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 fifth-oldest record still on the books for the boys. Enjoy!
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is set to go in the 200m at the USATF Juniors meet on Sunday, June 27, 1993, in Spokane WA. A day earlier he qualified for a spot in the 4x100m relays at the Pan Am Games in his stronger event the 100m with a 3rd place, and now he is hoping to get one of the top two spots so he can compete at the July meet in an individual event.
Having just finished his junior year at Benjamin Franklin HS in Rochester, he has already racked up five outdoor NY States individual and three relay titles (and a 400m title from another state) along with setting state class records in both the 100m and 200m at the freshman, sophomore, and junior level. Stafford is fighting a number of obstacles here though because he is the only non HS graduate in the 200 finals and is facing the top freshman collegians and other slightly older runners at this 19-under US Juniors championship. He is, he will later note, "shaking in my spikes, but ready to run fast."
In the lanes with him are the electrifying speedsters Alvin and Calvin Harrison who earlier in the month made all kinds of history at the California State championships and are destined in seven years at the 2000 Olympics to become the first twins to win gold medals together on a relay squad. Almost all of the guys are from California, so there is a big pack of West Coast power ready to go here at Spokane.
Another big element that Stafford will be battling is a headwind that is averaging 3.5 mph. Any mark that is set here would not qualify if the wind turned around and started blowing on his back down the home stretch, but there's no chance of a change here. All of the guys will just have to fight through the breeze and do their best, and for a battler like Stafford used to the winds coming off Lake Ontario back home, it's no big deal.
When the gun goes off, Stafford surges to the front and knifes through the wind on the way to the finish line to win by a fairly large .12 seconds. His official time of 21.70 is more than 3 tenths of a second faster than the existing NY electronically timed best mark that he shared with fellow Rochester sprinter Ken Burke of the 1985 East HS team. "It really hasn't hit me yet," says Stafford when asked about the importance of his big feat. Twenty-seven years later, no NY guy has yet hit upon a way to better the mark.
Jermaine Stafford grew up in poor economic conditions but with unimaginable riches in speed. The first mention we can find for him is not in New York but much further afield in central Kentucky where he was living with his godmother. At a track and field meet in mid April 1989 for the local Madisonville HS, he is mentioned as having placed 2nd in the 100m and 200m, with a time of 24.0 in the latter. A year later in mid May of 1990 at the Kentucky County Class championships, he placed 2nd in the 200m at 22.2 and won the 400m at 50.0. At the Kentucky State championship a week later, Stafford won the 400m in 49.3 and finished 3rd in the 200m in 22.28.
The stunning thing about the above results is that Stafford in 1990 was not yet in HS. He was still only an 8th grader when he won his first state title. When asked about how he did it, the humble young runner said, "I owe it to my coaches. They made me run a lot of 800s, which made me stronger."
By the next spring Stafford had moved north to live with his mother in Rochester NY and he fell into a hotbed of track where he could train with some of the best coaches in the state. In 1986, Edison Tech coach Cedric Walker had started a sports group called the Flower City Track Club to train aspiring athletes from mainly the eastern side of the city. Soon the two big sports powers of Benjamin Franklin HS and East HS were getting a huge boost of sprint stars from the FCTC, starting first on the girls side with East's Zilla Higgs, who won the States 100m and 200m titles in 1989, and would get the double again in 1991.
But being a modest guy who was unsure of his abilities, Stafford almost didn't go out for the track team when he moved to Rochester and entered school. "Track back in Kentucky is good," he said, "but it isn't New York. I didn't want to come up here and get embarrassed." Coach Ben Nix of Stafford's Franklin HS had heard about the reputedly very fast freshman, but he wasn't sure what the newspaper clips he was shown really meant. "I wanted to see what he could do on the track. He showed me."
Even as a supremely talented freshman, Stafford had a lot of company at the top of the Rochester speed action, especially from his teammates Maurice Hill and Garfield Ellenwood and East's Mike Ford. In April 1991 at the Empire Relays Carnival, Stafford was one of three workhorses on his Quakers team that ran on winners in the 4x100m, 4x400m, and 4x800m. In early April at the His & Her Invite, he was running behind Franklin's star senior Hill who had just set a Section 5 record in the 400 and looked ready to run another Section record in the 200m. Then Hill went down with a right hamstring injury. Stafford ended up the winner at 21.0 (then second fastest ever in Section history) and also the 100m at 10.65 and was voted the meet's Most Outstanding Runner.
