BLAST FROM THE PAST: As planters roll through fields, spring sports are in full swingWORTHINGTON — Three weeks ago, I wrote about how winter was still lingering on. That “blast” ran in the April 3 issue.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Three weeks ago, I wrote about how winter was still lingering on. That “blast” ran in the April 3 issue.
The next day — Saturday, April 4 — several inches of snow fell throughout the area and delayed high school spring sports events for many more days.
But now, as the calendar nears May, and the big tractors — with huge planters behind them — are rolling through the fields, the 2009 spring sports seasons are in full swing.
Today’s Worthington Invitational track and field meet has eight teams competing in both the girls’ and boys’ divisions, and will be held under warm (close to hot) and windy weather conditions. Just a year ago, the meet was canceled due to cold and rain.
That’s one sure thing about spring — the weather is unpredictable and ever-changing.
Yesterday’s conditions were absolutely perfect — reminiscent of the 1965 Trojan Relays, which were run under the sunshine and calm of an early day in May that year.
But in 1965, a four-row corn planter was pretty standard and the goal was usually to get the corn all planted by May 10. Things happen in a much shorter time span with today’s much bigger and sophisticated equipment.
I was an eighth-grader and trying to find a track and field event that I could earn a ribbon in.
Small and not too strong, I was not fast.
But, after realizing that I was not much of a baseball player — I could field OK, but I was pretty scared when I was batting — I became fascinated with track and field.
I read all kinds of books about track, including the Bob Mathias Story (about the 17-year-old Californian’s decathlon triumph in the 1948 London Olympics). I went out for junior high track at Heron Lake, but never placed in a meet.
I spread bales of hay out on the farm and practiced running hurdles. I went on long runs and envisioned myself as Billy Mills winning the 10,000 meter run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
I watched Heron Lake’s Wally Pribyl win the Class B pole vault at those 1965 Trojan Relays. Yes, I was going to be a track star — somehow.
I will never forget, when I first tried to pole vault at our farm — with a narrow metal rod — and my neighbor, who was a good sprinter, was telling our coach about it.
“So Knutson is still trying to find an event that he can do,” was the response.
And throughout the rest of my junior high track and field career, I kept trying, but encountered little success.
But track and field is a sport in which maturity, strength and technique can eventually pay off.
For me, all my practice at pole vaulting helped me earn my first ribbon — a blue one — as a high school sophomore at Windom when I won the Southwest Conference frosh-soph pole vault title by clearing nine feet, nine inches. A week later, I brought home another ribbon — a green one — when I vaulted 10-3 and placed fourth in the 1967 District 7 meet.
My high school track and field career was launched, and although I never became a real “star,” I have so many good memories of being able to compete in track and field for Windom High School, under the guidance of head coach Lyle Riebe.
Being able to run on some meet-winning and school-record-setting two-mile relay teams, as a senior, with Dave Morfitt, Brian Purrington and Ed Deutschman in 1969 ranks high on my list of memories, as does competing favorably in the pole vault, eventually clearing the bar as high as 12-1 and sharing the District 7 record (I finished third on misses) for nine years.
But getting to run on the meet-ending mile relay team may have been the biggest thrill of all. Running an all-out quarter “hurt,” but the satisfaction of running that race and being part of a competitive team was a genuine feeling of accomplishment.
Songs take a person back in time, and I can’t hear “Bad Moon Rising,” by Credence Clearwater Revival, without thinking back to that spring — 40 years ago — when I was one of the key guys on Windom High School’s track and field team.
I had my best all-around day on April 30, 1969, at Redwood Falls when I won both the pole vault (11-6) and the 440-yard dash (56.2) in a triangular meet, and then we won the mile relay. I had my name mentioned three times over the school’s announcements the following morning, and one of the baseball players asked me “if I had lettered yet.”
I had come a long way from those junior high days, when I could not find an event.
Holinka, Fest compete in decathlons
Speaking of events, I did try many, but I never attempted a decathlon.
Two area high school athletes who did are Fulda’s Brad Holinka (Worthington Community College, 1977) and Heron Lake’s Mark Fest (Waseca Community College, 1988).
I aim to find out more about those two all-around athletes’ collegiate decathlon experiences and write about those in a future “blast.”
Grandprey finishes second Boston Marathon
Something else that I never did, that I thought I might, was run a marathon. Windom’s Jay Grandprey, who graduated from WHS in 1979 and was an outstanding wrestler — but not a runner — in high school, just completed his second Boston Marathon. Monday, Grandprey averaged 7:52 per mile as he ran the course in just over three hours and 20 minutes.
Now that’s an accomplishment!