History of boys Redwood Empire 1600m

1600m Top 50 Performances

The girls 1600 history was well liked but this one has another 50 extra years to cover so we better jump right in.

For those of you who are 106 years old and older you may remember that glorius day in 1914 when Santa Rosa High’s Larry Chapman ran the fastest mile in the state that year with a 4:28.0 time. That also remained as our Redwood Empire Record for a good long time.
Even over 100 years later that’s a darn good mark.
The first California State meet would take place the following year in 1915.

Although our area had boys competing since before 1900 we would not have our own league until 1921. That being the North Bay League.
Santa Rosa High won the first NBL Finals and I know Napa, Petaluma and Analy were all members and I assume Ukiah, Healdsburg and Sonoma Valley were probably in it as well.
It didn’t take long for our league to produce it’s first great miler.
Petaluma’s standout was “Les” Schwobeda who must have been the big man on campus as he was also the President of the Senior Class.

As a junior (1921) he was the NCS Champion at 880 yards in 2:04.6, breaking the Meet Record, and then took second at state in that event.
His senior year (1922) he was NCS Champion in both the Mile (4:44.0) and the 880 (2:02.4 MR).
At State he became the Empire’s only boy State Mile Champion running 4:40.0 into gale winds. He followed that with a second place finish in the 880.

Schwobeda is standing to the far right with his Petaluma team.

Santa Rosa’s Estel Pearcy would get us back on the state meet podium in 1924 with a 4th place mile finish.

Petaluma’s Eric White would win the North Coast Section Meet of Champions twice. First as a sophomore in 1925 (4:52.2) then again in 1927 at 4:39.0.

Earliest Meet Record I have for the NBL Finals was by a Tamalpais runner named Scott who clocked 4:36.8 in the 1936 meet.

The tiny town of Mendocino, still under a population of 1000, produced the 1940 NCS MOC champion by Mendocino High’s Piccolopti Valador in 4:38.3.

World War II interrupts the state meet for four years. The state meet would happen ever year after that until 2020.

Following the war Analy’s Jim Simpson would get us back atop the NCS podium with his 1949 win in 4:38.5.

Hogan’s Dale Stevenson would take down the Redwood Empire Mile Record at the 1964 NBL Finals and earn the meet record with a 4:26.1 mile.

In 1966 a sophomore named Stan Maxfield from El Molino would win NBL mile.
The next year as a junior he would also take down the Redwood Empire Mile Record at the 1967 NBL Finals crushing the meet record with a 4:23.3.

Before Butch Alexander became the Sonoma Valley High coach he would be their star.
Alexander would lower the Redwood Empire Mile Record to 4:20.2 at the NCS MOC finals in 1971.

Butch Alexander

Alexander story-The finish line is in LA

In 1966 another new league called the NBL II was created. The NBL II would change it’s name to the Sonoma County League in 1972.

Vintage’s Mark Hadley would have a two year rule of the NBL winning the 1972 league finals in 4:30.0.
In the 1973 finals he would not only erase the meet record but also become the new Redwood Empire Mile Record holder at 4:17.6.

Petaluma’s Jon Sisler is best known as a two miler but at a mile he was breaking records as well.
At the 1974 Chico Invitational Sisler broke Hadley’s meet record with a 4:18.1 clocking.
That time had only been bettered one time in Redwood Empire history by Hadley.

Jon Sisler

Petaluma’s Dan Aldridge, like former teammate Sisler, is best known as a half-miler but at a mile he too was breaking mile records.
Aldridge would return the Redwood Empire Mile Record to Sonoma County with a 4:16.7 mile at the 1975 Chico Invitational. He would take the NBL title that year with 4:28.5.

My best friend in high school was Montgomery’s Bill Johnson.
He basically forsed me to run on the cross country team. Which I ended up loving.
Anyway he was the NBL champion in 1976 (4:28.2) and 1977 (4:26.7).

Johnson winning the 1977 NBL mile over Petaluma’s Dave Royal

Meanwhile in the Sonoma County League Piner’s Armand Moreno was winning the 1977 (4:29.7) and 1978 (4:23.2 new meet record) Finals.
His fastest mile was 4:20.4.

