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 put your mark on history. Tune in!
We look here at the eleventh-oldest record still on the books for the boys. Enjoy!
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Dan Olson is set to go from about five steps away. That's all it takes him to launch himself up into the stratosphere well over his head. And right now there's a record on the line. For Olson, whose mantra is, "I just want to go out and jump high," the time for going high is right now.
It's May 24, 2001, in Johnstown for the Section 2 State Qualifiers, and the top place in the high jump was already decided a long time ago when 2nd place bowed out after clearing 6-0. But the bar has now been raised to 7-3, which would be 3/4 inches higher than any NY HS athlete has ever gone outdoors. Only one high jumper has ever leaped higher, all the way to 7-4. That was Dan himself back in March indoors. If he doesn't make it here, he'll still have the indoor-outdoor state record double because a month ago he cleared 7-2.25 while winning Penn Relays. But when the conditions are right, you've got to take advantage of them.
With a quick move, Dan is off for a few short steps and then that explosive leap upward. Bending around the bar, he uses all of his perfectionist talents to avoid contact and set himself for the descent to the pads far below. When he lands, he has a record that neither he nor anyone else will touch in the years ahead.
Unlike a lot of high jumpers who at least get a taste of going over the bar, maybe a little awkwardly, when they are in middle school on the intermediate-modified teams, Dan Olson did not start jumping until he was a freshman at Albany Academy. It would take a while for him to grow into a physique that would take him to 6 1/2 feet. He also needed to spend endless hours in training doing running exercises, lifting leg weights to develop high-piston quadriceps, and a lot of pyrometric series of leaps onto boxes. And of course everything needed to be driven by a mindset that strove for perfection and delved into the small details of every jump.
In 1999 in his sophomore indoor season Olson was at heights around 5-6, but by the middle of outdoor season he started to make some big progress. Though he did not reach a qualifying height for the Eddy Games early enough to compete there, he got on a roll that took him to wins at both the Albany County and Section 2 State Qualifier. He then capped off the season with a win at the Empire State Games with a leap of 6-6, though he broke an ankle there trying to clear 6-8. The success helped to pull a shy introverted kid out into public, and his coach Jim Poole credited the HJ prowess with enhancing Olson's academics and public speaking talents.
He continued to up the bar in his junior season and won the States indoor title on fewer misses as he cleared 6-8. He no-heighted at the National Scholastic Indoor Championship, but the acceptable limits had already been set for him. Talking about how he approached the competitions, he said, "You just know you're going to do well and you're going to get better. So you set higher goals." Just winning was not the important point anymore for a guy who would often be going anywhere from 6 to 15 inches higher than the competition. And now even 6-8 at a meet was not enough. "Why did I only jump 6-8?" he would now ask. "That is so bad." And only by doing the prep work before each competition could he make sure he was good.
Olson's junior season was a campaign in self one-upmanship that would lead to a World Juniors title. He topped 6-8 at the Eddy Games, 6-9 at Albany County, and then won the state championship at 6-8. At the Adidas Outdoor Nationals in Raleigh NC, he finished 4th at 6-9, so that of course just meant he needed to do some more work and to set his goals higher. After capturing the USATF Junior Region 1 championship in Bangor ME in late June and soaring to 6-11, he broke the 7 foot barrier at US Juniors in Buffalo with a winning leap of 7-0.5.
Olson's appetite for the heights wasn't abating after junior year, and neither was the work he put into his training. "You want to keep jumping higher if you want to keep doing it," he said. "Everything has to be perfect."
During Olson's senior season he was living above the 7 foot level most of the time. He went all the way up to 7-4 at the Brown University meet to set the all-time NY mark indoors. At the NSIC Nationals championship he was a little lower at 6-10.25 to earn 3rd. During the outdoor season he broke the NY outdoor record with a win at Penn Relays at 7-2.25, and he then followed it with a 7-1.5 jump at the Eddy Games. From there it was on to the Section 2 State Qualifier where he set the 7-3 all-time standard for NY. At States he took another championship by 9.5 inches while setting the all-time meet record at 7-1.5. His year appears to have ended with a 6-10.75 jump at US Juniors for 5th place.
Though highly recruited by the big NCAA D1 track powers, Olson chose D3 college Wheaton in the Boston area which had had a national champ in the high jump a few years before. He would continue to fly high there, capturing national indoor titles in 2003 and 2004 and three consecutive outdoor titles from 2002 to 2004. He continued to compete after graduation as part of the Greater Boston Track Club, and as the video below shows, he was still having great hops as of 2007.
Before Olson upped the bar to 7-3, the NY record was held by Tom Thompson of St. John the Baptist who went to 7-2 in 1992.