Distinguished athletes bring honor to area
For the past 70-plus years, the athletes of Southwest Nebraska have distinguished this area with their track and field accomplishments. Starting with Don Roberts of Trenton in 1933 and extending through Christina Houghtelling of Cambridge in 2003, there have been 13 competitors from the southwest region who have earned places in Nebraska's all-time high school record books.
Leading the way are three area track and field stars who have posted the best performances in state high school history. They are Aaron Plas of McCook, who set the boys state high jump record of 7 feet, 2 inches in 2002; Kris Nelson of McCook, who raced to the all-time best time of 43.3 seconds in 1989; and Rochelle Schmidt of Republican Valley, who hopped, skipped and jumped to the historic peak of 41 feet in the girls triple jump in 2000. In addition, Kris Nelson ranks eighth all-time in the girls 100-meter dash at 14.6 seconds.
Also impressive was the record-setting three-event performance 0f McCook's Carrie Hoehner in 1987. During that phenomenal year, Carrie leaped to the then all-time best of 19 feet, 6 1/2 inches in the girls long jump, as well as speedy times of 11.8 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 24.7 seconds in the 200-meter dash. Eighteen years later, Carrie stands second all-time in the long jump, sixth in the 100-meter dash and seventh in the 200-meter dash.
Another southwest area athlete with more than one record book performance is Donna Spickelmier, who competed for Hayes Center in the mid-1980s. Donna ranks sixth all-time in the girls 800-meter run with a time of 2:13.5, and third all-time in the 1600-meter run with a time of 4:58.06. Both marks were set in 1985.
Coincidentally, both Carrie Hoehner and Donna Spickelmier have siblings in the track and field record books. Carrie's brother, Chris, ranks ninth in the boys triple jump with a mark of 48 feet, 2 inches set in 1981, and Donna's twin, Deb, ranks fifth in the 800 meters with a time of 2:13.45 in 1985.
Rounding out the record performances by area athletes are Don Roberts of Trenton, with a 200-meter equivalent time of 21.3 seconds in 1933; Phil Lueking of Southern Valley, with a 64 foot, 6 1/2 inch shot put effort in 1998; Larry Flock of McCook, with a 7-foot high jump in 1978; Carol Nunnally of McCook, with a 2:13.55 800-meter performance in 1980; Faith Mullen of Maywood, with a time of 14.4 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles in 1996; Val Owen of McCook, with a 19 feet, 5 1/4 inch long jump in 1988; and Christina Houghtelling of Cambridge, with a triple jump of 38 feet, 1 inch in 2003.
Look for more record-setting performances in the years to come from area athletes. The track and field competitors are already off and running this season, with superior times and distances showing promise for school, meet and state records.