And how about the MILE Relay.
As with the girls I’m talking about the 4X Mile Relay.
In 1975 Petaluma team of Dave Hanson (4:37.5), Mike Brandner (4:35.8), Frank Paula (5:03.0) and Dan Aldridge (4:18.2) ran 18:34.5.
In 1977 Piner had a team, most likely with Moreno on it, that ran 18:34.9.
In 1978 Piner would go even faster at 18:21.7 but Petaluma would destroy the Empire record with a 18:06.4 that year for a 4:31.6 avg.
That time would hold up for 28 years as the Empire’s best.
When we get to 2006 you will see who now holds it.

Petaluma’s Dave Royal was the next dominate runner in the area, he took the NBL titles in 1978 (4:19.6) and 1979 (4:21.5) but in the mile his big splash came in the Brooks MOC meet in June when he would crush the Redwood Empire Mile Record with a 4:15.0.

Dave Royal

In 1981 California switched to metrics, making the four lapper 1600 meters rather than the mile.

The first Freshman Record of note was by Cardinal Newman’s Ryan Gilliam in 1981 at 4:30.44.
Gilliam would follow that season with three NBL Final wins 1982 (4:28.0), 1983 (4:29.1) and 1984 (4:30.4) and had a best of 4:18.7.

Ryan Gilliam

Santa Rosa’s Tom Macken won the 1985 NBL title at 4:24.1. In 1986 hr ran only the third NBL winning time below 4:20 with his 4:19.6 win. His best time came at the NCS MOC meet in 4:16.03.
Macken school record story

Tom Macken

Sonoma Valley’s John Litzenberg is another coach who was first a three time SCL Final winner, 1986 (4:42.6), 1987 (4:33.1), and 1988 (4:27.3).

Santa Rosa’s Steve Guerrini held the National High School 2000m Steeplechase record for 23 years, still the number two performer in US history.
A one reason for that was his milers speed.

In Guerrini’s first year of high school (1989) he would just miss breaking Aldridge’s sophomore Empire Class record 4:22.02 to 4:22.37.
His junior year he would surpass the Jr. class record held by Hadley with a 1600 in 4:15.0 compared to Hadley’s converted 4:16.35 time.
Guerrini’s senior year he would first remove the NBL meet record with a 4:15.6. That record still stands today and only one runner since has broken 4:20 in the finals.
Two weeks later he become our next NCS MOC champion at 4:16.07.
He closed his prep career with a 3rd place medal at the state meet with a huge PR at 4:13.85.
Just missing the Empire Record held by Royal, but more about that later.

Cardinal Newman’s Chris Gaston followed Guerrini as NBL champ the next year and as the NCS MOC champion at 4:18.68 in 1992.

Casa Grande’s Ricky Esponda would rule the SCL in 1992 with a finals win in 4:31.5.
His senior year he would repeat as league champion and then give us our third straight year of NCS MOC champions as he won the 1993 event in a PR 4:18.56.

Esponda story

In 1996 we had not just one new freshman to get excited about but two.
Ukiah’s Ryan Mack would first break the Freshman Record with 4:29.54 on April 6th at the Lamont Invitational.

Ryan Mack

Mack would lower it again at the Chico Invitational with a 4:27.6.
At the NCS Redwood meet that year Mack would take 3rd in the 1600 with Santa Rosa High’s Steve Laurie in 4th at 4:28.99, also dropping below Gilliam’s old record at the beginning of the year.
Steve Laurie and Ryan Mack in that 1996 NCS Redwood meet.

