The shotput record recognized by the National Federation of State High School Assns. once stood for 11 years. Then along came Michael Carter of Dallas Jefferson High School in 1979. He put it out of sight.
His throw of 77-feet-0 did two things. It made everyone forget about Sam Walker's old standard of 72-3 1/4 set in 1968, and it brought on comparisons to Joe DiMaggio's major league-record hitting streak of 56 games.
Neither would ever be broken . . . or so people said.
Carter himself was not one to go along with that theory, at least as far as his record was concerned.
"I've always said it's going to be a while before someone gets close to the record, but I've also always said some day there's going to be someone who will break the record," said Carter, now one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. "Sam Walker's record stood for 11 years. It's kind of ironic that now my record has been there, and this is the 11th year. Maybe everything happens on 11 . . . 11 is the number for some reason.
Or so hopes Brent Noon of Fallbrook High, who for the past three years has been inching toward Carter's 77-footer. In 1990, 11 years after Carter, it's within sight.
Just three weeks ago, Noon created believers, kicking up dirt at 76-2.
That's just 10 inches away.
They may be looked upon as 10 short inches considering Noon has already added a little more than six feet to his first throw of the season, 69-11 3/4. Surely another 10 inches can be found somewhere. After all, Carter improved 12 feet his senior year.
They could also be looked upon as 10 long inches, considering Noon is running short on time and that he recently strained a hamstring, forcing him to half-speed at the section preliminaries last week. He threw 61-0 1/2, still the top mark of the day.
Noon says the hamstring, his left, is still a little tight but has progressed nicely.
It better have. Just three chances remain. The San Diego Section finals are this afternoon at Poway High beginning at 2. Next week, the state preliminaries and finals will be held on consecutive days at Cerritos College.
Noon remains confident that a throw over 77-0 awaits.
"I'm excited about (today)," he said. "I think I can get a big throw. I'm stretching (the hamstring) out, and it's going pretty good."
Things were going more smoothly before the injury, of course. Noon had just learned a secret, the same one Carter had learned when he threw 77-0.
Actually it's not as much a secret as it is a discovery. Noon uses a golf analogy to explain it.
It's like the rookie golfer, he says, who whacks the ball as hard as he can and notices that it just doesn't seem to take off. Sooner or later, he learns to ease up and take a natural, fluid swing. When he does, the ball jets away.
Although Isaac Newton doesn't mention it, the same physics apparently hold true with a 12-pound steel ball.
Noon said he figured this out at the Orange Glen Invitational April 27, when he let his technique do the throwing on his sixth and final effort. It went 74-4, which at the time was a personal best, a section record, an all-time state best (no official state records are kept in high school) and this year's national best.
Before that, Noon's best mark was 73-5 3/4. On his first five throws at Orange Glen, Noon was having trouble reaching even that distance, his best effort measuring 71-11 1/4.
But instead of becoming frustrated and pressing, Noon decided to just ease up.
"I didn't even try," he said. "I just decided to go ahead and go on auto-pilot."
Why hadn't he figured it out before?
"Stupidity," he answered.
Well, maybe not. It was something Carter also failed to understand until late in his senior year, just before he set the record, in fact.
"When I threw 77 with the shot, I mean the throw felt so easy I thought it was going to fall around 72 feet," he said. "But the next thing I knew, it threw up a hunk of dirt like you couldn't believe, and when they measured it, it was 77 feet. I mean, it felt like a 72-footer. I think it came because the technique was there. From that point on, everything was going easy for me. All I had to do was hit it at the right time, and it was a great (put)."
Though both speak about letting technique do the work, Noon throws with an altogether different motion than Carter did.
Noon is a spinner, putting the shot with a method similar to that of a discus thrower.
Carter was a glider, starting with all his weight on one leg in the back of the ring, skipping to the front, shifting his weight to the other leg and letting the shot go.
Gliding is considered an easier technique to master but not as effective. Both techniques require the same attribute for success: quickness.
Carter definitely had it.
"He's extremely quick," Noon said. "That's why he threw it so far."
Noon, too, has some speed. At 6-2, 260 pounds, he does the 40 in 4.8 seconds.
But how does quickness come into play? Both said it translates into explosiveness, key at the end of a throw.
