Who were the best county track athletes?

About a year ago, Jeff Page got curious. He wondered: Who are the best high school track and field athletes in Snohomish County history?

Instead of just pondering the question, Page, head track coach at Lake Stevens High School, decided to investigate.

Sounds like a pretty intense, time-consuming project, right?

It took him all of an hour.

Page had everything he needed thanks to information compiled in an issue of the Washington Track Annual, a highly detailed statewide guide published by Scott Spruill of the Yakima Herald-Republic newspaper. He simply scrolled through state record lists and plucked the top all-time performances by county competitors.

The result of Page’s work is a fun look at the history of prep track and field in the area. The county records lists feature all-time marks in 18 girls events and 17 boys events. The oldest one is from 1935 (Lee Orr of Monroe, boys 200-meter dash) and the newest record belongs to 2006 Cascade graduate Whitney Hooks (girls shot put).

There are seemingly endless storylines related to the compilation, but here are a few interesting angles.

Oldest, most controversial

In 1935 Monroe’s Orr ran a hand-timed 200 (at the time it was the 220-yard dash) in 21.2 seconds. Back then, the event was held on a straightaway, unlike the modern format that starts on a curve.

In 2001, Kamiak’s Derrick Bradley, as a sophomore, ran the 200 in an electronic time of 21.69. Page came up with a conversion to factor in the format change and the difference between hand timing and electronic timing.

“It came out to be really close,” Page said.

But Page and Kamiak coach Paul Kirkpatrick agree that Orr, who ran for Washington State and placed fifth for Canada in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, probably would prevail against Bradley with the benefit of modern-day footwear and surface improvements.

Don’t feel too badly for Bradley: He does own the 100 record (10.69 in 2002).

Most impressive

Everett alum Sherron Walker’s girls long jump record (21-3) is also the all-time state record. Walker won four state long jump titles and participated in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

Page points to the prowess of three Edmonds girls who set five county records between 1974 and 1979. You could call them the D Team: Dana Arnim (400, 800), Debbie Quatier (1,600, 3,200) and Deanna Carr (javelin). Their performances came relatively soon after girls sports got an enormous boost with the introduction of Title IX legislation in 1972.

“That’s pretty remarkable that they were all there (around) the same time. That’s a pretty interesting coincidence,” said Page.

Everett coach Doug Hall marvels at the records of Ben Lindsey, who set boys marks in shot put (66 feet, 8 inches) and discus (203-6) at Lynnwood in 1996. Hall doesn’t expect anyone to challenge the records of Lindsey, who was an All-American at Washington, any time soon.

“Nobody that I’ve seen throw in the league – no one’s even close to that right now,” said Hall.

McKane Lee’s boys pole vault record (16-7.25, Arlington, 2003) is also formidable. The area’s current top vaulter, Kamiak senior Sean Beighton, is ranked No. 1 in 4A with a personal best of 15-3.

Top teams

The programs with the most total country records are: Edmonds (five, all by girls), followed by Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and Arlington (four apiece). Snohomish and Cascade have three each.

Most breakable

To break a county record, an athlete generally needs ideal conditions, intense competition and a dose of luck. Based on the potential of a few current performers, some marks could fall either this year of the next.

Both triple jump records are vulnerable, coaches say. Snohomish teammates Bri Clark (a senior) and Jessica Yates (a junior) could attack the girls mark, while Everett junior Rendel Jones is capable of eclipsing the boys record. (Read more about this triple-jump trio in a separate story in today’s paper.) How about distance events?

“The one kid around I think that has a shot at getting it done is Joey in the 1,600 and the 3,200,” Page said of Lake Stevens junior Joey Bywater, the 2006 4A 3,200 champ. Bywater’s personal best in the 3,200 is 9:03.97, just over nine seconds behind Reed Mayer’s record (8:54.9, Snohomish, 1973).

“He certainly has the talent to be able to do it,” Kirkpatrick said of Bywater, “and if he can get other people that are there to push him – you can’t do it by yourself.”

The boys 300 hurdle record, held by Ryan McKinney of Lake Stevens (38.74, 2001), is vulnerable, Page said. But Page is not sure if any current boy can break it. Archbishop Murphy senior Nick Snyder might have a shot. His personal best is 39.85.

Who will be next?

Part of the excitement surrounding these county records is that even though certain well-known athletes could make history, it’s always possible a record-breaking performance will spring from an unexpected source.

“Sometimes,” Page said, “somebody just comes out of the woodwork and you just say, ‘Wow!’”

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