The worldwide coronavirus pandemic robbed Belmond-Klemme athletes and fans of any spring sports season, but one alumnus reminded us that this year is the 60th anniversary of the greatest track season in Belmond High School history.
A quartet of seniors – Dave Suntken, Larry Kramer, Mike Long and Lynn Jenison – led the Broncos to two state championships in two months. The seniors single-handedly won the indoor state track title in Iowa City in early April. They then teamed with four underclassmen – Bob Whipple, Bob O’Connor, Vernon Pastour and Robbie Courson – to capture the outdoor title in mid-May. Along the way, the boys set 12 new school records.
Here is how the Belmond Independent covered that unprecedented season under Coach Rich Koolbeck:
April 7, 1960
BELMOND CAPTURES STATE TRACK CHAMPIONSHIP
Four boys reap all Bronco points
Belmond High School’s trophy case had proudly on display this week its first award emblematic of an Iowa state high school championship. The handsome piece of hardware was brought home Sunday from Iowa City, where the day before four doughty Broncos had whipped all opposition to pick off the Class A state high school indoor track title.
It was Larry Kramer, Dave Suntken, Mike Long and Lynn Jenison – who last spring amassed 44 points by their personal efforts in the North Iowa conference track and field meet here – who this time accounted for all of the 29 points that brought BHS the state championship.
There were heroics galore as the gifted four battled their way to the title. First of all, the achievements of Kramer and Suntken should be mentioned in the same breath.
Dave played the major role, points-wise. He startled “the experts” by winning the 50-yard dash by a whisker in the good time of :05.7 and shared first place with a leap of 6-1 in the high jump – barely failing to gain an exclusive first for himself when he brushed the bar off at a half-inch higher.
Then Dave all but clinched the championship for his team by a tremendous lead-off leg in the deciding mile relay that put the BHS quartet so far ahead that their rivals stood no chance of taking up the slack.
But the top performance of the whole meet was that of Kramer in the mile run. The little Bronco distance star gained a resounding victory over his arch rival, John Raveling of Saydel, and in doing so equalled the fastest indoor mile time ever run by an Iowa high school athlete. He was caught in 4:27.9.
Long contributed a third place in the broad jump with a leap of 19’9”. He was in second place in the jump event when, by oversight, Gary Meyer of Clarion was allowed an illegal fourth attempt. The talented Cowboy made the most of this break and sailed 20’5” to take the runner-up spot. Nevertheless, Long’s three points were most useful toward the championship cause.
Jenison completed Belmond’s scoring with a fifth place in the 440. He ran a :54.9 quarter for second in his particular heat, being barely nipped at the tape by the runner who ranked fourth in the final placings on a time basis.
The biggest conversation-maker of the meet was the battle royale between Kramer and Raveling in the mile. Larry was satisfied to let his opponent set the pace for the first three-fourths of the race. “Butch” passed Raveling as the next-to-last lap started, but was momentarily boxed by a runner he was lapping as he started his final circuit of the 220-yard oval.
Raveling took advantage of this opportunity to regain the lead, but he didn’t hold the front position long. As Kramer uncorked his finishing sprint. he passed the Saydel star with ease and when he reached the tape he was 20 yards ahead and pulling away. His time was about a second faster than the Class AA indoor performance last year by Ralph Trimble of Cedar Rapids, who later in the state outdoor meet set a new Iowa high school record for the mile. That is what Kramer now has his sights on.
It was after 11:15 p.m. Saturday when time arrived for the final event on the program – the mile relay. The team championship hung on the outcome of this last event, to be run in heats on a time basis. (BHS led in the points standings with 21.) Belmond drew lane number one in the first heat, faced with the need not only of winning that heat but doing so in fast enough time that it could not be surpassed in any of the heats to follow.
Suntken was off like a flash with the sound of the gun, pulled promptly into the lead, and by the time he passed the baton to Jenison, the Broncos were in front by not less than 20 yards. Jenison, Kramer and Long added about 10 more yards to the winners’ lead to finish in 3:38.8, only a tenth of a second over the Class A record.
