Joe Davidson

In its 50th year, Golden West Invitational has unmatched legacy

Michael Carter in 1979 put the shot practically across Highway 50 in the most remarkable prep achievement any where, any time.
Michael Carter in 1979 put the shot practically across Highway 50 in the most remarkable prep achievement any where, any time. Harlin Smith

Bob Jarvis has seen 47 of these, so he’s been around the block – or the track – a time or two.

The longtime public address announcer for the Golden West Invitational, Jarvis has incomparable pipes, a voice as soothing as cool water on a scorching desert day. He has added to the allure of the GWI, the nation’s most prestigious and longest-standing high school track and field meet that celebrates 50 years in Sacramento with Saturday’s 3 p.m. running at Folsom. The GWI started in Los Angeles in 1960 and settled in the Sacramento area in 1965.

GWI participants have gone on to represent the United States in every Olympic Games since 1964, with more than 90 medals, including 48 gold.

Jarvis’ words have traced the footsteps of runners, leaps of jumpers and efforts of shot put specialists – dozens of whom used the GWI as a launching pad. Jim Ryun ran his last prep mile here, Steve Prefontaine, too. Bob Beamon, Dwight Stones, Mike Powell, Marion Jones and Allyson Felix competed in meets here. Football greats such as Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann and Mel Renfro flexed their muscles here.

GWI participants have gone on to represent the United States in every Olympic Games since 1964, with more than 90 medals, including 48 gold.

“We are at 50 years here, and that’s really something,” said Jarvis, a retired Sacramento attorney. “I can think of one area sporting event (not including horse racing) that has gone on that long – the California State Fair golf championship.”

What makes the GWI magical is knowing greatness can happen at any curve, any pit, any moment. A peek at 10 all-time moments:

Carter’s heave, 1979Michael Carter of Dallas milked his final prep moment, allowing Jarvis to set things up, and then he put a 12-pound steel ball practically across Highway 50. Carter’s hard-to-fathom toss of 81 feet, 31/2 inches landed over the out-of-bounds logs at Sacramento State, still a prep record by more than 4 feet. It’s “still the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen a high school kid do, in any sport,” said Jarvis, who once told me Carter’s effort was the greatest “performance in the history of athletics in Sacramento, any level.”

Said GWI president Arnie Krogh a few years ago, “It’s inhuman what Carter did. It was Carter vs. Isaac Newton. He defied gravity. He put the shot places where people aren’t supposed to.”

Carter won a silver medal in the Los Angeles Olympics and a Super Bowl with the 49ers that season. He once said: “For me, I’d rank the Olympics first, then the GWI, then the Super Bowl.”

Ryun double, 1965 – A week after setting the prep record in the mile at 3 minutes, 58.3 seconds, Ryun achieved his first distance double, winning the 2-mile in 9:04 and later, the mile in 4:04.3. He electrified the crowd as he set a Hughes Stadium mile record that stood for 15 years.

Casey at the pit, 1969 – Becoming the first prep vaulter to clear 17 feet was one thing. Sizing up the world record of 17-10 was another. Casey Carrigan of Orting, Wash., missed on three attempts, but he earned an ovation and signed autographs until the lights were shut off.

Kamy goes long, 1987 – Perhaps the only field event that remotely rivals Carter was when KamyKeshmiri of Reno threw the discus 225-2, leaving the GWI with the top marks in prep history.

Go West, young man, 1968 – Days after winning the CIF state meet mile, Cliff West of nearby Kennedy High School won the GWI in 4:14.1, weaving through fans who poured onto the Hughes Stadium track in adulation.

Distance gasps, 2006 – In a sprint to the finish, Jordan Hassay of San Luis Obispo held off Alex Kosinski of Oak Ridge in the most exciting finish in GWI mile history for either gender, 4:42.21 (to 4:42.93).

Duncan leap, 1972 – On his sixth and final attempt, Ken Duncan of McClatchy won the long jump with a leap of 26-21/4 to set a national mark that stood for 27 years. He thanked his lucky brown nylon socks. The judge that night was 1952 Olympian George Brown, the first prep to clear 25 feet.

Beamon boom, 1965 – Beamon of New York fouled on all of his long jump attempts except a 23-11 effort that placed him fourth. He was so frustrated with the event that he considered sticking with the triple jump after becoming the first prep to clear 50 feet, in this GWI. Three summers later in the 1968 Olympics, Beamon went 29-21/2 to shatter the world record by nearly 2 feet.

Marion matters, 1991 – Long before she was stained by a drug scandal, Jones wowed fans with her sprinting ability. She still has the GWI records in the 100-meter dash (11.31), the 200 (23.01) and the long jump (20-9).

Richardson rewards, 1984 – Still suffering from root-canal surgery, Joe Richardson of Pasadena nearly withdrew from the GWI but won the long jump at 263/4 and triple jump in a prep-record 53-61/2.

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