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Hall of Famers Shinnick and Sternberg Look Back on History - Washington Huskies

Hall of Famers Shinnick and Sternberg Look Back on History

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shinnickphil-200-52810.jpgOne of the most legendary days in Washington track and field history, and all of UW athletics history for that matter, was the 1963 Modesto Relays, 47 years ago this week. At that meet, within an hour of each other, Husky teammates and roommates Phil Shinnick and Brian Sternberg each set new world records in the long jump and pole vault, respectively.

But as this AOL Fanhouse story by John Hickey details, the day has had a black cloud lingering over it since. Sternberg, who cleared 16-7 in the pole vault at the meet and later raised the record to 16-8, was paralyzed in a trampoline accident just five weeks after Modesto. Shinnick's record-setting jump of 27-feet, 4-inches, has been seeking ratification for decades, as there was no wind reading taken for his jump. Wind requirements had just been instated that year, and as this excerpt explains, the officials simply weren't expecting to need one.

"Shinnick's Pac-8 credentials weren't enough that anyone in Modesto had any real clue who he was. He was a sophomore at the University of Washington and hadn't competed in his freshman year -- the NCAA didn't allow freshmen to compete in any collegiate sports in those days. So he was in just his fourth or fifth competition since graduating from high school in Spok sternberg-200-52810.jpgane almost two years earlier. Most of the jumpers knew him, but the officials didn't. He certainly wasn't somebody who should be breaking world records. All of a sudden, instead of celebration time it was inquisition time.

"The officials didn't know what to do," Shinnick says. "They measured and re-measured. Each time they did, they kept breaking the sand where my right foot had landed, and little by little it went from 27-5 to 27-4. "They took me into the stands and said, 'Who are you?' I said, 'Well, who are you? I don't know you, either.' I had to yell at them to stop re-measuring and breaking more sand each time."

It turned out that the off-the-field inquisition was the least of the irregularities surrounding the jump. The event's officials had been told that Boston was the only jumper who had a chance at a record, so no wind gauge was in use when Shinnick jumped. That wasn't unusual in 1963."

The story is a must-read for all fans of Husky history. Both Sternberg and Shinnick have been enshrined in the Washington Hall of Fame. As the story details, Shinnick's mark was eventually recognized as an American record, but the governing body of international track continues to hold out.

For what it's worth, Shinnick's spot on the Washington Top-10 is secure. Whereas new technology has taken vaulters up above 19-feet, including American record-holder Brad Walker, another UW alum, Shinnick's mark would still rate among the best in the world event today. 27-4 would have won this year's Pac-10 Championships by a foot and a half, and taken second at the Beijing Olympics, as the story points out.

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