Cinder running surfaces measured in yards and bulky high-jump bars made of steel were part of the high school track and field landscape in the early 1970s.
Yet right around the corner was one innovative concept.
In 1974, Fort Wayne Northrop High School hosted a Tri-States boys meet pitting Indiana’s finest senior athletes against those from Ohio and Michigan.
Our fastest against their fastest. Our strongest going up against theirs. And so on.
For the first time, bragging rights could be shouted across state lines instead of just county or district boundaries. Ohio won that day and 19 times since. Illinois joined the party three years later, and in 1980 the first such girls meet was conducted.
What’s now known as the Midwest Meet of Champions conducts its 40th boys and 34th girls meets Saturday at Northrop. The Hoosier boys have won the points title on seven occasions, the girls three times — 1985, ’86 and ’91.
Illinois joined the fun in 1977, making the meet a four-horse race until 1996. At that time the void was filled by West Virginia, which took part for five years (1997-2001) in the boys competition and four times (1998-2001) in the girls meet.
Since 2002, the Midwest Meet of Champions’ original three states have gone at it.
The Midwest Meet of Champions is one of the longest-running postseason high school track and field meets in the nation.
Among its literally hundreds of graduates are former Ohio State University football star Ted Ginn, Jr., onetime Indiana University pole-vaulter and 1992 United States Olympian Dave Volz, and Hoosier-born Olympians Maicel Malone (North Central H.S.) and Amy Yoder (East Noble).
The names have changed since the meet’s inception. Records have fallen. But the lure of putting everything on the line from one’s home state never seems to go out of style.
“When the state meet was over I didn’t want my season to end,” said Center Grove’s Tori Schoettmer, the University of Louisville-bound distance specialist who’ll compete in the 1,600 after placing fourth in the June 1 state finals. “And running for Indiana is important. I’m going to Kentucky soon, so I might as well have one last run for them.”