Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles that will look back at some of the all-time great track and field athletes in southwest Kansas. The 100th KSHSAA Track and Field Championships begin Friday at Cessna Stadium in Wichita.
By BRETT MARSHALL
It's been 44 years since southwest Kansas had perhaps its best single-day performance in high school track and field history.
There have been years when southwest Kansas has produced triple and quadruple state champions since the Kansas State High School Track and Field Championships were moved to Cessna Stadium in Wichita.
The day people remember from the 1966 track and field season was May 21 at the Kansas State University track in Manhattan where KSHSAA was holding its state meet.
Cimarron's Roger Timken would produce a record that had never before been matched by any male or female athlete in state track and field history. And it still hasn't been.
Timken captured the Class B (Kansas then had just AA, A, B, BB classes) 120-yard high hurdles, the 180 low hurdles and the 220-yard dash gold medals. But more important, he scored enough points (18) to edge the Frontenac team by two points and bring home not just three individual golds, but the state team title as well.
Nobody else has accomplished the solo feat like it. Others have scored all of a team's points to win, but has had teammates competing as well. That year, Timken was the lone representative for the Bluejays. There were 99 other schools represented in Class B at the state meet.
"Really, though, my greatest day of performing came the week before," said Timken, who has completed his final year as the elementary school principal in Dighton after teaching, coaching and serving as an administrator his entire career after graduating from Kansas State University. "Regionals was the best I ever did."
While competing at Manhattan, Timken posted times of 14.5 seconds in the 120 hurdles, 19.5 seconds in the 180 hurdles and 22.2 seconds in the 220. But it was at the Class B regional eight days earlier at Dodge City where Timken's light shined the brightest.
Despite windy conditions, Timken clocked a 14.0-second time in the high hurdles, an 18.4 time in the low hurdles and 20.9 seconds in the 220. At the time, in the May, 1966 Track and Field News magazine, his times were tied for second fastest in the country for preps in the 120 hurdles, fastest time in the country for the 180 hurdles and a share of fourth fastest in the 220.
"The state meet, I really went and did what I expected myself to do and that was to win the three events," Timken said. "I wasn't 100 percent at the state because I had slightly pulled a muscle and I had to have some treatments that week."
His coach, Larry Friend, had trained Timken to be peaking at just the right time and to this day Timken said he thought he had faster times in him if he had been pushed and had been healthy at the state meet.
"There was a hurdler from Frontenac and I was a little concerned about him," Timken said of his primary competition. "I felt a great deal of pressure after the prelims because I didn't know how my leg would hold up on Saturday."
Timken said he received treatment from K-State legendary trainer Porky Morgan twice while in Manhattan and that helped get him ready for his events (at the time a track athlete could compete in three individual events and a relay).
"He taped me up on Friday and I ran the prelims with the tape, but I didn't like it so I took it off for the finals," Timken said. "I just knew I had to give it all I had and not worry about anything else."
Timken, who stood 6-foot-4 and at the time weighed about 175 pounds, said the 180-yard lows were his best race because it was a speed race.
"I never considered myself to be a great form hurdler in the highs," he said. "But I could three-step them very well and that was a big factor."
Timken began running the hurdles when he was in the fifth grade and it gradually stuck with him through junior high, high school and into college where he competed at K-State from the fall of 1966 to his spring senior season of 1970.
Timken claimed his first state gold medal at the 1965 meet where he won the 180-yard lows in 19.8 seconds, but lost in the 120-yard highs to Kinsley's Kenny Gaines (14.9 to 15.1).
"There's so many things that can go wrong in the highs," Timken said. "I always had trouble running into the wind because of my height, and when I ran downwind, it would blow me into the hurdles.
Timken said he never really thought too much about being the lone competitor from Cimarron at state.
"When you go there, you go with the idea of doing your best and I felt if I ran well, I should win the three events and I did," Timken said. "Winning the team title was just pure luck. With so many teams competing then, the points were split out much more than they are today. I was just fortunate enough that the other team didn't have any more points in the other events because they would have won."
Timken coached the Dighton high school track and field program from 1974 to 1986 and it was four years before his first athlete qualified for the state meet.
"You've got to have good athletes and movitated athletes," Timken said. "I've always thought the state meet was the greatest event for Kansas kids to be involved in. I still do. Over the years, I've missed very few. I'm always very interested to see good kids run and what they can accomplish."
The 180 low hurdle event is a part of past history as it became the 330-yard hurdles in 1978, then a year later became the 300-meter hurdles. Timken said he never had a chance to run the 330 event because when he left high school to attend K-State, the event had been increased to 440-yard intermediates.
"I've always wondered what kind of time I might have run in the 330s," Timken said. "But that's the thing, we'll never know. But I think my time might have been competitive with what kind of times you see kids running today. At least, I'd like to think that."
For now, Timken can sit back and remember his days at Cimarron with satisfaction in knowing he ran his best. Time tells all stories from the track.