Class of 1969
Seven feet is a magical barrier for prep high jumpers and has been so for more than 50 years. That height still wins a lot of state meets and prep All-American honors – so imagine what it meant in 1968! That year a Compton HS (Calif.) junior named Reynaldo Brown became the one of the first high schoolers (3rd or 4th) to clear the 7-foot barrier. He had already stunned the California prep scene the year before as a sophomore by winning the state title at 6-9.25, which would be the first of three CIF crowns. Little did anyone know that Brown was just getting started.
He would establish a new HSR at 7-2, then soar to 7-3 in taking the runner-up spot in the 1968 Olympic Trials! By the time the Mexico City Games rolled around in October, Brown had already started his senior year. He finished a very respectable 5th with 7-0.25 – while his older teammates Ed Caruthers and Dick Fosbury would win silver and gold. The “Fosbury Flop” was on display to the world, but Brown would stick with the straddle and become one of the last world-class jumpers to do so.
Brown concluded his prep career with a fine senior year in ’69, defending his state title, taking 3rd at AAU Nationals, and competing in three Team USA international duals. That was hardly the end of his high jump career, though. Brown went to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and won NCAA D-II titles in 1971 and 1973. D2 champs were invited to compete at NCAA D-I nationals in those days and Brown was unbeatable there, too, setting an NCAA record of 7-4 as a senior.
Meanwhile, as a junior, he went for the 1972 Olympic team – the first of three times he would make an Olympic Trials final – and placed fourth, just missing a repeat berth. But Brown went on after graduation to become one of the most consistent American world-class jumpers of the 1970s. He world-ranked five times, including #2 in 1970, ’71 and ’73. He made the U.S. top 10 nine straight years and 10 overall.
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