Clarion, the Class A state outdoor champions last spring, finished in the runner-up spot in the indoor championship.
May 19, 1960
FIVE DOWN, ONE TO GO
That’s the count on championships won by the BHS track squad this season. The tracksters won the Class A indoor state championship, the Class B titles in the Humboldt and Fort Dodge Dodger Relays, the Class A title in the Bronco Relays, and the North Iowa Conference championship. Eight athletes – Dave Suntken, Mike Long, Bob Whipple, Larry Kramer, Bob O’Connor, Vernon Pastour, Robbie Courson and Lynn Jenison – are aiming at that “one to go” represented by the Class A outdoor state championship. The Bronco squad will compete in nine events in the state classic at Des Moines and is rated high among the team favorites.
The state meet will mark the end of the “record-breakingest” campaign that BHS is ever likely to witness. All of those eight athletes have had a hand in erasing one or more of 12 school records from the books. Another mark – in the 180-yard low hurdles – was tied by Long. Of the 20 events for which best BHS performances have been kept in track, only eight survived the 1960 season!
New records were set in the 50-yard dash (indoor), mile run (indoor), 100-yard dash, 220-yard dash, 180-yard low hurdles (tied), 880-yard relay, medley relay, mile relay, two-mile relay, high jump, broad jump, shot put, and football throw.
May 26, 1960
BRONCS TAKE STATE TRACK TITLE
Win four firsts in Class A meet
Scoring in every event in which they had qualified, Belmond’s track and field experts made a walk-away of the Class A state outdoor meet Saturday at the East High track in Des Moines. When final team totals had been figured, Belmond rested in first place with 41 points and Clarion was in second with 265⁄8.
This was the same order in which the two Wright County rivals finished in the Class A state indoor meet. Clarion had won the outdoor title a year ago with 271⁄2 points but didn’t have a foe of the Broncos’ caliber to contend with then.
Belmond had both front-line strength and depth that none of its opponents could match. Besides placing in nine events – exactly half the total on the program – the Class A champions won four of those events.
Individual champs were: Larry Kramer in the mile run, Dave Suntken in the 220-yard dash, and Bob Whipple in the football throw. Belmond’s other first was posted by the mile relay team consisting of Suntken, Bob O’Connor, Lynn Jenison and Mike Long.
Kramer gained sweet revenge over John Raveling of Saydel in the mile for the defeat Raveling had handed Larry at the Drake Relays. The Saydel star set a killing pace for three-quarters of the race with the obvious intent of leaving Kramer too exhausted to sprint to victory at the finish.
When Raveling expanded his lead to nearly 15 yards during the third lap. Bronco followers began to wonder if “Butch” would have the tick needed to win, after taking up all that slack. However, he was on Ravelings’s heels as they went into the last curve, and Raveling couldn’t stave off Larry’s determined bid on the home stretch. Kramer’s 4:29.6 time on the soggy track was sixth-tenths of a second faster than the Class AA time.
Suntken had been left behind as a questionable start sent the 100-yard dashmen from their blocks and he took only fifth in that event. He also had to settle for a disappointing fourth in the high jump with a leap of only 5-51⁄2. It was clear in the 220 that he was determined to make amends, and he finished first in the longer dash by a good 10 yards. Considering the intermittent rain that hampered the runners considerably, his time of 23 seconds was excellent.
Although Bob Whipple had the second-best qualifying distance in the district meets, his first place in the football throw came as a general surprise. His best toss of 214’4” was his second-best of the year and enabled him to beat out Vince Hanson of Clarion for the championship.
Long was the other point-getter in the field events, chalking up two points for a fourth in the broad jump. His leap of 20’81⁄2” was the best of his career and added three inches to the BHS record he set earlier in the season.
The biggest disappointment of the day for the Broncos was the failure of the medley relay team to win its specialty. It was the first time in Class A competition that Belmond hadn’t won this event during the current season. The race was lost when Jenison was severely buffeted by other runners coming in for the final baton exchange, and Belmond fell behind by five or ten more yards than would otherwise have been the case.
