Discus record stirs memories of golden eraThe first thing I thought when I read that the kid from Lake Andes had set a discus record at the Howard Wood Relays was, “Hey, that’s Schwartz’s record.” I didn’t find a confirmation in that first story. The confirmation for me came the other day in The Daily Republic, when Luke Hagen contacted Gary Schwartz in Arkansas and talked a bit about how it felt to have Cody Snyder break a record Schwartz had held for 48 years. (He figured it would go someday, he said).
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
The first thing I thought when I read that the kid from Lake Andes had set a discus record at the Howard Wood Relays was, “Hey, that’s Schwartz’s record.”
I didn’t find a confirmation in that first story. The confirmation for me came the other day in The Daily Republic, when Luke Hagen contacted Gary Schwartz in Arkansas and talked a bit about how it felt to have Cody Snyder break a record Schwartz had held for 48 years. (He figured it would go someday, he said).
Even before I read Hagen’s story, though, I was pretty sure the Wood Relays record in the discus had been held by Schwartz. He set it when he was still competing for Wessington Spring during the 1962 meet. That was his senior year, and mine, too, although my track performances were drawing fewer rave reviews than his.
That’s maybe because he was tossing the discus out to places no one had ever reached before him and few had dreamed of reaching. He was putting the shot far enough to win meets and threaten records, too, and I remember a meet in Springs when he entered the high hurdles and placed — maybe even won.
I remember that being a meet in which Chamberlain’s best hurdler clipped the top of the second hurdle, did a somersault and came up on all fours to scurry through the third hurdle before regaining his balance enough to stand and leap over the rest of the barriers on his way to the finish line. I suppose he was disqualified, but he did manage to stay in his lane, so there should have been some points for style and effort.
Schwartz went from Wessington Springs to Kansas as a weight thrower, and he had an awfully nice college career, followed by a long career as a coach at major colleges in the country.
He came along at one of the great periods of high school track in the state, especially in central South Dakota. Just a couple of years before the discus throw started winning public attention at meets, a Woonsocket kid named Jake Schlicht was turning heads for both his disciplined training routines and his times in the mile run. He held the state record for quite a few years with a clocking just a few tenths above 4:23.
While Schlicht was cranking out great distance times, a middle-distance runner named Rich Cutler from Wessington Springs was breaking the two-minute mark in the half-mile run. He went 1:59-something at the state meet his senior year. That was my freshman year, and I considered it a pretty solid accomplishment that I finished only 10 seconds behind Cutler in that race.
I’ve been a student of track and field performances since the time I first saw the Rev. Bob Richards on a Wheaties box when I was just a kid. A guy named Otis Davis turned me into a lifelong follower of distances and times when he ran a 44.9-second time in the 400 meters at the Rome Olympics in 1960.
Because of that interest, I religiously follow the performances at the South Dakota meets each spring. That means poring over a lot of tiny, black type to read the results. I’ve seen some incredible performances in that agate type, but I’ve also noted that some of the times and distances from my era would be respectable at a lot of meets today.
Those two-flat half miles Rich Cutler ran wouldn’t win the state meet these days. He’d still medal at a lot of the regular-season meets, though, and he’d even win one now and then.
The 4:23 mile Jake Schlicht ran in 1960 probably wouldn’t win the state meet, either. A lot of distance runners on the track these days would trade their times for his, though. It would be respectable at most of the meets run most years.
And, of course, the distance Gary Schwartz spun the discus in 1962 would have won every meet but one in the 48 years since he competed. That’s pretty amazing, when you stop to think about it.
It shows just how outstanding was that performance at Howard Wood by young Cody Snyder.
Terry Woster’s columns are published Saturdays and Wednesdays in The Daily Republic.