71st Easter Relays feature plenty of strong marks by locals

The glory days may have passed, but our city’s biggest track meet is still going strong.

Just like Gordon McClenathen.

The 75-year-old came to his first Easter Relays in 1949, and on Saturday he was roaming the field at La Playa Stadium with a big grin on his face, quick to tell an old story, like the one about the rain-out in 1950 or the time when 1948 Olympic bronze-medalist Fortune Gardein threw the discus so far it landed on the track.

McClenathen, a former All-American distance runner, competed at the meet for Santa Barbara High and UCSB among other teams, and was at the meet for 30 years as Dos Pueblos’ coach.

“In the 50s the big collegiate programs were here — USC, Cal, Stanford — those were the best years,” he said. “World records in the pole vault were set here, and Olympians would show up.”

No world marks were in danger Saturday, but there are always top-notch performances to be had and local youngsters were up to the task in the 2009 edition of the meet.

Reigning Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Athlete of the Week Nick Scarvelis of Dos Pueblos broke a record early in the day, throwing 55’5.5″ in the shot put to set the frosh/soph meet record.

It’s a 71-year-old meet, so a record for the event is quite a feat.

“I’ve just been throwing well with the 12-pound-ball lately, and I just hit my technique right and it felt great,” said the sophomore, who also threw an impressive 157-4 in the discus.

San Marcos’ Bennie Kirkwood surprised even himself in the high jump, setting a meet record by clearing 6-feet 4-inches. What’s more amazing is that the junior is a first-year jumper.

“That’s huge,” said coach Marilyn Hantgin. “He’s pretty much just a gamer. He’s been in some big meets where it comes down to just a couple of people and he steps up.”

It was a locals-only affair after 6-feet, as Patrick Smith of DP and San Marcos’ Nathan “Natey” Reed were Kirkwood’s only opponents at 6-2.

It was a great day for San Marcos in all of the jumps. Sophomore Shane Rowan had big personal-bests in the frosh/soph triple jump (42-0) and high jump (5-8), while Hannah McDaniel won the frosh/soph high jump by clearing 5-3. Both marks would have won the varsity competition as well.

Dos Pueblos’ Anthony Houston was third in the varsity triple jump at 40-11.


San Marcos’ frosh/soph boys dominated the day’s relays, winning the 4×400, 4×200 and 4×100.

“I don’t know what it was. I moved down to frosh/soph for this meet and we all did really well. We all played football together which helped us,” said sophomore Randee Harvey, who was a member of each of the winning relays.

Isaiha Brown of Dos Pueblos kept dominating the marquee event, the 100-meter race, finishing in 11.3 seconds. Brown also joined Houston, Smith and Steven Scarvelis on the varsity 4×100 team that took second place.

“That was pretty amazing,” said DP coach Dave Kuderka. “It was a tenth or two slower than their best, but they’re closing in on the school record.”

Marina Plesons won the frosh/soph pole vault for the Chargers by clearing 9’6″.

Santa Barbara High was at the meet in full force but couldn’t find the same level of success as DP and San Marcos. The Dons did, however, take fourth in the boys frosh/soph distance medley as Taylor Jordan, Chris Amparan, Briggs Deardorff and Chris Robinsnon finished in 11:36.86.

Laguna Blanca’s lone representative was county cross-country champion Kevin Lunn, who took fourth in the varsity 3000, clocking in at 8:56.25.

A special honor went out to Westmont track coach Russell Smelley, who has led the Warriors for 30 years and has been a fixture in the local track scene since. He was awarded with a plaque and the title of Honorary Referee.

“I guess if you stick around long enough, they give you stuff,” said the quick-witted Smelley.

But he’s a young pup compared to McClenathen, who still competes in the steeplechase at the Master’s level. He actually is a young pup in the Master’s meet, because he just moved up to the 75-and-older age division.

“I’m gonna keep going until my body tells me I can’t anymore,” he said.

And the Easter Relays will run on after that.