Where Indiana University’s student union stands today is where high school athletes from around the state first ran fast and jumped high for points.
More specifically, the union’s parking lot.
In 1904, Jordan Field, original site of the first IHSAA Boys State Track and Field Finals, launched a tradition celebrating its 113th consecutive year of packaging celebration, heartbreak and breathtaking finishes into an unforgettable few hours.
More than 100 years later, the event’s location has come full circle. Or rather, full oval.
Saturday’s state finals, conducted at IU’s Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex for a 13th straight season, is located one mile north of where Jordan Field used to stand.
The more things change …
Boys track and field doesn’t and probably never will generate the greatest amount of revenue for a high school’s athletics department. But it has a longer history than most IHSAA sports and has a rich tradition of its own.
Boys basketball began its postseason tournament in 1911, with baseball crowning its first champion a year later. Swimming entered postseason waters in 1928, golf in 1932 and wrestling the following season.
Mythical big-school football champions were recognized in Indiana from 1920 to 1972. However, the IHSAA didn’t begin its postseason tournament until 1973 in what was then a three-class system.
And while today’s boys track athletes in most cases are bigger, stronger and faster — the same can be said for the facilities — than ever before, the boys finals are the ultimate tip of the cap to stars of the past.
The early-1980s produced five state meet standards that remain today — Jeffersonville’s Jerome Harrison in the 100-meter dash (10.31 seconds), Gary Roosevelt’s Jeffrey Patrick in the 200 (21.10), the 400 relay of Gary Roosevelt (41.02) and Gary West’s 1,600 relay (3:13.66).
A three-way tie in the high jump also has stood for years as Ron Jones of Mt. Vernon and Peru’s Adam Shumpert cleared a staggering 7-foot-1¼ in 1980 — or three years after New Albany’s Jeff Woodard did it.
In 2011, Center Grove senior Austin Mudd lowered the seemingly unbreakable state finals marks established by Evansville Memorial’s Tom Martin (800 meters, 1977) and Hammond’s Rudy Chapa (1,600, 1976).
The tradition continues Saturday with Center Grove’s Cameron Tidd chasing his second consecutive state title in the discus. Also, Whiteland junior Ryder Emberton is seeded second in the shot put based on his regional best of 59 feet, 2 inches.
Others seeking a place on the award’s podium include Center Grove junior Josh Hall in the pole vault (14-6), Whiteland junior Djimmon Ogega in the 400 (10th), Trojans’ senior Jackson Hohlt in the 300 intermediate hurdles (seeded 11th), Center Grove’s Grant Mason in the 200-meter dash (13th) and another CG runner, Nathan Fill, in the 800 (18th).
No matter how these and other Johnson County competitors fare Saturday, they along with the Robert C. Haugh Complex carry on a tradition started over a century ago down the road at where Jordan Field used to stand.
We’ve come so far without traveling far at all.