Snyder breaks 48-year-old record held by Wessington Springs nativeIt was the longest-standing record at the state’s biggest track and field meet. And for 48 years, no one touched it. In 1962, Gary Schwartz — a Wessington Springs native — launched the discus a staggering 190-feet-7.5 inches at the Howard Wood Relays in Sioux Falls, a meet that invites more than 3,000 of the best middle school, high school and college athletes in the Upper Midwest.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
It was the longest-standing record at the state’s biggest track and field meet.
And for 48 years, no one touched it.
In 1962, Gary Schwartz — a Wessington Springs native — launched the discus a staggering 190-feet-7.5 inches at the Howard Wood Relays in Sioux Falls, a meet that invites more than 3,000 of the best middle school, high school and college athletes in the Upper Midwest.
“I was very surprised, because it was a big throw and quite a bit further than I’d thrown before,” said Schwartz, now 66 and living in Springdale, Ark. “I know my dad was so excited that he walked into the women’s restroom.”
Schwartz was recently inducted in the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame, and just days after the ceremony, he received an e-mail from Ron Hoffman — the secretary of the SDSHOF — with a note at the bottom about how the relays were coming up, and that his record would be safe for another year.
Enter Cody Snyder, a senior from Lake Andes.
In three years on the varsity track and field scene, Snyder has pocketed two Class B state championships, and the one year he took second was “a pretty bad showing,” he said.
The second day at the 86th annual event was anything but a bad showing.
On May 1, history was made at Howard Wood.
His discus sailed smoothly along with the day’s wind, which was gusting up to 45 mph, and landed 191-feet-6. It is Snyder’s personal record in competition and is the 12th-best throw in the nation among current high school track and field athletes.
“As soon as they measured it, they announced it was a Howard Wood record,” Snyder said. “I threw my discus down into the ground, and it was an awesome feeling. It was an adrenaline rush.”
Two days later, Schwartz hopped back on his computer after hearing his record had fallen.
“I sent Cody’s dad an e-mail congratulating (him) and Cody for a tremendous throw, and hoped it would lead him to bigger and better things,” Schwartz said.
Forty-eight years ago, Schwartz’s record-setting throw — which, at the time, was the best in the nation — did exactly that for him.
An all-state football player at Wessington Springs, Schwartz was considering playing in-state collegiately, but after his throw at Howard Wood to wrap up his senior season, he was named the South Dakota Prep Athlete of the Year.
He chose Division I Kansas for his college home, where he helped the Jayhawks to three Big Eight track and field titles and was the conference’s discus champion as a junior.
“For me (the throw) was pretty much a life-changing event, because I went from thinking I was going to go to school in-state and continue throwing, and maybe playing football, to that opening up more possibilities,” said Schwartz, who is now an event manager for University of Arkansas athletics.
After competing in college, he went on to have a 34-year cross country and track and field coaching career with stops at Penn State, Tennessee and Kansas. In 1983, he was named the NCAA Division I National Outdoor Track and Field Coach of the Year.
“Here’s what I learned once I started coaching: Records are fantastic, but they aren’t forever,” Schwartz said. “Records are made to be broke, and mine went for a long time. I think to me, it was just a matter of time before someone came along who had the physical tools and had the right conditions to break that.”
It took 48 years, but Snyder was that someone.
His Howard Wood throw that bested Schwartz’s by 9.5 inches is, according to Snyder, the third best in the history of the state and dubbed him the state’s best prep discus thrower.
His mark with his 3.9 ounce discus was about 30 feet better than the best college throw that day at Howard Wood, though college discuses weigh 4.7 ounces.
Snyder has already signed to throw at the University of South Dakota, which is the same college his father and current throws coach, Mike Snyder, attended and competed in the discus. In his first season with the Coyotes, Snyder will redshirt.
For the first few seasons at least, Snyder said he’ll keep a close eye on his Howard Wood record.
“There’s a kid from Custer who was better than I was when I was a sophomore,” said Snyder, who said he hopes to hit 200 feet this season in the discus. “My record will probably stand for only one or two years.”
For Schwartz, the annual check of his 48-year-old record will now cease.
“I was surprised mine lasted that long,” he said.