Greg Flippen, one of Riverhead High School’s most celebrated athletes, died Tuesday at Peconic Bay Medical Center. He was 60.
Mr. Flippen had been hospitalized since suffering a stroke last week, his daughter said.
He was widely regarded as the greatest long jumper in New York State public school history, having held the state record for 44 years before it was broken this year.
Mr. Flippen’s state championship record of 24 feet 7 inches was set in 1971. 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.
His daughter, Candice Bostick of Ohio, said her father remained proud of his record his entire life, even speaking of it from the hospital bed in his final days.
“He was devastated [when it was broken],” she said. “He was always so proud of what he had done.”
When asked about the record in 2009, Mr. 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 standard that stood until this year.
Local track coaches have long marveled at how long the record stood.
“You got to be kidding me,” said Riverhead track coach Sal Loverde. “In this age of athletes and supplements and all that you have.
“To hold a record for [more than 40] years, it’s just crazy.”
Mr. Flippen was such a talent in high school, he won the state championship in the long jump all four years.
Mr. 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 tried to beat Mr. Flippen’s record each year.
“Multiply that by 40 years, and 80,000 athletes tried,” he told The News-Review in 2009. “None [came] close.”
Mr. Flippen, a member of the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame, competed at the 1968 National Junior Olympics and he would later jump for Adelphi University.
In 2009, Mr. Flippen’s sophomore record was recognized at the state meet on its 40th anniversary.
A film and television actor, Mr. Flippen was a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild, his daughter said.
Born April 27, 1952, to Ruth and Curtis Flippen, Mr. Flippen is survived by five children, Candice Bostick, Gregory Bostick, Josh Bostick, Curtis Flippen and Carey Sterling; three grandchildren; a sister, Debra Turner, and a brother, Mark Flippen.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, Nov. 10, at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Riverhead.