Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kansas City's 10 Greatest Distance Runners

The whole Matt Tegenkamp versus Joe Falcon thing caused me to think back to an article I wrote many years ago for a website Greg Hall ran about 10 years ago. Greg's site was a blog before we even knew what blogging was. I wrote blog about the ten best distance runners to ever come out of the Kansas City metro area. I did a list of men and a list for women. I'm going to give it a shot again, but this time we'll make the list co-ed.

The only criteria is that the runner must have graduated from a Kansas City area high school. I'll consider times, list of high school, collegiate and post collegiate achievements.

1. Matt Tegenkamp - Lee's Summit High School
Yes I flip flopped. Matt was a Footlocker cross country finalist in high school and a multiple state champion. He wasn't quite as fast in high school or college as the #2 runner on this list but what he's accomplished after college is tough to beat. He set the American Record for two miles, he's one of only four Americans under 13 minutes for 5000, he finished 4th at the World Championships in 2007 at the 5000 and made last year's Olympic finals and this year's World Championship finals again.

2. Joe Falcon - Belton High School
Joe is the fastest miler to ever come out of Kansas City. He was better than Tegenkamp at the high school level and may an impressive career at Arkansas where he won six individual NCAA titles in track and cross country. His pinnacle came in 1990 when he broke 3:50 (3:49.31) and won the Dream Mile in Oslo. After that his injuries forced him into early retirement. I placed him behind Tegenkamp because he never made an Olympic or World Championship team. His best chance was in 1988 and he ran a terrible race in the 1500 Olympic Trials final.

3. Amy Hastings - Leavenworth High School
Another state champion who has the second fastest 5000 in Kansas high school history and the seventh fastest 3200. She went on to have a stellar career at Arizona State where she was multiple All American and a conference champion as well. She earned an indoor NCAA title at 5000 in 2006 and played a critical role in the Sun Devils 2007 indoor title scoring in both the 5000 and 3000. Hastings is still competing and has made a national team in cross country.

4. John Lawson - Wyandotte High School
John was the NCAA cross country champion while running at Kansas in 1965. He continued his track career after leaving KU and became the 31st American to break 4 minutes in the mile in 1969. His 3.59.5 made him the first area athlete under 4 and one of only five to break that barrier.

5. Steve Fein - Shawnee Mission Northwest High School
Steve was a dominating high school runner and a Footlocker cross country finalist. He started his career at Wisconsin but moved on to Oregon when his coach Martin Smith took the job there. He was an All-American with the Ducks finishing 3rd in 1999 at the NCAA cross country championships. He too broke four minutes in the mile.

6. Amanda Pape - Olathe South High School
The only two time Footlocker finalist from the metro area. She also took the national junior 5000 following her senior year of high school running the fastest time in Kansas prep history. She went on to have a productive career at Georgetown but never reached the heights of Hastings and left competitive running after leaving college.

7. Charlie Gray - Shawnee Mission South
Charlie is the only person on this list I actually competed against. He won only one state championship taking the 2 mile his senior year. He enjoyed an outstanding career at Central Missouri State where he won a small college national championship in the steeplechase. Following college he became a the dominant road racer in the Kansas City area for the next 15 years.

8. Adam Perkins - Liberty High School
A dominant miler in high school, second in ability only to Falcon. He gave up his senior year of track because of Missouri's restrictions on competing outside the state. Perkins went on to Arkansas where he enjoyed a solid career and earned All American honors in the 1500. He's run the equivalent of a 3:56 mile at 1500 meters and is still competing.

9. Heather Burroughs - Pembroke Hill High School
She was a wunderkind winning national championships before she was a teenager and setting just about every distance record imaginable before hitting high school. Burroughs had a stellar career at Pembroke Hills before moving onto Colorado where she was a three time All American in cross country and an All American in cross country. She still holds the national record she set as a 12 year old for 3000 meters of 10:03. That's a time most high school girls would die to run.

10. Brent Steiner - Shawnee Mission South
He ran the fastest 2 mile/3200 (8:46.99) in Kansas high school history. I was lucky enough to witness that race. He was off to an outstanding career at Arizona State when the NCAA tried to derail his career. Steiner ended up at Kansas where an injury filled career couldn't stop him from becoming the first cross country All-American since John Lawson. He turned to biathlons after college where he was one of the nation's best in the late 80's and early 90's.

Honorable mentions: Kristi Kloster - Bishop Meige High School,
A national champion at Kansas and an absolute stud in high school. Injuries took a toll on her career.
Dwight Davis - St. Thomas Aquinas High School
A state champion at Aquinas and an All-American at Tulsa and a sub-four minute miler. Gave up competitive running after college.

Jim Scott - Shawnee Mission North High School
A dominant miler in high school without the flashy times. He had a very good career at Pittsburg State and was a top flight road racer in the late 70's and early 80's.

Brad Hawthorne - Lee's Summit High School
Another high school stud who became a national class marathoner in the 1980's.

One final note - if you were to include Lawrence as part of the KC metro area then Kent McDonald from Lawrence High leap into the top 5. An All-American steepler at Kansas he still holds the school record.


  1. Don't forget Hastings is a 5000m indoor NCAA champion and held the collegiate indoor 5000m record for a short time, does that move her up on the list?

  2. I don't believe Hastings ever won an individual title, just a team title. She has more All-American honors than Fein but in my estimation her times just fall short. She doesn't have anything that's equivalent to running a sub 4 mile in her resume.

  3. I could agree with you on some of these rankings. If we contain the list to high school, you would end up spending most of your time listing the numerous state champions at Shawnee Mission South from 1970-1980. There dominance was unparalleled to any other school in the state of kansas.

  4. From 1970 to 1980 Shawnee Mission South was probably one of the top three track and field powers in the entire United States. The list of distance runners alone is staggering and then when you add in guys like Mark Sutherland, Vince Parette, Clint Johnson and Scott Loftus it's an unbelievably great program.

  5. Dear Rink, what a pleasure to run across your excellent "blog". Would Tim Schmid an NAIA 10.000 meter champion from William Jewell College and highly rated high school runner in Kansas City in the 1970s be a candidate for your honourable mention list ?
    Meilleures salutations, Marc-Antoine de Fourchambault

  6. Do you remember the great 10k road racer Mark Curp? I believe he lived in Lee's Summit, MO. Wasn't sure if he moved to K.C. later in his career but he would definitely be near the top of this list. He was one of the top 10k road runners in the world. Love your article Mr. Rinkenbaugh and I definitely was a huge Joe Falcon fan. Saw him run at KU Relays and also some NCAA meets. He also coached at Southwest Missouri State in Springfield, MO.

  7. If you included sprinters, Maurice Green would be number 1 without a doubt!

  8. If you included sprinters, Maurice Green would be number 1 without a doubt!