A preliminary heat of the Class 1A girls 100-meter dash at the 1989 state track and field meet may have been the greatest race ever run in Wyoming track and field history.

If you believe the results.

In one heat, an existing class record for the 100 was broken* by four different runners.

First, some context: Michelle Thompson of Encampment had set the record for the 1A girls 100 in the 1987 state track preliminaries with a 13.00. In more than nine years of Class 1A 100-meter dash races at state before that, no 1A runner had ever been below 13.

Encampment senior Brandy James set a new record* by winning her heat in 12.25 seconds, beating the existing record by three-quarters of a second. And Albin senior Chris Brown was only one-one hundredth off that pace with a 12.26.

Also in the heat were Big Horn freshman Dawn Holder, who ran a 12.50, more than a half second faster than the record, and Hanna junior Kim Bonner, who ran a 12.72, whose fourth-place finish in the heat in and of itself would have chopped off more than a quarter-second off the existing record.

In one heat, four runners not only beat* that record of 13.00, they shattered it.

In the other 1A heat, Big Horn’s Anna Hubbard won — with a 13.51, apparently more a second and a quarter slower than the other heat. Albin’s Becca Brown was second at 13.77, Encampment’s Tami Levandowski was third at 14.01 and Hanna’s Sarah Briggs was fourth at 14.55.

In the finals, though, times from these record-setting* runners increased* precipitously. Chris Brown won, with a time of 13.26 — apparently, exactly one second slower than her preliminary time*. James, the record*-setter, finished second at 13.28. Hubbard, the winner of the “slow” heat, finished third at 13.45. Becca Brown was fourth at 13.65, Holder fifth at 13.78 and Bonner sixth at 13.82.

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By now, you’ve figured out that this heat was special. Here are the differences between the times* ran in the preliminaries and the times ran in the finals for the top six finishers.

RunnerPreliminary heatFinal heat (place)Difference
Chris Brown, Albin12.2613.26 (first)+1.00 seconds
Brandy James, Encampment12.2513.28 (second)+1.03 seconds
Anna Hubbard, Big Horn13.5113.45 (third)-0.06 seconds
Becca Brown, Albin13.7713.65 (fourth)-0.12 seconds
Dawn Holder, Big Horn12.5013.78 (fifth)+1.28 seconds
Kim Bonner, Hanna12.7213.82 (sixth)+1.10 seconds
“Fast heat” participants are in bold.

Based on the results above, we can surmise that in this “fast” heat, one of three things happened:

  1. Four runners, all in the same preliminary heat, ran the races of their lives and all broke the existing class record by more than a quarter-second each, only to run times that were all at least one full second slower during the championship heat, AND ran times that were more than a second better than anyone else in the second heat, AND ran times they could not even come close to duplicating in the final (or at any other time in their high school careers), OR…
  2. The timing was off for the first heat, and who knows what the times were? OR…
  3. The times were mis-reported as 12-point-whatever instead of 13-point-whatever.

My guess is No. 3. My guess is the record-setting run that James has had credit for the past 33 years was actually a 13.25, a quarter-second off what was the existing record but exactly in line with what she ended up running in the final. My guess is the wrong person has been credited with a state record this whole time.

The Wyoming High School Activities Association, for 33 years, has implicitly said No. 1 is what happened.

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Here’s where it gets crazy — this wasn’t the only time the timing failed on a girls 100-meter dash trial IN THIS MEET.

Something equally suspicious happened in Class 3A girls. And that one was caught.

In that classification, four runners in the second preliminary heat of the 100 all turned in 3A record*-breaking times, led by Torrington’s Robyn Young at 11.83 seconds. Following her were Thermopolis’ Betsy Snook (11.97), Wheatland’s Gina Sorenson (12.18) and Jackson’s Jennifer Goetz (12.30).

The existing Class 3A record at the time was the 12.45 run by Wheatland’s Ronda Munger in 1983. Just like in 1A, four girls, all in the same heat, had just destroyed* it.

And Young’s timed 11.83, as well as Snook’s timed 11.97, beat* the existing all-class state record of 11.99, set by Central’s Betty Jackson in 1982.

The winner of the other 3A girls 100 heat, the “slow” heat, was Jackson’s Heidi Eggers, who ran a 12.84.

So, yeah, these times seemed unusual. Sure, Young was the defending Class 3A girls 100-meter dash champion. Her winning time in 1988, though? 13.13.

