Carl Smith’s state championship meet record in the 100 meter has stood for nearly 25 years since he set it in 1987.
Every year a group of eager high school sprinters heads to the meet in an effort not only to win first place but also to best Smith’s record of 10.3 seconds.
Every year, it takes them longer to cross the finish line than it took Smith.
“That’s amazing,” Smith recently told the News-Review. “I thought it was long gone.”
But remarkable as it is that Smith’s record has held up for as long as it has, it’s not the longest standing local track and field state championship record.
That distinction belongs to fellow Riverhead graduate Greg Flippen’s record in the long jump.
Flippen’s state championship record of 24 feet 7 inches was set in 1971 and he’s still No. 1 on the list more than 40 years later. He first set the state long jump record as a freshman in 1968, before breaking it again as a sophomore, jumping 24 feet 4 inches — beating Olympic world record-setter Bob Beaman’s national high school record of 23 feet 5 inches.
When asked about the record in 2009, Flippen shared the following with the News-Review:
“My dad was up at the meet. I saw him coming around on the other side of the fence. I thought, ‘Well, maybe Dad came give me some words of wisdom.’ ”
“My father said, ‘How do you feel?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, the guy just jumped 23 feet 9.’ He said, ‘What do you mean, you don’t know? You’re a Flippen — get your a– out there and do it!’
“He turned and instantly walked away from me. Wouldn’t even look back at me.
“When I jumped, I used every bit of the board without fouling. I landed in the pit and the officials said, ‘Good jump.’
“Next thing I knew, they announced a new state record, 24 feet, 4 inches. My father was on the sidelines, saying, ‘I told you!’
Two years later, Flippen broke his own record with the current standard.
“You got to be kidding me,” said Riverhead track coach Sal Loverde. “In this age of athletes and supplemnents and all that you have.
“To hold a record for [more than 40] years, it’s just crazy.”
Flippen was such a talent in high school, he won the state championship in the long jump all four years.
Flippen’s actual longest jump came in at 25 feet in the Junior National Championships held in Wantagh. It is not recognized as the state record because it did not occur during a state championship meet.
Mike Strockbine, program director of Parisi Speed School at World Gym in East Setauket, estimated in a 2009 interview that out of the 400 high schools in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, about 2,000 athletes try to beat Mr. Flippen’s record each year.
“Multiply that by 40 years, and 80,000 athletes have tried,” he told The News-Review in 2009. “None have come close.”
Mr. Flippen competed at the 1968 National Junior Olympics and he would later jump for Adelphi University.
In 2009, Flippen’s sophomore record was recognized at the state meet on its 40th anniversary.
Flippen and Smith are among four athletes from the 11 high schools considered for our 20 Greatest Athletes list that currently hold state championship records.
Lynette Wigington, a graduate of Mattituck High School, is the only one to hold two records, both set in 1997.
“She was such a talent,” said longtime running coach Cliff Clark of Shelter Island, himself an Olympic Trials qualifier.
Wigington shares the record of 20 feet 10 3/4 inches in the long jump with Keyon Soley of Uniondale, who tied her mark in 1998.
Wigington also holds the triple jump record of 42 feet and 1/2 inch.
Heather Zimmerman of Miller Place High School has held the 5,000 meter indoor state championship record with a time of 17:26.54 since 1983.
Sports Editor Bob Liepa contributed reporting for this story.