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|John Rogers HS, Spokane Wash
|Statement of Support and Documentation
|In a few sentences, tell why this person belongs in the National High School Track and Field Hall of Fame.
Coached John Rogers HS in Spokane for 10 years from the fall of 1956 to the spring of 1966, winning seven City League championships in that time
Coached/developed several champions in the hurdles incl. Sam Parker, Al Rhodes and Dick Olsen, both multiple state champions.
But his crowning achievement was the development of Gerry Lindgren, who became arguably the greatest distance runner in HS history if not, afterward, American history
When Lindgen's high school career began in the fall of 1961, the national HS distance records were 4:03.5 in the mile, 8:49.1 in the 3K, 9:21.4 (outdoor) and 9:34.0 (indoor) in the 2M, 14:31 in the 3M, 15:04 in the 5,000, 31:59 in the 6M, 33:13 in the 10,000. He broke, if not shattered, all of those in the next three years.
Walters took on the slight, awkward, pale youngster and brought him along with inspired handling and inspiration. "We went into every race thinking, 'See what we can learn from this.' We talked only very broadly in terms of time, never set goals in terms of time and splits."
In the fall of his sophomore year, Lindgren finished 2nd in the Washington state championships. It was the last championship cross country race he would ever lose, including two state championships -- one by more than a minute -- and three NCAA championships, the last against Steve Prefontaine.
On the track, he returned from a stress fracture to win the state mile his junior season and he would not lose to another high school runner after that, including beating the California state champion, Tracy Smith, that summer in 4:12.9; the Washington state title in 1964 in 4:06.0, the national federation record; the victory over the Russians in the US-Soviet dual meet that summer in the LA Coliseum, and a defeat of Billy Mills, the future Olympic champion, in the Trials to make the '64 Olympic team at 10,000.
Indoors he tackled the national high school record of 9:24 by running 9:00, then 8:46, then 8:40, a record that lasted half a century and which has not been exceeded by an American-born runner. In the 9:00 race, he defeated Jim Ryun of Kansas, the last race Ryun would lose to a fellow prep.
Through all of that, Walters was by his side, providing the insight and nurturing crucial to his development. "It became a triumph of modesty, dedication, unpretension, free spirit. And, mostly, of imagination," wrote the Spokesman-Review track writer, Bob Payne.
After 10 years in John Rogers, Walters coached for one year at San Jose State. where he worked with Lee Evans and Tommie Smith. He and Evans became lifelong friends.
After returning to Spokane, in his later years -- and to this day -- he began helping the cross country teams at North Central HS, working with Len Long and his own son, Kelly. North Central has won repeated Washington state championships and also a national Nike team championship the past 20 years.
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|November 19, 2017