As sophomore’s Laurie switched to Maria Carrillo when they opened that school in 1997.
Laurie would win the 1997 NBL title that year (4:33.74) with Mack breaking Aldridge’s sophomore record at 4:21.56 to Dan’s 4:22.02.
Mack took the 1998 (4:25.31) NBL title and again in 1999 (4:20.06).
Mack would have his fastest time as a junior with a 4:13.81 state qualifying time at the NCS MOC meet. That class record still stands today.
At the 1998 state finals he would place 8th in 4:17.36. Watch the race here.
In 1999 Mack would do one place better at state with a 7th in 4:17.73 while Laurie would PR at 4:20.77 that year.
Steve Laurie

As Laurie was pushing the pace in races in 1999 a freshman teammate was hot on his heals.
Jordan Kinley would run a 4:25.9 that year to take down Mack’s Freshman Record.
That was only the beginning for Kinley as he would have one of our areas greatest miler career’s.
He would take the next three NBL titles with 2000 (4:26.50), 2001 (4:31.85) and 2002 (4:23.13).
Kinley’s junior year would produce his first state meet medal with a 5th in 4:15.35.
Jordan Kinley

His 2002 season would come with five races at 4:16.21 or faster.
With one each from his previous two years that gave him seven total, one more than Guerrini had in his career,
It would conclude with a record breaking 4:13.67 for 5th again at state.
For the first time Kinley is now getting credit for breaking Royals Empire record.

It’s all about hand times verses automatic.
Before 2000 conversions for races where the starter was far away, like the 100, had 0.24 seconds added to the hand time to compare to Fully Atomatic Times (FAT).
Races like the 1600 were the starter was close to the hand timers statisticians would only add 0.14 seconds.
So when Royal ran 4:15.0 for a mile, at the time we considered that like a 4:15.14 FAT time.
Converted to 1600 meters made it 4:13.66. So Kinley’s time was consider 0.01 seconds short of the record.
Today all major lists use 0.24 for all races as the standard.
That changes Royal’s time on lists, for a 1600, to 4:13.76. Meaning Kinley’s time is now regarded as faster than Royal’s or any other Empire runner.
Royals time, no matter how you look at it, still stood for 23 years.
But records are meant to be broken.

Cardinal Newman’s J.K. Withers would be the next to chase after it.
A sophomore time of 4:21.70, taking 5th at the 2002 NCS MOC meet, placed him right behind Kinley and Mack and just ahead of Aldridge on the sophomore class list.
In 2003 he would win the NBL title with a 4:21.11 and place 2nd a MOC.

J.K. Withers

On March 13th 2004 at the Piedmont Invitational he would break the Royal/Kinley record with a 4:10.7 time.
On April 24th he would run a full mile in 4:13.15 for the second fastest time ever, =4:11.69 for 1600.
His second NBL title would be the only other sub 4:20 at this meet since Guerrini with a 4:19.02 win.
He would rule at the NCS MOC in 2004 with a blazing 4:14.16.
At the State Meet he would place 8th in 4:21.39.
And J.K. had a brother making them the best brother act we have had.
Brothers 4:10.94 J.K, 4:19.76 Joe = 8:30.70 Withers

When it rains it pours.
Our little tiny Coastal Mountain Conference for small schools would have two of our fastest ever milers going head to head.
In 2004 Lower Lake’s Mike Perez was an unkown sophomore who would place 8th at the CMC 1600m finals in 5:05.42.
St Helena’s Brian Cole showed way more promise taking 2nd at CMC and ran 4:30.76 at the NCS MOC trials to become the 7th fastest freshman, at the time, in the Empire.
Hard to believe from this start these two would become two of our greatest.
In 2005 Cole would win the CMC meet 4:39.8, Perez same time. Cole then won the NCS 1A (4:37.55), while Perez took 7th in the NCS Redwood meet (4:29.34). At NCS MOC trials they would clock: Perez 4:30.80, Cole 4:32.17.

Mike Perez

Perez’s senior year, 2006, he would shock everyone on March 18th winning the big Piedmont Invitational in the fastest time in the state at 4:16.8.
Many had a hard time believing the mark until the next weekend when he would run a full mile in 4:13.3 at the St. Francis Track and Field Carnival.
This gave him a 4:12.07 1600 equivalent, taking back the state lead he lost three days earlier and giving him the second fastest run ever behind Withers record. See story here.
On April 8th he would take 5th at the national-class Arcadia meet in 4:14.47 for the full mile.
Enroute to his Arcadia Mile he past the 1500 at 3:54.3 for a new Empire Record.
April 22nd would be the day that he set the still standing Redwood Empire record at the Logan Top 8 meet clocking 4:09.91.
This ended up being the sixth fastest time in the state that year.
Perez set CMC Meet Record at 4:19 to win that final over Cole.
He would then win the NCS Redwood meet (4:15.86) and the NCS MOC (4:15.13).
At state he would place 9th in 4:19.61.
All this along with with other times of 1:52.13 and 9:22.52 earned Perez Athlete of the Year in the Redwood Empire for 2006.

