Distance Legacy: Wildcat distance runners close in on school records that have stood the test of time

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Mar. 9, 2007 - As Graham Northcutt led the Golden Lion Invitational milers through the third lap on Thursday in Kaufman, his father wasn't sure the SSHS senior had enough left in the tank to make the night memorable.

Turns out, he had more than enough.

Northcutt ran the third-fastest time in school history in the 1,600-meter run, clocking a 4:22.34 (hand-held) to win the race easily. He ran a 61-second split for the last lap of the mile, then came back the very next race to run a 50-flat split on the mile relay.

Northcutt is the most versatile in the long line of Sulphur Springs distance runners that spans decades. His times are in the top three in school history in all three distance events - 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

It helps that he has a strong supporting cast that feed off each other.

Classmate Kasie Carrell is one of the school's top 800 runners, while junior Tate Ramirez and sophomore Dylan Rutherford are among the top two-milers in SSHS history.

Carrell was won all three 800-meter races he has entered this year and was second to Northcutt in the mile on Thursday. Ramirez holds the fourth-best time in the two-mile, and Rutherford the fifth-best, though Rutherford has been plagued by injuries and will miss this track season with a stress fracture in his foot.

SSHS distance coach Andy Holt said Northcutt, a three-time state qualifier in cross country and a fifth-place finisher in the 800 at the state meet as a junior, has a chance for one or more school records in his senior season.

His time last night was the fourth-best in the state this year in all classifications and the fastest in Class 4A.

"Graham has done something pretty special. Obviously, he's a great runner, and I feel by the end of the year he will have a record, at least one record," Holt said. "Graham has done a really good job of pushing Kasie and Tate and Dylan. Those guys look at him and are trying to beat his times when he was a freshmen and sophomore and junior.

"They're striving to do that, and when they do, they're setting PRs for themselves and getting better."

All of the distance runners are chasing history. In some cases, that means decades.

The school record in the 800 is still held by Mark Horton, who ran a 1:56.1 (converted from an 880-yard time) in 1971. Greg Adair holds the 1,600-meter record of 4:20.9 from 1980 and Kyle King's time of 9:25.9 in the 3,200 stands from 1999.

Northcutt's top times are one second behind Horton, two seconds behind Adair and 13 seconds off King's mark.

"Those guys really paved the way for the guys who are here now," Holt said of the record holders. "They set the bar high and set some big dreams for the kids who are here now, and Graham and Kasie and Tate and Dylan will pass that on to the next group."

It appears that any of the school records are in danger. In fact, Northcutt will run the 400 at one meet his year, and could be one of only three SSHS runners to break 50 seconds in the open quarter.

Carrell, who ran a 4:38.75 in the 1,600 on Thursday, will likely become only the fourth SSHS runner to break two minutes in the 800 sometime this year. Last year, he ran a 1:59.99 in Tyler, but when adjusted the hand-held time converts to a fraction over two minutes.

Ramirez is striving to become one of only four runners to break 10 minutes in the 3,200, and Rutherford was better than any of his predecessors in middle school, but injuries have not let him reach his potential yet.

The one thing all great distance runners have is guts, Holt said.

"The thing that speaks to me about those two guys (Northcutt and Carrell) is their speed and their heart and desire to go out and compete and lay it on the line," he said. "You'll see those guys at the 300 mark and you think, 'There's no way they have anything left.' That last 100, they're all out and passing people, gaining ground on people or just leaving people.

"To me, that's a lot of heart and determination, plus some speed. They put in a lot of miles and they train, and when you do that, you set yourself up for great things."

SSHS head track coach Steve Hale said the younger runners need to emulate those on varsity because they won't find better examples.

"I've been around some elite athletes, but I've never seen guys prepare themselves as well as they do to win," Hale said. "The preparation - and what they're giving this program and to the younger kids to show how to prepare yourself to win- is outstanding."

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