California, along with Texas and Florida, are considered the hotbeds of high school track and field. So, it would only follow that the state records should also be among the best in the nation.
Well, yes and no.
What follows is one person's opinion, based on almost 60 years of reporting track and field, of the five toughest California state records compared to the rest of the nation. Not that someone might not come along in a year or two and shatter these marks, but if they do, they'll also be among the best in the United States. We're using Jack Shepard's lists primarily because we want the all-time bests.
Here are the Fab Five (with apologies to Michigan basketball) boys records:
If you were going to look for one of America's most impressive distance runners ever, you probably wouldn't think of going to Riverbank High, a town of 25,000 located on the Stanislaus River northeast of Modesto.
But that's where German Fernandez went to school, recording breath-taking times while winning the state 1600 and 3200 in 2008. Remember this-he ran an 8:34.23 AFTER a 4:00.29 1600. Both are state meet records and the 3200 is the National Federation all-time best. Shepard doesn't recognize 3,200s but Fernandez' 7:59.82 for 3000 meters is the only time ever under 8 minutes and a rarely-run 8:34.40 for two-miles is second on the all-time list to Luke Verzbicas' 8:29.46.
Converting Fernandez' 3200 to a 2-mile and you get an 8:31.42. But Verzbicas did not run his fastest times back-to-back like Fernandez did before a huge crowd at Cerritos College that brought him back for a victory lap after his 8:34.23.
In the decade of the 80s, Coach Kye Courtney's Hawthorne High teams produced a series of great runners, none better than Henry Thomas.
Thomas was a member of a 4x400 relay team that included Michael Marsh, Sean Kelly and Raymond Young that blistered the Texas Relays when it ran 3:07.40 in 1985-still the fastest time ever run by a high school team.
Thomas had been scheduled to run the 100 against the best in Texas but he false started, leaving him fresh and the quartet eager to prove California was not just as good as Texas, but better. They did just that with a record that has withstood the test of time.
Marsh, of course, went on to win gold medals in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games at 200 meters and the 4x100 meter relay.
Bell Gardens High certainly isn't considered now or ever as a track power but much like Riverbank, it did produce the finest 800-meter runner of all-time, Michael Granville.
Powerfully built with long strides, Granville is one of only two runners ever to crack 1:47, having run 1:46.45 in 1996 in the state championship at Cerritos College. George Kersh of Pearl, Mississippi ran 1:46.58 in 1987.
Granville had that second or even third gear that kicks in when others start to fade and basically was untouchable. The second-best mark in state history, 1:47.31 by Berkeley's Pete Richardson in 1981, is also the third fastest individual ever, making this event top-heavy and deep.
(photo by Chell Hill)
Consider that only one other human in history has put the 12-pound shot farther than Fallbrook's Brent Noon's 76-2 in 1990.That would be Texas' Michael Carter whose 81-3 ½ at the Golden West Invitational in 1979 is moon-shot like. Those who were there will recall he almost put the shot on the track.
Carter has the top four marks of all-time, but this is a California list and Noon is the best by four feet in the Golden State. Behind him is a 72-3 by St. John Bosco's Matt Katnik.. Only four individuals in the state have surpassed 70-feet.
In Noon's first meet as a senior, he put the shot over 70 feet for the first time, which was even more dramatic because he launched it over a log at about 67 feet out. His coaches knew it was coming, just not that soon. He would surpass 70 more than a dozen times, pulling a hamstring late in the season that resulted in "only" a state-winning mark of 74-4 ¾.
(photo by Kirby Lee)
Now is when you start to say hey, what about.....?
Michael Norman of Vista Murrieta was untouchable with a best of 20.14 in the furlong and a 45.19 in the 400 as a backup in 2016. That 20.14 is equal to the third-best ever and he went on to win the state meet in Clovis in a state meet record 20.30 after earlier posting winning times of 20.15, 20.17 and 20.21-giving him four of the Top 10 all-time marks.
He was also a member of the VM 4x400 gold medal relay team, leading the Broncos to back-to-back state team championships. Had he been able to focus just on the 200, he might have jumped to the top of the list in the event, over Noah Lyles (20.09).