"If you try and whip a towel real hard, it kind of just slips out there," Noon said. "But if you just go real slow and just snap it at the end, you can leave a pretty big welt on somebody. That's sort of like what it's like in the shot. You come real loose and limp out of the back, relax and just let everything slip through . . . You let your legs and your hips work for you and then, as soon as that left foot hits in the front, you just snap it like that towel, and it creates that big whip effect.
"You can see it on Mike Carter's throws. You can see his legs work for him. He does it better than anybody. More than anybody, he'd get those hips ahead of him and really create that whip effect."
When Carter was throwing in high school, he heard people say that he was using more than technique. The rumors were that he was using steroids as well. Noon hears the same thing but denies it and says he will gladly be tested.
"Really, from the start of my sophomore year, I heard rumors all the way around," Carter said. "From the East Coast to the West Coast, back down to Texas, 'This Carter guy must be on steroids.' But, you know, the thing about it is people don't like to work, they don't like to work hard. Anyone who wants to try to achieve something, they have to take short cuts so they think you have to take short cuts, which isn't the case because I had calluses on my hand, my neck, I had calluses everywhere just from throwing the shot.
"So now I can understand what (Noon) is going through, because the same allegations that were going around about Michael Carter in 1979 are now going around in 1990."
Carter says it was still fun, despite the rumors and the fact he was beating the competition by 20 feet.
He was competing against something else.
"I wanted to go out each time and break the record," he said.
He broke Walker's record early in the season and repeatedly reached 73-0 and 74-0 thereafter. Then came the 77-footer in a state qualifying meet, designed for athletes who hadn't already made the cut for state. Carter had, but competed nonetheless.
Carter didn't get over 76 feet in the state finals and had bad luck at two invitationals after that.
In Atlanta, a fence stood 76 feet from the ring. In Chicago, there was a tree 74 feet away.
Then came the Golden West meet in Sacramento.
"Down at the Golden West, it was perfect," Carter said. "An ideal situation. They had (the ring) right in the middle of the football field in the stadium where everyone could watch it."
Carter responded with an 81-3 1/2, a mark not recognized by the national federation because it was set after graduation but listed as the all-time national high school best by Track & Field News.
"They said (77-0 would never be broken), because the record before mine I had broken six times before," Carter said. "It was bits and pieces from 73 to 74, then all of a sudden, I threw 77. (Sam Walker's record) stood for 11 years. Then, when I finally broke it and put a little distance between it, people said no one would ever break it. And then when 81 came, that just basically blew everybody away at that time."
Noon has set 77-0, not quite as far off, as his goal. It's what keeps him interested as he beats competitors by 20 feet.
"It's fun because Mike Carter's out there," Noon said. "It's like I'm competing against him, but not head to head. That's what keeps you going. You know he's thrown 77, and it's just fun because you're so close, and you know you can do it."
Even Carter is rooting him on.
"Records are made to be broken," Carter said. "And I had a great time while I was competing in high school, and to see someone come along and take the shot seriously and who is good and challenges the record is exciting."
Carter will attend the Golden West meet as an honorary official, and meet organizers have made the shot one of the featured events. The ring, as it was for Carter in '79, will be in the middle of the football field.
"I can't wait," Carter said. "It will be my first chance to see Brent Noon."
Section Final Notes
It should be a close finish in the boys' 1,600- and 3,200-meter races between Mar Vista junior Hector Hernandez (bests of 4:19.32 and 9:33.4) and Mt. Carmel's Clay Biddle (4:20.03 and 9:38.0). Since overtaking the county lead in both events at the Orange Glen Invitational, Hernandez has displayed a wicked kick. Biddle is rounding into shape after injury. . . . University City's Jerome Price, who nailed a 25-foot-5 long jump at the Sundevil Invitational, has not been able to top that mark for five weeks. The 24-year-old section record is 25-5 1/4 by Doyle Steele of San Diego High. Price is due. . . . The big rivalry in the girls' meet is between hurdlers Kim Dill of Poway and Erin Blunt of San Pasqual. Blunt has a better time in each, but barely--14.2 to 14.3 in the 100 lows and 44.5 to 44.71 in the 300 lows. . . . The Morse girls 400-meter relay team will be going for its 12th consecutive section title.