Young, despite setting the new record*, did not defend her title. The next day, Eggers won the final in 12.99. Young, the record*-setter the day before, ran a 13.11 to finish third; Snook was fourth at 13.48; Goetz was sixth at 13.56.

Just like in 1A, everyone in the “fast” heat in 3A was more than a second slower in the finals than their preliminary time*.

For the second time in a matter of moments, a girls 100-meter dash preliminary resulted in times that were way off.

But only one got attention.

One fraudulent record disappeared from the records. The other remained.

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News coverage in the Casper Star-Tribune hinted at the controversy on the day. Here’s part of the story from the CST’s Sally Ann Shurmur (then Michalov) on May 20, discussing the 3A race specifically:

“Although a heathy wind was blowing and gusting throughout the day, Wyoming High School Activities Association Commissioner Mike Colbrese said all times and distances would stand as set, regardless of possible wind aid, because there are no facilities for measuring that at the stadium.

“Colbrese added that several coaches had objected to that decision.”

In retrospect, the coaches had a point. Just the wrong one.

It wasn’t the wind that was pushing runners to amazing times. If that were the case, times across all classifications would have reflected this, for both boys and girls. This didn’t happen. Instead, something threw off the timing system for those two heats.

Further proof of the sketchiness of the times put up in those two preliminary races were the performances of the runners the week before state.

In addition to James and Young, all the other runners in those two preliminary heats in 1A and 3A — Chris Brown, Holder, Bonner, Snook, Sorenson, Goetz — weren’t close to the times they ran* in their preliminary race in their respective regionals, either. For example, James’ winning time at the Class 1A Southwest regional meet the week prior to state was 13.50 seconds. In the same race, Bonner finished third at 14.09. Moreover, from available records and results, none of those sprinters had ever came close to touching those times before, and they never came close to touching them again.

In fact, in the week before the 1989 regional track meets, Cheyenne East’s Shanelle Porter was listed by the Casper Star-Tribune as the leader in the state for girls in the 100-meter dash. Her top time was listed as 12.42. Then at regionals, she ran a meet record 11.99; only Tongue River’s Lacey Cooper (12.45), Kelly Walsh’s Ann-Marie Gosar (12.46), and Young (12.8) were at or below 12.8 in regional finals. The fastest 1A time at a regional was Hubbard’s 13.28 at the Northeast Regional.

So, either four runners obliterating* a 1A record of 13.00 was either a timing mistake, or it was the greatest race in state meet history.

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For one heat at state, the mistake was rectified.

The 3A and overall record that Young had broken* did not last. Her record* time was eventually stricken from the WHSAA’s records; when, exactly, is unsure, but it happened sometime between the end of the 1989 meet and the 1990 state meet, where Jackson’s 11.99 was again listed as the overall record. The current Class 3A record time is held by Rawlins’ Kereston Thomas, who ran a 12.12 in 2011. Munger’s 12.45, retroactively reinstated as the 3A record, stood until 2008.

As it turns out, four people really didn’t break the Class 3A record in one preliminary heat, all by healthy margins.

Here’s the thing: Despite what the existing records say, it didn’t happen in Class 1A, either.

James’ time, and the times of the others in her preliminary heat, didn’t get the same scrutiny as Young, for two big reasons. First, Young’s time was for an overall state meet record and James’ record was only for the 1A classification record. The prestige of the overall record drew more scrutiny to it. Second, James’ time came in a preliminary race — it didn’t affect who actually won the individual state championship or any team scores.

Regardless, James’ record still stands.

And we are mistakenly left to believe that this preliminary heat from 1989 is the greatest race in state track and field history — a race where three (and almost four) sprinters put up times that only one Class 1A sprinter, before or since, was ever able to come close to matching.

Here are the 10 fastest* Class 1A girls 100-meter dash times ever run at the Wyoming state track and field meet:

RunnerSchoolTimeType of heatYear
Brandy JamesEncampment12.25*Preliminary1989
Chris BrownAlbin12.26*Preliminary1989
Maggie OchsnerLingle12.32Final2007
Maggie OchsnerLingle12.46Preliminary2006
Dawn HolderBig Horn12.50*Preliminary1989
Sydney HolidayTen Sleep12.50Final2017
Kaelyn RileyLingle12.51Preliminary2019
Trae PatchLingle12.55Preliminary2007
Maggie OchsnerLingle12.61Final2006
Sydney HolidayTen Sleep12.62Preliminary2017

In all 1A heats, the 13-second barrier in the 100 meters has been broken 43 times by 23 runners, and the 12.50 mark has been reached or broken* six times by four runners, as noted above.

