The training started soon after the babies began arriving, one after another after another. Rod Jorgensen, a former champion sprinter, would lay the infant on a bed and gently work his legs through a running motion in the air. The baby didn't know it, but already he was learning the rudiments of sprinting. Later, Rod would teach the baby to "crawl correctly," again coordinating the running movement. When the children were older, he would correct their running technique as he watched them race and play in the back yard.
Get the knees up. Straighten the arms."I just hope and pray one of them will turn out to be fast," his wife Gayle once observed, taking in this scene.
Fortunately for the sake of all concerned, the children did turn out to be fast. All but one of the seven Jorgensen children are carrying on a family tradition of sprinters.
Take the fourth child, for instance. Windy. Not Wendy. Windy. Everyone knows it's Windy. There has never been a sprinter like Windy Jorgensen in Utah.
In nearly two seasons of high school competition, Jorgensen, a sophomore at American Fork High School, has never lost an outdoor race. Already this season she has run 200 meters in a state-record 24.71, a time that would rank among the top five in the nation, according to the latest issue of Track & Field News. Jorgensen also has clocked 12.08 for 100 meters - a scant .08 of a second off another state mark - and a 56.8 leg on a 4 x 400-meter relay - a time that would rank her nationally if it had been produced in an open race.
Jorgensen is a heavy favorite to win the 100- and 200-meter dashes at this weekend's state track and field championships at BYU. Again. Last year, as a mere freshman, she won state titles in the 100 and 200 and in both relays.
"Windy is the finest female sprint talent the state's ever seen," says BYU track coach Craig Poole.
"Oh, my, she's a good one," says Weber State track coach Jim Blaisdell. "She's one of the most outstanding sprinters I've ever seen. Any (college) coach in this state would take her on his team right now."
Arizona State called American Fork High last year to inquire about Jorgensen, only to learn that she was just a freshman. But already Jorgensen is running times that are superior to all but a couple of Utah's top female collegiate sprinters. All this from a 15-year-old girl who is so small that she must shop for clothes in the children's department.
"I wonder how she does it," said one observer recently. "She's so tiny."
But watch Windy go. The knees drive high and straight, the arms swing strongly from hip to eye with precision, the feet snap crisply and quickly from the buttocks down to the track and back. It's as if she has been trained to sprint all her life, which of course she has.
"What she has is great (leg) turnover, great speed," says Blaisdell. "That's something you don't teach. It's something you get from mom and dad."
Funny he should say that. In 1925, Henry Jorgensen won the Idaho State high school championships in the 100- and 220-yard dashes, posting state records in both, and eventually faced and defeated the Utah prep champions in a Utah-Idaho meet in Logan. In 1963, Henry's son Rod won the Utah state championships in the 100 and 220, posting state-record times of 9.7 and 21.5. In 1989, Rod's oldest son, Bart, won the Utah state championships in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, clocking state-record times of 10.82 and 21.66. In 1990, Windy added her own championships to the family scrapbook.
Stay tuned. More Jorgensen sprinters are on the way.
Which is no accident. Sprinting is a family way of life in the Jorgensen household. From the beginning, Rod, whose own sprint career was cut short by a knee injury after a year at BYU, seemed bent on creating his own little track team. Jody, the first child, ran the 800-meter run in junior high school, but quit when her girlfriends convinced her it was not a feminine pursuit. Christy pursued volleyball, softball and school work instead of running. Bart, the third child, sprints for Ricks College and is considering scholarship offers from Weber State and Utah State. Windy, who was named after the song by the Association, began competing at the age of 8; two years later she broke 13 seconds in the 100-meter dash for the first time. Joel, an eighth grader, already has run 11.6 for 100 meters. Misty - named after the song by the same name - is a fourth grader and already a state champion race walker and rising competitive runner. Mandy - named after, well, you guessed it - competes for her father's North Valley Track Club, as do her siblings.
"I started working on their technique when they were babies," says Rod, a full-time teacher at the Utah State Training School (he teaches people how to work with retarded children) and a part-time sprint coach at American Fork High. "I would work their legs while they lay on the bed, and I taught them how to crawl correctly - first all one side, then right hand up and left foot up, like running. Then, when they were older and running outside, I would make sure their hand movements were in correct alignment, and work on high knee action.
"As long as I can remember, the kids raced each other, even if it was just to the car, and we'd have footraces in the yard or challenge the cousins to races at reunions."
In Rod's mind, the family that races together stays together. Family life evolves around running. Summer vacations are trips to national and regional competitions throughout the West. Track meets (and even workouts) are family affairs. Gayle works the finish line, the children race and Rod coaches and paces endlessly.
"Mom and I won't stand with him," says Windy. Rod has been known to throw up during meets.
"We always give our medals to Coach Rod to put in his pocket," says Windy. "It's the first thing I think of after I get a medal." Once home from a meet, Rod ceremonially walks with each child to his or her room to find a place for the newest medal or trophy.
Father and coach, Rod oversees everything from training to diet. Multi-vitamins, fish and dairy products are in; pop, fried food, nuts and potato chips are out. Windy was recently forbidden to leave the house for a church activity until she ate her beans and baked potato. She is more eager when it comes to training. On a tour of the house, Windy points to a sign on the refrigerator: "Remember, when you're not practicing, someone somewhere is, and when you meet he will beat you."
Track and running. It has always been that way in this house.
"I don't even remember the first time I used starting blocks," says Windy.
"Windy was always fast," says Rod. "When kids would chase her in the yard, I noticed how fast she could move. But I didn't really tune in until I saw her race neighborhood boys and beat them. I thought, maybe she has got something."
If Windy was always fast, she also was always small. She didn't reach five feet until last year. Today she is 5-foot-3, 110 pounds. "Doctors think I'm done growing," she says. "I wish I could get bigger. It's embarrassing to shop in the kids section - but the clothes are cheaper."
By now Windy has grown accustomed to being smaller than her rivals. Once, as she was lining up for the start of a race in the regional age-group championships several years ago, one of her opponents sneered, "Are you a midget? Go back to bantam." Windy won the race.
Jorgensen was so small that she couldn't wear racing spikes until she was 11 because no one made a shoe small enough to fit her. Even now, with her Size-41/2 feet, she must special order all of her shoes.
"She's small, but it doesn't hurt her (performances) because she has such quick turnover," says Rod.
Not to mention nearly flawless technique. Rod's years of coaching have made Windy a polished sprinter at an early age (in her early years she had a wild left arm - until Rod finally threatened to tape it to her side).
For her part, Windy does her own homework, whether it's for class (she's a straight-A student) or track (she studies video of her races and those of her heroine, Florence Griffith-Joyner).
"I hope to make it to the Olympic Trials someday," says Windy. In the meantime, there is the local competition. Unbeaten or no, Windy still frets about that.
"I always get nervous because I know everyone wants to beat me," she says. But so far, no one has succeeded.
Jorgensen's best times
100 meters: 12.08
200 meters: 24.71*
400 meters: 56.8 --
4 x 100 relay: 48.85*
4 x 400 relay: 4:01.54