Raveling, anchoring for Saydel, was given a sizeable lead over Kramer as the wind-up 880 started. Larry made up most of the deficit, but Raveling finally finished a stride or two ahead.
Lady Luck evened things out, though, in the mile relay. Belmond’s team of Suntken, O’Connor and Jenison led throughout three laps and into the home stretch when it appeared Larry Mohler of Clarinda might nudge Long out of first place in the final few yards. Only a few strides from the tape, though, Mohler lost his baton and his team was disqualified. As matters developed, Mike lunged ahead by a matter of inches after Mohler’s costly bobble. Belmond’s winning time of 3:33.3 was seven-tenths of a second better than the same foursome’s BHS mark set at the Dodger Relays.
Rounding out the Broncos’ point total was a third place achieved by the two-mile relay team. Although Vernon Pastour ran a decent 2:12 opening 880, Belmond was back far enough to leave in doubt the prospect that the Broncos might pick up needed points in the event. Robbie Courson ran a fine second half-mile and brought Belmond up into third position. Neither O’Connor nor Jenison were able to challenge the leaders, but they fought off the efforts of all other rivals to jeopardize third place.
By adding the outdoor championship and mile relay trophies to their collection, the Broncos ended up with a total of 30 for the track season. An even two dozen were for victories in relay events; the other six represented team titles.
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WHAT TEAM IS SECOND?
If 1960 was the greatest track team in Belmond, which one was second best?
The 1992 team, which has won the North Iowa Conference title, brought home a runner-up trophy from the Class 2A state track meet, and nearly claimed first place. The Broncos on the team were Colby Yoder, Ross Quigley, Mike Gobeli, Chris Anderson, Kory Swart, Joel Buseman, Jesse Armour, Jason Robertson and Brian Schmalbeck. The team competed in nine events.
According to Doug Dana’s account in the June 4, 1992 issue of the Independent:
“As was the case in the conference meet, the state meet came down to the final two events before the outcome was decided. When these two events were run and the meet had ended, NIC rival West Hancock reversed the order of the finish at conference as they edged the Broncos by three points for the championship.
“The weekend began in grand style last Friday afternoon as the 1600 meter medley relay unit of Gobeli, Anderson, Quigley and Schmalbeck bettered a school record set earlier this season with their first place time of 3:36.81, becoming the 24th event in school history to capture a state championship.
“The 4x400 meter relay came within an eyelash of bettering their school record in Friday’s preliminaries with their qualifying time of 3:25.95, the sixth fastest. In Saturday’s finals, the Bronco unit consisted of Gobeli, Swart, Schmalbeck and Quigley challenged for the lead before finally finishing fourth in 3:26.25.”
The other Bronco placings included silver medals for Swart in the 1600 and 800 meter runs, and the 4x800 meter relay team of Quigley, Robertson, Armour and Schmalbeck.
The other entry in the second greatest track team sweepstakes was 2010. The 2010 season was run during a beautiful spring, and it was a great time to be in the stands cheering for the Broncos. B-K claimed seven first place team finishes in 11 meets. The team was second in three other meets. The Broncos were the conference champions and placed second in the district meet. The Broncos qualified in five events at the state meet.
The results from the three-day event included:
First place - Justin Meyer in the 800 meter run;
Second place - 4x400 meter relay team of Meyer, Josh Hildebrand, Joel Wilhelm, and Bob Fink;
Third place - 4x800 meter relay team of Meyer, Wilhelm, Rick Johnson and Grant van der Linden. This foursome was the defending state champions in the event, but injuries to three of the four members hobbled the effort to repeat;
Fourth place - Meyer in the 400 meter low hurdles;
Fifth place - 4x200 meter relay team of Wilhelm, Fink, and Hildebrand and Logan McKenna;
Sixth place - Johnson in the 800 meter run.
It was the silver medal in the 4x400 on Saturday afternoon that jumped B-K from fifth place in the final standings to second.
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Maybe there is a way to crown all three track teams as the best. The 1960 team ran as the Belmond Broncos. The 1992 team was known as Belmond/ Klemme since the two districts had not formally merged yet. The 2010 team ran under the Belmond-Klemme name. A champion for each era.