Any other year Cole’s 2006 season would have drawn headlines but Perez’s season kept that from happening.
Cole would win the Viking Classic in 4:27.17 and the NCS 1A (4:33.8).

Brian Cole

His 4th place finish at NCS MOC (4:17.67) got him to State where he placed 10th in 4:16.86.
He was the 5th best underclassman at the state meet.
That moved him to 5th junior All-Time, in 2006 and 11th overall All-Time.

Remember back in the 70’s when we talked about the 4X Mile Relay, well it’s that time.
At the 2006 Arcadia Relays the Maria Carrillo team would place 7th in 18:01.16 to finally take down Petaluma’s 18:06.5 1978 record.
That time equals a 4X1600 in 17:54.89 or an average of 4:28.73.

Left to right: Ryan Aldridge, Logan Ensign, Michael Brew, Anton Karrman

When you want to stump someone with a triva question ask them which Aldridge still holds the mile record. And as they guess Dan or Jenny you can tell them it’s Dan’s son Ryan.
Ryan also gets credit for being half of both the best Brother/Sister combo and Father/Son.
Brother/Sister 4:31.55 Ryan, 4:49.63 Jenny = 9:21.18 Aldridge’s
Father/Son 4:15.45 Dan, 4:31.55 Ryan = 8:47.00 Aldridge’s

2007 would be Cole’s year to shine.
A 3rd place at Stanford in 4:14.99 would be his first of four sub 4:15 races that year.
Perez is the only other runner we have ever had do that.
A week later he would take 5th at Arcadia in 4:13.79 for the full mile.
Cole won all of his post season races up to state, CMC (4:23.6), NCS 1A (4:27.40), NCS MOC (4:16.63).
Cole’s State trials heat would have the eventual top 5 in the finals.
Cole, white top half of shirt and all red below can be seen at times in this video from the trials were he runs 4:14.00 for the last qualifying spot.
Watch video here.
In the state finals Cole ran the fastest Redwood Empire 1600 in state finals history taking fourth in 4:11.74.
He became 3rd All-Time behind Perez and Withers and would be named Athlete of the Year in the Redwood Empire for 2007.

During the Perez/Cole season of 2006 an SCL star was emerging.
Petaluma’s Sterling Lockert won his first of four SCL titles that year 2006 (4:26.3), 2007 (4:33.7), 2008 (4:25.9) and 2009 (4:23.9).

At the 2006 NCS Redwood meet he would lower Kinley’s Freshman Record down to 4:25.68. It has not been beaten yet.
Athlete of the Year in the Redwood Empire both 2008 (Co-holder) and 2009 Lockert would advance to the state meet 2008 (1600) and 2009 (3200).

2010 SCL champion Hugh Dowdy of Petaluma would advance all the way to the state finals and come home with the sixth place medal.

Hugh Dowdy at MOC qualifying for state by Michael Lucid

Here is a video of his trials 4:15.77. Plus his finals race at 4:22.98.

2011 was our best year ever depth wise with six runners at 4:21.02 or faster.
4:14.17 Luis Luna, 11, Piner, NCS Champion 3200, 6th State Meet 3200
4:19.70 Forrest Shaffer, 12, Petaluma
4:19.90 Alexi Taylor, 11, Cardinal Newman
4:20.13 Daniel Hauptman, 12, Maria Carrillo, NBL Champion
4:20.72 Ben Tarango, 12, Casa Grande, SCL Champion, 2nd NCS Redwood
4:21.02 Ryan Douglas, 10, Petaluma
4:25.24 Jose Mendoza, 11, Montgomery