Coming up from a hardscrabble youth, taking these early victories opened Stafford's eyes to the importance of winning to get recognition. "I will never forget the moment when I realized I was more than just a
athlete when I was asked to sign a autograph at a local track meet! " The request opened his eyes to what he believed people respected, "From that day forward I seek winning as a place of belonging."
A problem for Stafford in his early days was a lot of false starts, and Nix got him to relax and sit back for the gun, which at least got him a result even if he was often slow out of the blocks. At the Eddy Games in Schenectady, he got a good enough start in the 100m to run the fastest automatically recorded time of 10.81 ever in S5 history while finishing 2nd. He then ran 10.7 times for the 100m and 21.5 for the 200m in a meet at McQuaid. At the Section 5 Class track meet he set another Section record at 10.4. At the Section 5 State Qualifier he won the 100m again in 10.4, the 200m in 21.7, and helped Franklin set a Sectional record in the 4x100m at 41.7 despite two bad baton exchanges and one spiked heel.
The 1991 States was a breakout meet for the freshman Stafford who went to it with one thought, "Just win." And that he did in big fashion as he swept the sprints with a 10.65 in the 100m and 21.23 in the 200m. His 10.54 in the semis equaled a freshman national record. He also contributed a fast leg to Franklin's winning 4x100m squad. Speaking about his late surges to get the wins, he said, "When my legs get really warmed up and pumping, it's just there."
Stafford had a long way to go before his storied freshman year was over, now running with the Flower City Track Club. Later in June he was at the TAC Junior Nationals in Minnesota and ran a 10.65 100m to qualify for later summer competitions. In early July, he flew out to Spokane WA for the first time to run to 4th in the 200m at the Athletic Congress Invite in 21.72. Back in New York for the Empire State Games in late July he won both the 200m at 21.36 and then the 100m in a national freshman record 10.53. Finally at US Juniors, he won the 200m in 21.40 and took 3rd in the 100m in 10.70.
Stafford was already earning the nickname the "Franklin Flash II," in deference to the original Franklin sprint star Trent Jackson who had attended Franklin HS in the 1950s and once shared the US 100m record with Jesse Owens in the early 1960s. To others Stafford was known maybe less impressively as Squeaky, a nickname his mother had given him when he was very young because of certain noises he made then.
A three-sport guy, Stafford spent the fall of his sophomore season catching passes for Coach Nix's football team while also playing defensive back, and in the winter he played basketball but got some indoor track action in starting in early February. He did well enough to qualify for the 55m dash at States but DQed there.
Come April 1992, it was back on the track for another extraordinary outdoor track season. Stafford summed up his expectations, "I like going out on the track and seeing how fast I can go. It's one of the best feelings in the world. Everyone is gunning for you 'cause you're a marked man. I hope it pushes me to run faster."
Fast he was as he quickly ran a 10.2 in the 100m at a dual meet that did not qualify for a Section record because no wind gauge was set up. The Franklin 4x100 team did okay at Penn Relays in 7th with a 42.41, but two problematic hand-offs lost them some time. In early May at the His and Her meet, the Franklin 4x100m squad did much better with a state record in 4x100m of 41.0. Stafford also won the 100m in 10.6 and had 10.3 time in prelims that tied the S5 record.
With all the attention he was getting for his individual feats, Stafford was glad to have his relay mates running beside him. "Those guys make me work hard," he said of his 4x100 comrades Jon Johnson, Shawn Howard, and Garfield Ellenwood. "Those guys give me an advantage because no one has people as fast as we are." A repeat of 1991's States relay title was a big goal for the Franklin group.
In mid May though the prospects for both Stafford and his team took a hit when he injured his right hamstring. With the leg wrapped up he still managed to qualify for States in the 100m with a 2nd place behind Brighton's Lamonze Hunter, who swept both sprints at S5's Meet of Champions qualifier with the Franklin star hobbled. The team regrouped, and at the States meet at Kingston on June 6th, Stafford fought through to a second state title in the 100m in a slower 10.86 time. He then joined his teammates for a repeat 4x100m States title in 42.3. "We didn't want to just win," said Stafford, "we wanted to do it in a big way." Less than 15 minutes after winning the 4x100m, Johnson and Ellenwood helped the Franklin 4x400m squad claim that victory too.
Again the season was not finished at States as Stafford and his Franklin 4x100m traveled out to Van Nuys CA for the National Scholastic Outdoor Championship. Stafford's leg was healthy enough again for him to claim the 100m title in 10.75 while the relay squad finished 2nd. "To tell the truth I didn't expect to finish first," said Stafford. "I just wanted to be in the top six." But a 10.64 in the semifinals on Friday that led all finalists gave him some extra confidence for the finals win on Saturday. The year wrapped up with Stafford again capturing the Empire State Games' 100m title and then joining with a group of Rochester area sprinters that included some Franklin teammates to win both the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.
