While there might not be much track going on in New York State, there is plenty of history to pore through. In our time off, we are looking to revisit all of the State Records for the Outdoor Season. Who these athletes were, where their marks came from, and where are they now. Twice a week, we'll be releasing "Snapshots Of A State Record," where you can learn what it takes, to be put your mark on history. Tune in!
We look here at the fourth-oldest record still on the books for the boys. Enjoy!
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Jeff Van Wie is out west and flying hard. The Suffern senior is at the Golden West meet at California State University in Sacramento on June 11, 1983, and as a Saturday evening looms, he is chasing Rodney Giles of Northern HS in Owings MD and an NY state record in the 800 meters.
Van Wie is running amongst an elite eight of the top half-milers in the nation, and he has made a huge sacrifice to come out here. Back home the New York States meet wrapped up its action hours ago without Van Wie, and it could be argued that an even stronger group of at least the top five 800 meters runners could be assembled from the group that ran there, including the guy with the nation's top 800 meter time.
You have to seize any opportunity for a state record when it appears, and the Golden West 800 has set up beautifully for the top-seeded Van Wie as he enters the final turn. The leaders have been sprinting from the start, no jockeying, no boxing in, just flat out speed. Van Wie has moved up from 6th at the 400m mark, but going into the last turn for the final 200m Giles is far ahead. Van Wie wants to catch Giles and get a meet record, but even if he doesn't, he is working on a crusher of a time.
Blasting into the home straightaway, Van Wie reels Giles in bit by bit. Getting the lean at the tape, he celebrates a meet and NY state record of 1:48.56 as Giles congratulates him with arm over the shoulder. The two runners will have a lot more match-ups in the weeks ahead, and Van Wie will get the chance to return the salute to Giles, but for the moment, with the 8th best all-time time mark by an HS athlete in hand, he can sum up everything with a simple statement, "This is my biggest thrill ever."
Jeff Van Wie appears to have been marked for thrilling experiences from very early on in his track career. As a freshman with a lot of mid distance speed, he was selected for Rockland County's Outstanding Freshman Athlete award for both the indoor and outdoor seasons in 1980. He ran mainly with frosh-soph relays but also on occasion with varsity squads at for legs of the 4x440 relays and ran an impressive mile time of 4:39.6 as part of Suffern's winning frosh-soph distance medley relay team at the 1980 NY Relays. He scored a 5th in the 1600m with a 4:30 time in the Section 9 Class A meet outdoors to wrap up his first year on the varsity. Coaches Ralph Coleman and Joe Biddy knew they had a special kid on the way up.
Astute readers might be wondering a bit about some of the distances mentioned above and by Suffern's status as a Section 9 member. Van Wie's senior year of 1983 was a milestone period for a local and state track world that was in transition. This was the next to last year that the lower Hudson Valley could be largely described as having Section 1 on the east side and Section 9 on the west, as in the fall of 1984 the Rockland County teams would join Section 1, and a few teams up north on the Hudson's east side would eventually move to Section 9. The running distances were also still in the process of being changed, as many invitational meets still stuck with their traditional distances in yards. Record books needed to change for new metric distances and increasing reliance on electronic times instead of less reliable hand-held times. The importance of the local dual-meet competitions was also lessening in many areas as the major invitationals became more the focus, though the contests between Rockland County rivals are still to this day given a lot of weight.
Another part of Van Wie's changing world was that girls had finally been given the chance to compete in sports with an outdoor States championship in 1975 that included 13 events (currently there are 18) and even by 1980 was still missing four of today's standards, including the pole vault. In Van Wie's '83 Suffern class was one of the top athletes of the era, Nancy Rosenfeld, who would star on the Coach Tom McTaggart's Mounties squad alongside Van Wie for four years and help her team set state sprint relay records. Ramapo's Debbie Grant was another big star of the era.
In his sophomore year, Van Wie continued to shine during all three seasons. He was a key fifth guy on the Mounties XC team that was runner-up in the 1981 States Class A race. During the indoor season he won the sophomore mile race at the Bishop Loughlin Games and then went on to win the 1000m and 1600m Section 9 Class A races and was the anchor on Suffern's champion 4x800m team. He took the 1600m at Section 9 State Qualifiers and went to place 5th at States in 4:30.0.