2011 Viking Classic 3200 meters by Michael Lucid
1 Luis Luna, Piner 4:14.17
2 Ned Tannenbaum, SF University 4:17.44
3 Forrest Shaffer, Petaluma 4:19.70
4 Alexi Taylor, Cardinal Newman 4:19.90
5 RyanDouglas, Petaluma 4:21.02
6 Ben Tarango, Casa Grande 4:21.05
7 Daniel Hauptman, Maria Carrillo 4:21.15

Petaluma’s Ryan Douglas was that sixth runner in 2011 as a sophomore but he would come into his own fame as a junior.
Moreno’s SCL meet record had held for 34 years until the 2012 meet when Douglas finally erased it with a 4:20.69 win.

Douglas winning the Viking Classic 1600 by Jim Crowhurst

As a senior he racked up a lot of big wins taking Dublin Distance Fiesta (4:24.71), Viking Classic (4:18.13) and 2013 SCL Finals (4:20.88).
His best time would be at Stanford with a 4:18.00 mile, =4:16.51 1600.

Our last full season would be our 2nd best ever with five at 4:21.69 or faster in 2019.
4:16.81 Colton Swinth, 11, Maria Carrillo, NBL Champion, 2nd NCS Redwood, 4th NCS
4:17.67 Lucas Chung, 12, Windsor
4:18.73 Pierce Kapustka, 11, Maria Carrillo
4:19.59 Dante Godinez, 12, Healdsburg
4:21.69 Rory Smail, 11, Maria Carrillo
4:22.66 Emmanuel Guzman, 12, Vintage, VVAL Champion
4:22.96 Owen Hite, 10, Casa Grande
4:25.43 Andrew Engel, 11, Santa Rosa

2019 NCS Redwood 1600 meters heat 2 by Michael Lucid
1 Liam Anderson 12 Redwood 4:15.31
2 Cooper McCarthy 12 Sir Francis 4:15.48
3 Colton Swinth 11 Maria Carrillo 4:16.81
4 Lucas Chung 12 Windsor 4:17.67
5 Amir Barkan 11 Sir Francis 4:18.16
6 Pierce Kapustka 11 Maria Carrillo 4:18.73
7 Dante Godinez 12 Healdsburg 4:19.59
8 Lyle Rumon 11 Marin Cathol 4:20.35
9 Owen Hite 10 Casa Grande 4:23.00
10 Hudson Grace 10 Redwood 4:24.80
11 Andrew Engel 11 Santa Rosa 4:25.43

Sadly the COVID-19 virus robed us of seeing how these seniors would have done in 2020.
4:16.81 Colton Swinth, 11, Maria Carrillo
4:18.73 Pierce Kapustka, 11, Maria Carrillo
4:21.69 Rory Smail, 11, Maria Carrillo
and 4:25.43 Andrew Engel, 11, Santa Rosa

1600m Top Performances
4:09.91-4:15.86 Mike Perez (7), Lower Lake
4:13.67-4:16.21 Jordan Kinley (7), Maria Carrillo
4:13.85-4:16.53 Steve Guerrini (6), Santa Rosa
4:14.27-4:16.61 Sterling Lockert (5), Petaluma
4:11.74-4:16.63 Brian Cole (5), St. Helena
4:10.76-4:14.17 Luis Luna, (3) Piner
4:10.94-4:16.64 J.K. Withers (3), Cardinal Newman

Boys All-Time 1,600 meters
4:09.91 Mike Perez, Lower Lake #1 2006
4:10.76* Luis Luna, Piner #1 2012
4:10.94+ J.K. Withers, Cardinal Newman #1 2004
4:11.74 Brian Cole, St. Helena #1 2007
4:11.83 Reesey Byers, Santa Rosa #1 2010
4:13.67 Jordan Kinley, Maria Carrillo #1 2002
4:13.76* Dave Royal, Petaluma #1 1979
4:13.81 Ryan Mack, Ukiah #1 1998
4:13.85 Steve Guerrini, Santa Rosa #2 1991
4:14.27 Sterling Lockert, Petaluma #2 2009