Following another highlight-filled football season and then a long campaign with a Franklin basketball team that was the States Class B runner-up, Stafford was ready to begin a spectacular junior track season. The big times came early as the Franklin squad traveled to the Penn Relays on the last weekend of April and came away with two huge 3rd-place performances. The Quakers were the top American squad behind two Jamaican teams as they set a Section 5 record of 3:14.76 in the 4x400m, and they then broke their own state 4x100m record with a 40.73 in the 4x100m.
Stafford posted big times again at the His and Her meet as he ran a 21.1 in the 200m for a meet record and added an unbelievable 10.0 in the 100m though it was wind-aided and the timing was hand-held. At the Eddy Games in May, he set a state automatic-timed record for the 100m at 10.49 and led the 4x200m squad to a 1:28.34 winning time. In 1993 he was feeling fine at State Qualifier time, as he ran another wind-aided 10.1 in the 100m.
At States, the legend continued as Stafford blew away the meet record with a 10.49 that would have been lower if he hadn't begun celebrating his third straight win in the event a little early. He also captured the 200m title for the second time with a 21.02 time, and he anchored the Franklin 4x100m squad to their third straight title in a meet record 41.39. Stafford was especially pleased about his 200m win. "The 200 is something that a person who is gifted can't just win, you really have to work at it," he said. "You can't just jump in and run."
Two weeks later, Stafford was at the USATF Juniors championship in Spokane again and jumping into a 200m race that would gain him a state record and national championship with a 20.70 time. Three weeks later it was on to the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, Canada to win the 200m race in 20.94 and get a second gold as part of a 4x100m US squad that ran 39.72. For the second year in a row, he won the Gatorade Track Athlete of the Year Award.
Going toward his senior year, troubles start arising for Stafford that would turn his final year at Franklin in a different direction. While competing at his late track competitions around the country, he had missed a number of exams in June that he thought he would be able to make up on his return. Instead he was given failing marks in a couple of subjects and placed in serious academic jeopardy. He talked of moving back to Kentucky for his final year, but in the end he decided to stay at Franklin.
An intelligent and articulate guy, he just didn't spend a lot of time studying. He was a highly sought football and track recruit for many top universities, but he would have a tough time with the SAT exam, taking it five times without cracking the 700 score he needed to secure a scholarship from most of his targeted schools. In December he announced his intention of committing to the University of Florida, only to switch gears in January and state that he was staying in New York to attend Syracuse, which had recently reeled in star recruit Donovan McNabb. But until June the question would remain as to whether Stafford could get the grades and test scores required for a scholarship.
By the time the spring of his senior year rolled around after more football and basketball success, an incident at the National Scholastic Indoor Championship at the Syracuse Carrier Dome had a souring effect on his final year. After winning his heat of 55m, he was DQed for celebrating his win in a manner that officials claimed was taunting the other competitors. He reclaimed some satisfaction when he won the 200m in 21.43 while running out in lane 8 title after a weaker prelim time.
As outdoor season started, he was off to Arcadia CA for an elite Foot Locker invite where he won the 100m in a state record 10.46 but again strained a hamstring. Further damage occurred at a meet a week later back in NY, and he was forced to sit out for weeks trying to salvage his senior season. By late May he decided to end his association with his Franklin team and aim for big performances at elite meets around the country. Although his decision was a blow to the Quakers, they now had a star sprinter in Antwoine Anderson who would win the 100m-200m double at States for an astounding 7 of 8 Franklin-athlete wins in the events from 1991 to 1994.
Stafford ended his final high school season with some strong performances. He was 1st in the 100n at 10.61 and 2nd in the 200m at 21.83 at the Golden South meet in Florida in late May. He next traveled to the Golden West meet in California and finished 2nd in the 100m in 10.70. And at the National Scholastic Outdoor Championship in Raleigh NC on June 19, Stafford finished up with a 2nd in a 10.52.
After graduation from Franklin, Stafford spent some time doing prep work and was at last able to land a scholarship at Michigan State where he played football and ran track. After college he founded a company that helps train athletes to enhance their speed and strength.
Before Stafford ran his 21.70 time for the 200m, he owned a share of the old record of 21.02 with Ken Burke who ran for Franklin's rival East HS in 1985 and set his record at the States meet.