His outdoor season had a lot of highlights and he earned his first state record with a sophomore boys 1500m mark. He led the Suffern 4x800m squad to many high finishes including a 1st in Section 9 Class A meet, at which he won the 1600m. He had a high profile showing at NY Relays with a 4:24.9 as the second finisher in the 1600m, but Carmel sophomore Mike Stahr got 2nd place from a win in an unseeded section. Van Wie again qualified for States but this time in the 800m and finished 8th with a time around 1:56. A local media pundit labeled him the Flying Dutchman, though it might have had even more relevance for a runner on the nearby Tappan Zee team.
Junior year for Van Wie saw him joining with teammate Leigh Hunt to form a 1-2 punch for a not-that-deep Mounties's XC squad. He earned a trip to States and survived the infamous 1981 snow nightmare at Malone. His season ended with a 23rd at the Kinney (later Foot Locker) Northeast regional at Van Cortlandt Park.
Van Wie's junior indoor season reached a peak at the West Point Invite in early February when he got his first overall State record by running the 1000m at 2:29.72. Soon after though he started suffering from tendinitis and was upset in the Rockland County mile race at a distance where he had been undefeated, although he did win the 2 mile and led the 4x880 team to a win that clinched the meet title for Suffern. After resting for a few weeks, he was able to qualify for States but placed 4th in the 1000m in a close four-way finish behind Burnt Hills' Miles Irish. Near the end of the season he got to compete in the prestigious Olympic Invite at the Meadowlands Complex in NJ and placed 6th in the 1000m.
Outdoor season was filled with more classic headliners as Van Wie led sprint medley, distance medley, and 4x800m Suffern relay squads to wins while also continuing to shrink his 1600m time. His biggest win of the season came at the Loucks meet at White Plains in early May when he took the 1600m in 4:15.7. He clocked 4:16.7 in the 1600m at the Section 9 Class A meet and then got a PR with a 4:15.5 at Section 9 SQs. From there it was on to States for a battle with Carmel's Mike Stahr, but the struggle to stay up with the Ram standout left him falling back to 3rd before rallying for a new PR at 4:12.48. One final battle during the season remained when he went down to Villanova University to take on New Jersey's top distance guy John Carlotti of Bernards in the 1600m. This time he got 2nd among an elite group with a 4:13.33.
Van Wie's senior season kicked off in a big way in XC as he was now among the top harriers in the area, running undefeated up to States. He took wins at the St. Anthony's Invite at Sunken Meadow, the Golden Apple meet at Van Cortlandt, and then led Suffern to a 1-point win over Clarkstown South in the Section 9 Class A race. At the States meet at Canandaigua, he finished 7th and his Mounties were back in 9th.
The track seasons for Van Wie began in December with a 2nd in the 2 mile in the Bishop Loughlin Games, and he moved on to 1983 and a legendary year for NY record-setting runners who had all battled each other in their junior years and would continue on with a series of classic showdowns as seniors. Carmel's Mike Stahr had finished 2nd in the States XC meet but would be nearly invincible in track in his senior season. Burnt Hills' Miles Irish finished 6th and one place ahead of Van Wie at States XC. New Dorp's Charles Marsala of the PSAL conference would always be near the top in distance races and had a steeplechase specialty besides. Throw in John Carlotti of Bernards NJ, and the excitement in the tri-state region match-ups would rage all year.
Van Wie's indoor exploits first made the news indoors in 1983 when he ran a 1:21.3 in the 600m at Rockland Community College, a time that was the best mark ever in high school even though it did not count as a national record since it was run on a 250 meter track. His next big race came in early February at the newly installed fast track at Yale, and ran out in front to set a national record in the indoor 800m at 1:52.4. At the same meet, Irish set a national record in the 1000m (breaking Van Wie's mark), handing Stahr a rare defeat and with Marsala a close 3rd. Invited again to compete at the Olympic Invite at the Meadowlands, Van Wie placed 4th in the 1000m behind Stahr, Irish, and Marsala, with Carlotti in 5th, and Van Wie's time of 2:27.75 was a County and Sectional record.
