mark of 23-21/2, even though his record is still a live target.


But who, for instance, is the fastest Trojan sprinter of all time? Is it the great Ron Klaassen, who ran the 100-yard dash in 10.1 seconds back in 1965? Or is it sophomore sensation Alan Yoder, who last month set the new HHS 100-meter record at 11.0 seconds?


Because we can’t compare times over equal distances-100 meters is 9.36 yards longer than 100 yards, for example-we can never know for sure.


But, thanks to the magic of mathematics, we can do more than speculate. By figuring the relative distances of comparable races, then applying that percentage to the times of current record holders, we get a better idea how their feats-or, better put, their feet-compare.




Records stand and fall


As you might suspect, some achievements from the past would stand the test of time, while others would be eclipsed.


For instance, in the face-off between Klaassen and Yoder, youth holds the slimmest of advantages. Yoder officially was timed at 11.0 (actually 10.96 by hand-held watch), while Klaassen’s 100-yard time of 10.1 translates to a 100-meter time of 11.05.


Hardly incontrovertible evidence, but still an indicator.


Klaassen, though, remains king at the next longest distance. His 220-yard record of 22.1 seconds, set in 1966, translates to 21.97 seconds for a slightly shorter 200 meters. That puts him almost a full second ahead of C.J. Vogel’s official 200-meter record of 22.9 set in 1992.


Vogel gains a measure of revenge, though, in the 400 meters. His record of 50.1 seconds, set in 1993, would have eclipsed the adjusted time for Roger Peters in the 440-yard dash.


In 1974, Peters circled the 440-yard oval in 51.1 seconds. Because the 400-meter race is two and a half yards shorter, Peters’ adjusted time is 50.8-still seven tenths of a second behind Vogel.


But the old-timers still reign at the middle distances.


Jim Franz, a former state record holder in the half-mile, would hold the edge over Tim Hodge at 800 meters. Franz’s 1:59.7 over 880 yards, set in 1956, translates to 1:59.0 over 800 meters.


Hodge’s official 800 record, set in 1994, is 2:00.1.


Brad Wiens, meanwhile, who set the HHS record in the mile in 1972 at 4:26.8, has a clear advantage over his younger counterpart, Ian Weisbeck, who set the record for 1,600 meters at 4:34.5 in 1994. Wiens’ mile time translates to 4:25.1, a mathematical advantage of more than nine seconds.


In the longest race of them all, though, youth has a leg up. Mitch Goossen holds the 3,200-meter record at 10:06.8, which he set in 1992. Darrel Just’s 2-mile record of 10:21.0, set in 1974, translates to 10:17.27.


In the high hurdles, a dramatic difference. Ryan Jilka, who set the 110-meter high hurdle mark of 14.5 seconds this season, holds a relatively huge edge over Willard Dahl, whose 1959 record of 15.5 seconds in the 110-yard high hurdles translates to 16.96 in the metric race.


If the younger generation dominates at all, it’s in the relays.


The 4×100-meter record of 44.8 seconds, set in 1992 by Brian Kroeker. Vaughn Jost, C.J. Vogel and Craig Duerksen, is in danger of falling in 2001, but it’s well ahead of the mark set for the 440-yard relay in 1980.


Elmer Mickey, Lonnie Funk, Ryan Schroeder and David Suderman’s time of 46.5 seconds for the standard-measure oval translates to 46.2 over 400 meters.


In a similar vein, the record of 3:23.5 in the 4×400-meter relay set in 1992 by Vaughn Jost, Craig Duerksen, C.J. Vogel and and Brian Kroeker stands up well against the old “mile relay” mark set in 1974 by Brad Penner, David Loewen, Clyde Jost and Roger Peters.


Converted to 1,600 meters, the 1974 squad ran a 3:26.75-more than three seconds slower than the 1992 quartet.


The biggest margin between generations comes in the longest relay. The HHS 4×800-meter record time of 8:17.2 set in 1995 by Chris Novak, Ian Weisbeck, Mitch Goossen and Tim Hodge is about 30 seconds faster than the comparable mark set in 1978 by Lonnie Funk, Shaun Thiessen, Lynn Kessler and Terry Hill.


The latter team completed the “2-mile relay” in 8:50.4, which converts to a time of 8:47.22 for 3,200 meters.




Other factors, too


Mathematical equivalents tell track fans something about the best times ever run. Even so, those who want to debate the best performers of all time still have a lot of fuel for arguments.


Why? Because a lot more has changed since 1981 than simply distance, according to track coach Dennis Boldt.


For one thing, the old cinder and gravel tracks of the past generation have been replaced with runner-friendly latex surfaces.


“When you have latex track, and you’re not talking about cinder or gravel, which is what I ran on, that is an incredible difference,” Boldt said. “If you have a wet meet, you still have a dry track. Your footing is good.”


Beyond better running surfaces, the tools for timing races have taken quantum leaps forward over the past 20 years.


“Those races used to be all hand-timed,” Boldt said. “Most of the records I have will be at the state track meet and it’s fully automated there. There’s a great chance of error on a hand-timed race.


“You also have to remember, we also have digital stopwatches now,” he added. “They’re much more accurate than the old style. I don’t know if that means runners got cheated (on their times) or if they got more.”




Note: HHS girls also competed in track prior to the change to metric measurement. Unfortunately, their pre-metric records have been scattered, if not lost, through the years, making comparisons impossible at this time.

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