Doug Robinson: A golden era for Utah prep athletes

Published: Thursday, May 15 2014 4:55 p.m. MDT

Herriman's Kaysha Love, left, demolished the all-class state records for the 100- and 200-meter dashes by clocking 11.68 and 24.11 seconds this year.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

By all accounts, this has been a banner year, if not a banner era, for Utah high school track and field athletes — and, by extension, Utah athletes in general. If the trend continues, this weekend’s state track and field championships will produce some head-turning performances.

Most sports rely on opinion to answer the often-asked questions — What are the greatest athletic performances? Who are the greatest athletes? How much are athletes improving? But track and field offers an objective measurement of athletic performance — it’s right there on the stopwatch or the measuring tape. It’s a sport that is so precise that even the wind is monitored.

Based on those measurements, Utah prep athletes are performing better than ever and moving up in the world (and we can assume this carries over to football, basketball, baseball, etc.).

We know this because the numbers don’t lie, and we’ve got plenty of numbers. No sport, aside from baseball, breeds more stat geeks than track and field, and Roger Buhrley, the dean of track coaches in Utah (current residence: Syracuse High), is Exhibit A. About 20 years ago, he compiled a list of the greatest performances by Utah athletes in all events — the sprint and distance events, the throws, the jumps.

It’s indicative of Buhrley’s passion for the sport that he embraced such an assignment, for no pay. He spent several weeks one summer interviewing old coaches and searching microfilm at the library to collect the best performances and verify their accuracy. He compiled a list that was 50 deep for each of track's 34 events — 1,700 entries — enabling coaches and athletes to compare performances against marks going back decades. Over the years almost every list has swelled to well over 100 names as more marks were discovered from the past and as athletes produced new marks each spring (only a few event lists have failed to grow — for instance, the boys high jump, a weak event in Utah).

As a result of Buhrley’s work, we know that Utah athletes are producing better marks than ever in most events. This season they have produced six performances that rank as all-class state records. Not only that, but many of them rank among the best in the nation — and not just in the distance races, where they have been strong traditionally.

Cam Dopp, a BYU-bound senior at Woods Cross High, won the 300-meter hurdles at the BYU Invitational with a time of 36.30 — the fastest ever by a Utahn and second fastest in the U.S. this season, just .06 behind the leader.

Austin Kafentzis, Jordan High’s Wisconsin-bound junior quarterback, threw the javelin 217 feet, 6 inches — or, in football terms, 72+ yards — third best in the nation and a whopping 12 feet farther than Utah’s 13-year-old all-class record.

Chrissy Glassman, a junior at Park City High, threw the javelin 160 feet, 6 inches — nearly 10 feet farther than any other Utah girl has ever thrown and No. 3 in the nation this season.

Trevor Leavitt, a senior at Davis High who will join Dopp at BYU next season, covered the 400-meter dash in 47.00 seconds at the BYU Invitational, breaking the 14-year-old all-class record and ranking No. 8 in the nation this year.

Conner Mantz, a senior at Sky View High, clocked 8:52.90 in the 3,200-meter run at a meet in California. That time ranks No. 8 nationally and No. 3 on Utah’s all-time list.

Kaysha Love, a sophomore at Herriman High, demolished the all-class state records for the 100- and 200-meter dashes by clocking 11.68 and 24.11 — times that rank among the top 40 in the nation in what are arguably track’s most competitive events.