After getting a bye to compete in the 600m at indoor States in the wake of his Olympic Invite appearance, Van Wie announced he had accepted a scholarship to Notre Dame. Getting the future nailed down, Van Wie headed on for what would be his last appearance at States. He got edged by Ron Clark of NYC's Automotive HS, but his 600m time of 1:21.3 set a variety of county and Sectional records. Van Wie did at last get a States title when he led Suffern's 4x800m team to an 8:00.9 win.
Van Wie's historic outdoor campaign began with a trip down to Williamsburg VA for the Colonial Relays where he led Suffern to victory in the 4x800m relay over Carlotti's Bernards team by .02 with a lean in 7:47.9. At Penn Relays he led Suffern to a 10th place DMR finish with a 4:16.8 anchor leg in the 1600m. Two more encounters with Mike Stahr at the NY Relays resulted in a 2nd in the 800m with the second best time in the nation at 1:50.5 along with more Sectional and County records, and he also got passed by Stahr in the DMR on the second day of the meet as Suffern finished 2nd. A final big effort locally at the Rockland County meet netted him wins in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m, all within 40 minutes of each other.
Now, however, Van Wie was faced with a cruel choice. He had received an invite to the Golden West meet in Sacramento to race in an 800m featuring eight of the top runners from around the nation. The meet was the same day as States, however, and he couldn't do both. If he went west, he would miss his last chance for a States individual title, and his Mounties 4x800m squad would be left without its top guy. Van Wie talked it over with his coaches, and it was agreed that the Suffern senior who had given so much to his team for four years now deserved a final shot to run in a series of high-level meets including the Golden West and go for big records. And yeah, maybe get out from under the Mike Stahr shadow a bit.
On June 11, 1983, while Stahr was winning the 1600 and Marsala the 3200 at States, Van Wie represented NY at Golden West and set a record in the new era of electronic timing that would still be standing 37 years later. Carlotti from NJ was also in the race, but it was simply two guys digging for the finish at the end as Van Wie finally caught Rodney Giles near the finish. A week later, Van Wie joined up with Stahr, Irish, and Marsala at the Keebler International Prep meet near Chicago at Elmhurst, IL. While Stahr was winning the mile in a national tops 4:06.3 and Marsala was winning the 3K Steeplechase, Van Wie had another battle in the 800m with a lot of the same guys he had met at the Golden West. This time the race was a slow strategic contest and Van Wie was boxed in for a while, but he managed to bust out and hang on for a win in 1:51.64 as Giles was close behind in 3rd.
Before his HS career was over, Van Wie got in another big series of races. At the US Juniors meet in late June, he had a third showdown with Giles, and this time he finished 2nd by .01 at 1:49.84. Both Giles and Van Wie then qualified for a World Juniors meet against Canada and Italy in Sherbrooke, Quebec in late July, and this time Giles nipped Van Wie by .1 with a 1:50.4 time. Giles also won the final race held in Bristol, CT, but Van Wie still held the top time in the quintet of races.
Van Wie went on to have to have a standout career at Notre Dame that included a number of school records in the relays. In the 1986 indoors season, he earned All American honors while helping to lead the Irish's 4x800m squad to 3rd place at the NCAA D1 championship. He ran bests in the 800m at 1:49.39 and in the 1500m at 3:48.7.
After graduation from college, Van Wie settled in NJ and worked as manager in information technology. He has moved in more recent years to writing film screenplays, including one called the The Last Song starring Miley Cyrus. He has collaborated with ex ND relays teammate Nicholas Sparks on projects including One Square Mile. He lives in Chatham NJ and has three daughters with his wife Tori.
Before Van Wie ran his golden 800m, the record at the half mile distance was held by French citizen Marcel Philippe who attended Mater Christi HS, a CHSAA school that existed in Queens up to 1981 when it became St. John's Prep. Before going on to star at Fordham University, Philippe ran a 1:49.4 in 1969 at Mater Christi that converted to around a 1:48.8 in the 800m. Philippe returned to France after graduating from Fordham and set a French national record in the 800m.