Story of one school record

We are in the final stages of putting up a school record board for track and field in the Saint Ignatius school gym.  Part of the process for putting up that record board in such a prominent and public place is to do some verification work on the records before we post them.

John Lillig, an Ignatius graduate class of 1986 and formerly a colleague in the English department, preceded me as head track coach, and he did a lot of work compiling our boys’ school records, working with his predecessor, Jim Connelly.

Lillig assigned the 3200-meter record for boys to Mike Patton, class of 1981.  Patton was the Illinois AA cross country champion in 1980, running 14 minutes and 24.3 seconds, and we will make a place on the board for that accomplishment.  He was also number one on Lillig’s list for the 1600-meter run, with a time of 4:14.0.  But Lillig had told me that Patton’s best 3200 time of 8:52.1, listed as the school record, had been set in track meet that took place after graduation.

When I emailed Lillig recently for more information, he told me that he had taken that time from the list of all-time Illinois performances published in an IHSA state meet program; that list, now posted on the IHSA web site, has, in fact, already appeared in this blog.   Lillig referred me to Connelly, who confirmed that Patton had run the record in some kind of a post-season all-star meet, but it was long before he took over as coach at Ignatius.  Connelly in turn referred me to Father Robert Bueter, S.J., who while principal of Saint Ignatius back in the early 1980s had also done some track and cross country coaching.  An email reply from Bueter finally got me to my most useful source, Art Morelli, now retired in San Diego, CA, who had been Patton’s cross country and track coach while he taught biology at Ignatius until 1981.

Morelli confirmed the record by email, providing the story of Patton’s third place finish at the 1981 Keebler International Prep Invitational, which for thirty years or so, under the watch of York High School’s Joe Newton, brought together top high school athletes from around the country for an informal national championship meet.  “Mike was not expecting to run well since we peaked for State where he won the 3,200 and was 3rd in the mile after his CC state win,” Morelli wrote. “The meet was about 3 weeks after the state meet. After 4 laps there was a lead pack of 3 runners: Tim Hacker from Wisconsin, a kid from Canada and Mike. At this point Mike took the lead and increased the pace. He almost broke them, but both got by him in the last 50 yards. I believe his time was 8:56 for two miles, so the low 8:50’s for 3,200.”

It took a little bit more work, a post on the Tracktalk.com message board directed to a participant named Zen Miler who has a particular handle on historical information for Wisconsin running, to come up with a newspaper clip of the actual results.  The meet took place on Saturday, June 20 at North Central College in Naperville, and Mike Patton finished third in the two-mile run with a time of 8:56.6.  The fact that Patton’s record was for two miles, of course, still presents a small problem.

During my first nine years as coach at Saint Ignatius, Patton’s school record of 8:52.1 had always seemed unlikely ever to be broken.  Then, last April, our junior Jack Keelan ran 8:55.86 at the Arcadia Invitational in California.  Later in the spring Keelan did break Patton’s 1600 meter mark, first at the Illinois state meet (4:13.63) and then at the post season Midwest Distance Festival in June, where he ran 4:09.64 on his way to a full mile at 4:11.15.  Keelan’s 4:09.64 will go up on the new record board.  We have made a decision, with our girls’ coach Erin Luby, to count post-season high school meets that take place shortly after the school track season as school records.  So Patton’s record counts, too.

But there is a small problem with Patton’s 8:52.1 that the IHSA lists on its record boards.  Patton ran 8:56.6 for the full two-mile race in 1981—but our school record is for 3200 meters.  We are comfortable with using a conversion between two-miles and 3200 meters, and it would seem that the time on the IHSA list is a converted time.  But there are different types of conversions—all of which would convert Patton’s 8:56.6 two-mile  race to a 3200-meter time of between 8:53.2 and 8:53.5.

I have a note prepared to send to the IHSA suggesting that Patton’s 8:52.1 should actually be listed as 8:53.2.  And that is the time we will post on our record board.

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Filed under coaching, high school track and field, IHSA, running

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