4:14.86* Mark Hadley, Vintage 1973
4:15.45* Dan Aldridge, Petaluma #3 1975
4:15.77 Hugh Dowdy, Petaluma #4 2010
4:16.03 Tom Macken, Santa Rosa #3 1986
4:16.14+ Dawit Tesfasilassie, Piner #2 2004

Top 50 Empire runners, Petaluma has 10
Class records
NBL “Oak” Champions
NBL “Redwood”/SCL Champions
VVAL Champions
CMC Champions
Best years for the event

Evolution of Redwood Empire 1600m Record
4:28.0* Larry Chapman, Santa Rosa 1914
4:26.8 Bob Waldon, Montgomery 1966
4:23.3 Stan Maxfield, El Molino 5/13/67 NBL Finals
4:20.2 Butch Alexander, Sonoma Valley 5/20/71 MOC
4:17.6 Mark Hadley, Vintage 1973 NBL Finals
4:16.7 Dan Aldridge, Petaluma 4/24/75 Chico Inv.
4:15.0 Dave Royal, Petaluma 6/9/79 Brooks MOC = to 4:13.76 1600 meters
1600 meters
4:13.67 Jordan Kinley, Maria Carrillo 6/1/02 State
4:10.94+ J.K. Withers, Cardinal Newman 3/13/04 Piedmont
4:09.91 Mike Perez, Lower Lake 4/22/06 Top 8

State Meet Top Places
1st Les Schwobeda, Petaluma 4:40.0y 1922, gale winds
3rd Steve Guerrini, Santa Rosa 4:13.85 1991
4th Brian Cole, St Helena 4:11.74 2007
4th Estel Pearcy, Santa Rosa 1924
5th Jordan Kinley, Maria Carrillo 4:15.35 2001
5th Jordan Kinley, Maria Carrillo 4:13.67 2002
6th Hugh Dowdy, Petaluma 4:22.98 2010
7th Ryan Mack, Ukiah 4:17.73 1999
8th Ryan Mack, Ukiah 4:17.36 1998
8th JK Withers, Cardinal Newman 4:21.39 2004

North Coast Section Meet of Champions
1922 Les Schwobeda, Petaluma 4:44.0
1925 Eric White, Petaluma 4:52.2
1927 Eric White, Petaluma 4:39.0
1940 Piccolopti Valador, Mendocino 4:38.3
1949 Jim Simpson, Analy 4:38.5
1991 Steve Guerrini, Santa Rosa 4:16.07
1992 Chris Gaston, Cardinal Newman 4:18.68
1993 Ricky Esponda, Casa Grande 4:18.56
2004 JK Withers, Cardinal Newman 4:14.16
2006 Mike Perez, Lower Lake 4:15.13
2007 Brian Cole, St Helena 4:16.63

Adult Mile Bests
3:58.44+ Dan Aldridge, Athletics West (Petaluma ’75, SRJC ’77) at Eugene, OR 5/81
4:03.24i J.K. Withers, Oregon (Cardinal Newman ’04) at HUSKY CLASSIC, Seattle 2/14/09
4:04.04+ Dan Held, (Santa Rosa H.S. ’90) at Pat Ryan Inv. SRJC 4/29/95
4:06.57i Hugh Dowdy, Colorado (Petaluma ’10) at MPSF Indoor Championships, Seattle 2/25/12
4:08.50 Reesey Byers, (SRHS ’10) SRJC 5/20/12
4:10.44 Jordan Kinley, (Maria Carrillo ’02) Providence 4/15/2006
4:11.37c Mike Perez, Lower Lake, 4/22/06, 4/8 (4:14.47y) Arcadia
4:11.43i Luis Luna, Eastern Kentucky (Piner ’12) Gladstein Invitational 1/21/17
4:12.64+ Jerry Siebert, ? (Willits ’56) in 1960
4:13.14+ Tim Stone, Chico (Lower Lake’71)

Aldridge first broke the 4 minute mile on April 11, 1981 in San Jose becoming the 111th American to do so.
Road mile 3:58 J.K. Withers, Unattached (Cardinal Newman ’04) 6/2/13 Santa Barbara State Street mile
Dan Aldridge ?3:58.24 Eugene 6/5/82
c-converted from 1600m