The Sports Desk: A lesson in history at the Ram Relays
By BRANDON HURLEY
The annual Ram Relays held in Jefferson each spring is perhaps one of the more unique meets in the area. A handful of events are named after famous Greene County athletes and relay teams, shedding light on track stars that may have long ago been forgotten if not for this annual meet.
While not all events are named in honor of legends from Jefferson High and Scranton, there are quite a few, including the Kris Curnyn girls’ discus, the 1973 Scranton High girls’ distance medley relay, the Rosemary Holden Hoyt girls’ 800-meter run, the 1930 Jefferson High 880-yard relay (4x200-meter relay), the Bruce McDonald boys’ 220-yard (200-meter) dash and the Brent MacLagan 400-meter hurdles.
The names may be just that – names – to many, but the events are forever etched in Jefferson-Scranton and Scranton High School lore. I’ll take you on a deep dive into the archives today for a look back at the sparkling history of track and field in Greene County.
The incredible track feats date back more than 87 years, where Jefferson High began to make its mark on the state.
1930 Jefferson High 880-yard relay
History stretches back a long way in Jefferson.
The Rambler quartet of Morain, Scharff, Hasbrouck and Joe Rogers broke the state record in the half mile at the 1930 state track meet in Ames. (Newspapers back in the day didn’t like to list first names, apparently.) The athletes rumbled to a time of 1:31.7, trimming an entire second off the previous record set by Colfax back in 1924. Rogers swept the individual sprint events that year as well, dominating the 100-yard and 220-yard dashes. Rogers, on some stop watches, broke the state record in the 100-yard dash, clocking in officially at 10.1 but several judges had him under the record time of 10 seconds flat.
Jefferson came in third as a team with 16 points, tied with Newton. Back then, an award was given to the top athlete in addition to the team. Rogers earned the prestigious honor thanks to his 10 points, narrowly edging Perry’s Dee Osburn, who tallied 9.5 points.
Mason City won the team title with 23 points while Perry finished runner-up with 17.5 points, just ahead of Jefferson.
The 880-yard relay record was the first state record the Jefferson boys’ team had ever broken. The Ramblers later competed at the national meet in Chicago that spring, running in the 880-yard dash and the 100-yard and 220-yard dash.
Head coach Clyde Slinlnger drove five boys to the meet in his personal Packard sedan. The relay squad finished second in the nation that spring.
Prior to state, the 1930 team broke four records at the district meet in Fort Dodge, coming in second.
Carroll won the 2017 version of the 1930 Jefferson High 880-yard relay, running to a time of 1:35.11.
1973 Scranton High distance medley relay
A quartet of super sophomores were the dominant force behind a record-breaking spring back in 1973.
The Scranton High School girls distance medley relay team of 1973 broke the state record with a time of 4:08.3 while winning a state title. The quartet was anchored by the talents of Barb Skalla, Rosemary Spencer, Julie Harris and the legendary Rosemary Holden, who went down as one of the greatest distance runners in state history.
The Trojanettes finished fourth overall at the 1973 state meet with 16 points.
Woodbine won the team title with 33 points. H-L-V (27) and Collins (26) rounded out the top three. Scranton tied with Hampton, who also scored 16 points.
Skalla ran the opening 220 in 27.4 while Spencer ran her 220 in 28.1. Harris was clocked at 57.8 for her quarter-mile leg while Holden ran her half-mile anchor leg in 2:15.
There was just one class back then in 1973, which made the feat even more remarkable.
That same quartet also finished fourth in the one mile relay with a time of 4:06.3.
Holden won the 800-yard title in 2:14.7, four seconds faster than the previous state record.
Carroll won the 2017 distance medley relay with a time of 4:41.61,
Rosemary Holden Hoyt 800-meter run
Scranton’s Rosemary (Holden) Hoyt was an incredible track star in the 1970s, capturing five state titles with four individual championships from 1972-75. She captured three consecutive 880-yard championships including a national championship in 1974. Holden was also a two-time national All-American.
She won three championships at the 1973 meet, capturing the 880-yard crown, the mile and as a member of the distance medley relay.
Holden broke the state record in the half mile that year as a sophomore, but shattered it a year later in 1974, successfully defending her title with a time of 2:13.6.
Her senior track season was an emotional one as Holden battled through mononucleosis in the fall of 1974, which hampered her training for several months. She also endured several injuries as a result.