Ochsner’s slowest time across two 1A meets was 12.64. She went on to become a Division I sprinter and hurdler, running at both Wyoming and Weber State.

Holiday transferred to Broomfield High School in Colorado for her junior and senior seasons. She’s currently on the track and field team at the University of Oregon, one of the top track programs in the country.

Patch and Riley both ran track at Chadron State.

By all indications, James, Brown and Holder never participated in track and field in college.

+++

The rightful record-holder of the Class 1A 100-meter dash state meet record is Lingle’s Maggie Ochsner.

Ochsner’s winning time of 12.32 seconds in 2007 is the best the state has ever seen at the Class 1A level. A four-time champion in the 100, Ochsner’s 12.32 as a junior broke the record she had set the year before of 12.46, run in the preliminaries; that race broke what should have been the existing record, the 12.70 that Lingle’s Hilary Larson ran in 1996.

Kaycee’s Heather Perry should have gotten credit in 1994 for a state record with her 12.82. That beat the mark set the year before by Pine Bluffs’ Becca Christensen, who had a 12.90 in the preliminaries in 1993 and should have been recognized as the first 1A runner to break 13-flat.

And Thompson’s 13.00 from 1987 should have stood until then.

One kink is that the current iteration of record-keepers has never had anyone question this record and would have a tough time overturning a record that’s been on the books for 33 years. In the 18 years that Ron Laird has been the commissioner of the Wyoming High School Activities Association, he said no one has asked him about the validity of this record (until now).

“We have never had anyone question it, and would have no way of knowing, at this time, if it is not accurate,” Laird said via email this summer.

+++

The 3A and 1A mis-times overshadowed someone who was actually running some record-setting times in 1989: East’s Porter.

A junior at the time, she won the 100, 200 and 400 for Cheyenne East at the 1989 meet, setting state meet records in the 200 (24.86) and 400 (55.86). (By the way, the state championship meet mark Porter set as a senior in 1990 (54.78) still stands as the all-class state meet record.) Her 100-winning time of 12.18 seconds actually was legit.

I wonder: If the “Best of the Best” award were around in 1989 — it didn’t start until 1994 — what would have happened? Would the debate over that award (Young’s sketchy 11.83 or Porter’s legit 12.18) have shined more light on James’ 1A time*?

When reached via Facebook and later contacted via email, James, now Brandy Spinda, did not respond to questions about her performance at the 1989 state track meet.

Regardless, one of the beauties of time, whether it’s 12.25 seconds or 33 years, is perspective. As time passes, we learn, and we gain wisdom from that new perspective.

That perspective is only meaningful, though, if acted upon.

Although the evidence will forever be no more than circumstantial, it’s also hard to overlook because it all points to one critical conclusion — that James’ time, like Young’s, was clearly inaccurate.

Yet, for 33 years on and counting, it still stands as the benchmark for all Class 1A sprinters to try to hit.

Young’s stricken 11.83 is a footnote in the state’s track and field history. James’ 12.25* should be, too.

–patrick

This post was updated at 5:04 p.m. July 28 to fix an incorrect first name.

One Thought on “Has a Class 1A state track record been given to the wrong person for 33 years?

  1. Burke on July 18, 2022 at 6:53 pm said:

    This is some excellent research, Patrick. Great job!

    The other likely possibility–the timing system malfunctioned. So, they rely on the VERY old men standing around at the finish line to be:
    (a) paying attention
    (b) start their stopwatches when they see smoke (with their old eyes)
    (c) not anticipate the finish line too soon (or miss their lane/place altogether and guess the time based on other times turned in by other VERY old men)

    33 years is a long time to re-hash something, but it’s worth it, IMHO.

    I don’t know the 1A coaches around at the time, but how none of them spoke up is shocking. On top of that, how does the Encampment coach/school comfortably allow that to stand for this long. Accepting a result like that shows either ignorance or blatant disrespect for the sport.

    I’d love to count the all my PRs from my grandpa’s timing. I would finally be as fast as I think I was 🙂

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