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Pestinger/Bates share St. John’s 800m record

In high school athletics, a lot can change in 56 years, but many things stay the same. Young men and women still strive to do their best and challenge old records and set new marks for others to reach for.

In the spring of 1964, track team captain Sam Pestinger set the St. John’s High School record for the 880 yard run with a time of 2:01.4. Pestinger was also the Solomon Valley League and St. John’s record holder in the 440 yard dash with a time of 51.6 seconds. He was part of the St. John’s medley relay team that took 4th place at the Kansas State Track Meet in Wichita that spring. The legs of the medley were comprised of a 440, a 220, a 220 and the 880. Sam ran the 880 leg. Larry Heidrick (class of ’65) ran the lead-off 440, while Bill Zachary and Roger Kadel (both class of ’64) picked up the 220’s.

Runners in those days ran on cinder tracks wearing long spikes. The St. John’s athletes trained on the dirt track around the football field and considered it a real treat to run on the great cinder track at Trojan Stadium. Training methods for the running events weren’t a lot different; Max Heidrick and Larry Heidrick both “fondly” remember workouts that consisted of running six to seven 440’s in under 60 seconds – every day. Not much variety, but obviously effective in developing good runners. Because the 880 yard run is slightly longer than 800 meters (15 feet, 4 inches longer to be exact), Sam’s record 880 time was converted to 2:00.1 when high school track went metric.

The year 1964 was a good track year for other Kansans as well. Jim Ryun of Wichita ran a 1:49 880 as a high school junior and qualified for the 1500 meter in the Tokyo Olympics.

Billy Mills, a 1962 KU graduate, won the 10,000 meter run in the same Olympics.

Brandon Bates, St. John’s class of 2020, had been working to beat Pestinger’s record for several years.

He’s no stranger to the track record board, having been part of the 4 x 800 meter team along with brother Adam Bates, David Lutgen and Caleb Eilert that set a new school record in 2018 with a time of 8:18. His fastest time in the open 800 as a junior came at the State Meet in 2019 when he placed 4th with a time of 2:01.21. He scored points for the 3rd Place St. John’s team in two other events as well, placing 5th in the 1600 meter and 6th in the 3200 meter.

When the announcement came that there would be no high school athletics for the Spring of 2020, Bates took it upon himself to continue to train and try to improve his time. With no track meets and no team scores to work towards, he was able to focus solely on the 800 meter. The 800 is a cruel race; short enough to be just on the fringes of the speed events, but long enough that endurance is required. No one ever feels good after running an 800 at top effort.

Along with home-based classes and running a mowing business, Brandon squeezed in training on his own in the early mornings or late evenings throughout the Spring. Most workouts consisted of hard interval sessions on the track, with some longer five or six mile runs sprinkled in. His efforts and discipline paid off as he chipped away at his personal best time running a 2:04, then a 2:00.55, and finally a 1:59.42 on May 30th, the same day that the 800 meter run would have taken place at the State Meet in Wichita.

Due to the fact that there were no KSHSAA sponsored track meets in 2020 to register an official time, the 800 meter record at St. John’s will be shared by Sam Pestinger and Brandon Bates. The mark has been set - 1:59.42; a new challenge for future Blujay runners.

Beloit Call

P.O. Box 309, Concordia, Ks. 66901

Phone: 785-738-3537