But, those setbacks did little to derail Holden’s mission to defend her 880-yard title once more.
At the conclusion of the 1975 track season, only six other girls had won as many state championships as Holden had. She ran the second fastest mile to that point in girls’ high school history and later went on to run track at Iowa State University.
Bruce McDonald 220-yard dash (200-meter)
“Blazing” Bruce McDonald won three consecutive 220-yard state titles for Scranton High from 1962-64. He amassed a staggering 50 trophies and 50 medals in his four-year high school career.
McDonald is still the Class 1A state-record holder at 21.3 for 220-yard dash, a record that forever will be etched in the state record books as the event is now run at 200-meters. He’s the current indoor 50-yard dash record-holder at 5.7 as well.
McDonald also earned silver medals in the 100-yard dash and the 440-yard run his senior year in 1964.
The Trojans finished second as a team in 1964, just one behind Dexfield, who scored 33 points.
Scranton won three titles in all in 1964, including the mile and the medley relay. Don Thornton, Don Hupp, Dave Neary and Jim McDonald broke records in both events. The medley quartet shaved nearly three seconds off the previous record with a 3:40.3 while the four athletes set the mile record at 3:34.4.
Carroll’s Dylan Millermon won the 2017 version of the 200-meter dash, running to a time of 23.07.
Brent MacLagan 400-meter hurdles
The 1995 Iowa Male Track Athlete of the year won four state titles for Jefferson-Scranton, including three straight 400-meter hurdle championships. He completed one of the rarest feats in state history during the 1994 state meet in Des Moines, winning both the 400-meter hurdles title and the 1,600-meter run championship, dominance that has yet to be duplicated 23 years later.
MacLagan was inducted into the Iowa High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in November 2016, joined by the likes of Todd Blythe, Nate Kaeding, Lavar Woods and Sage Rosenfels.
The 1995 Jefferson-Scranton graduate went on to run track at the University of Northern Iowa, winning multiple Missouri Valley Conference championships including a pair of outdoor team conference championships and an indoor title.
MacLagan is now an executive senior sales rep at KLS Martin in the Iowa City area, selling medical equipment. He is married to Melissa and together the couple have two kids, a daughter, Amara, and a son, Jack.
Boone’s Devan Baldus won the 2017 version of the Brent MacLagan 400-meter hurdles with a school record time of 54.58.
Kris Curnyn girls’ discus
The legendary Jefferson-Scranton female discus thrower won three state championships in the early 90s. She was a force to be reckoned with as the Ram girls really began to hit their stride during her four years, winning 37 of the 45 discus events she entered in her career. Curnyn won the Drake Relays discus title in 1993 and helped the Rams to the state team title in 1994, Jefferson’s first female team title in school history.
Curnyn’s prowess helped her set the school record in the discus in 1994 with a throw of 146-05, a mark that still stands today. She was also a two-time runner-up in the state shot put.
Curnyn was part of a 1994 class that won four consecutive Raccoon River Conference titles and district meets. That 1994 team qualified for 13 events but entered Drake Stadium with little fanfare.
They went on to score 56 points, the most team points in 14 years, defeating Davis County by 24 points.
Sprinter Allison Drewry won the 100-meter dash state title and captured a silver medal in the 200-meter. She also powered the 4x100-meter relay-winning quartet of Missy Wolterman, Deisha Goshon and Brandy Meincke. Drewry was a member of the second place 4x800-meter relay as well.
Amy Luft won silver medals in both distance events, the 1,500-meter run and the 3,000-meter run.
Curnyn went on to throw for the Iowa State University Track and Field team and became an All-American in the hammer throw (1998).
She finished ninth in the nation in 1997 in the indoor 20-pound weight throw and was ninth in the 1998 outdoor hammer throw.
Curnyn holds the second best discus throw in Iowa State history with a toss of 174-10 at the 1997 Big 12 Championships. Susan Sherman is the all-time record-holder at 176-05 set in 2003.
Curnyn also secured the sixth best indoor throw in school history at 61-05 and is also sixth best all-time in the shot put with a throw of 50-09.5 at the 1998 Big 12 Championships.
Boone’s Claire Sandvig won the 2017 Kris Curnyn discus with a throw of 36-01.
I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did, as I learned quite a bit about the rich history of track here and around Jefferson. With the Drake Relays quickly approaching in Des Moines, it seems fitting that such a unique event is held just a week prior.