When the Louisiana High School Athletic Association switched to metric distances for track and field competition in 1980, Fair Park’s Rod Richardson set a state record of 10.20 in the 100-meter dash that was also the national record.
Now, 32 years later, it is no longer the national record, but it is still the state record.
The year before he set that record, Richardson led the state in all classes with 9.4 seconds in the 100-yard dash, one-tenth of a second over the state record set by Harold Porter of East Jefferson in 1970.
Most state records don’t stand longer than six or seven years. But for Richardson’s 10.20, it has been 32 years – and counting.
That was the only year he won a state championship in the 100. The previous year, he had the state’s fastest time in the 440-yard dash (47.8 seconds, three-tenths of a second over the state record at that time), but did not run that event in the state meet.
Ever since he broke city records in the SPAR Relays as a fifth grader at Werner Park Elementary School, he had been called “Rocket Rod.” Later, while he was attending Texas A&M, he won an NCAA championship in the indoor 55-meter dash.
When Fair Park won its only state championship in 1980, Richardson provided 25 of the Indians’ 42 points, winning the 100 and 200, and anchoring two winning relay teams.
Byrd’s Owen Self was the first Louisiana high school athlete to break 4:20 in the mile run, lowering the state record to 4:11.8 in 1967. That is still a very good time (Haughton’s Mitch Landry leads the state this year with 4:19.47), but the record was broken 12 years later and Self now ranks third on the all-time state list in the 1,600-meter run, which is the metric mile.
Of Louisiana’s top 13 in the 1,600, only two have competed since Ryan Travis of Jewell Sumner (Kentwood) lowered the record to 4:04.68 in 1997. Michael Hendry of Catholic (Baton Rouge) had a 4:14.3 in 2003 and Pat Gavin of St. Paul’s (Covington) had a 4:14.77 in 2001.
Travis’ time was converted from a mile run, which is 1.6 seconds slower than the 1,600. Travis has held the record for 15 years, and is the only miler who held the state record that long since Francis “Mule” Hammett of Baton Rouge High set a record of 4:26 in 1927 that stood for 34 years – until Larry Shirey of Class C Sikes ran a 4:23.4 and Edwin Greer of Minden ran a 4:23.7 in 1961. Shirey held the record for five years, until Self broke it with 4:19.4 as a junior in 1966.
The only North Louisiana runners among the state’s top 13 are Self, Fair Park’s John McKinnon (who ran a 4:13 mile in 1968, which converts to 4:11.4 for 1,600) and Mansfield’s Larry Shanklin, who ran a 4:14.6 mile in 1972. That converts to 4:13.0 for the 1,600.
McKinnon, who ranked second behind Self for 14 years, is now sixth on the all-time state list. Shanklin is ninth.