Hurdling through time: Summit High’s Hunter Stimson closes in on hurdle record 34 years after her mom set it
The 34-year-old memory is vivid for Signe Rockne-Stimson.
If it wasn’t, all she’d need to do to jog her memory is open the coffee-table-book-like relic of yellowed newspaper clippings to recall her most meaningful moment as a Summit High Tiger.
There on Page 2B of the Wednesday, May 16, 1984, Summit Sentinel is a photo of Rockne-Stimson hugging her old Summit High track-and-field coach Bill Irwin. It’s a photo of the moment after Rockne-Stimson set the Summit High record of 48.02 seconds for the 300-meter hurdles, a record that still hangs from the Summit High gymnasium rafters more than three decades later.
The words under the photo read: “Coach Bill Irwin comforts a disappointed Signe Rockne after judges ruled she lost the 300 low hurdles in a photo finish. Both Rockne and the winner received the exact same times, 48.02 seconds, a district record.”
Like many top high school athletes, Rockne-Stimson remembers most all of the details about that race from yesteryear. Heading into it, she knew — side-by-side in lanes three and four — it would come down to her and a girl named Debbie — last name forgotten to history — from Denver Christian.
“I was so upset I wasn’t the solo first-place finisher,” Rockne-Stimson recalled with a smile while looking at the photo.
Along with the details of the race, Rockne-Stimson can still vividly recall another token element of her high school hurdling career: The sound of coach Irwin cheering her on.
And to have flashbacks to her high school career, all Rockne-Stimson has to hear is the same penetrating cheer from coach Irwin when he’s on a race track with Rockne-Stimson and her daughter 34 years later.
LISTEN: Summit High track-and-field star Hunter Stimson and mother Signe Rockne-Stimson chat about Hunter’s pursuit of her mother’s hurdling record
That daughter is Summit High sophomore Hunter Rockne-Stimson. And 34 years after her mother tearfully hugged coach Irwin after setting the Summit High 300-meter hurdle record, coach Irwin is there for the mother-daughter duo at the Summit High Tigers track-and-field meets this season.
“He’s so funny,” Rockne-Stimson recalled, “when he’d yell, he’s the only person I’d hear yell on the track. And (now) he yells, ‘Go, Hunter!’
“It just brings me back to when I was running,” Rockne-Stimson continued. “(I think to myself) ‘There’s coach!’”
In a county with many seasonal residents, transient visitors and empty vacation rental houses, it’s within the confines of Summit High School where some of Summit County’s best elements of community are on display.
These days, the mother-daughter-shared story of Signe and Hunter is one of the best examples of athletic lineage across decades in this fitness-loving county.
When attending physical education class all Hunter needs to do is look up to see her mom’s 300-meter hurdle record of 48.02 still standing.
“(When I pass by it I’m reminded) Oh, my mom went here?” Stimson said. “That’s cool.”
What’s even cooler is Stimson is trying to eclipse her mother’s mark as she rounds out what has been a stellar sophomore season for the sprinter and hurdler. So far this season, Stimson has consistently entered the starting blocks in the final heat of meets, challenging as one of the Top 15-20 300-meter hurdlers in the state for the Tigers 4A school-size division.
Not only that, but Stimson also won a 100-meter hurdle race down in Loveland earlier this month as she’s frequently challenged for the top spot in 100- and 300-meter hurdle races.
Further, for sophomores in 4A across the state, Stimson currently ranks as one of the top two hurdlers with her personal record time of 48.59. That remains 57-hundredths of a second behind her mom’s best time. But with the potential of two-plus years of training and hurdling before the end of her high school career, it looks like Stimson will surpass her mother soon enough.
“In real life a second doesn’t seem too long,” Stimson said, “but in track it is a really long time. There is a big difference from running 48 to 47 seconds, which is my goal soon.”
“It’s all about coming out of the blocks strong,” she continued, “and not messing one thing up, because it can affect your time.”
If and when Stimson does eclipse her mother’s record, a huge part of her success will be the same hurdling mantra coach Irwin recited to her mother nearly four decades ago.
“Attack the hurdle,” Stimson said.
“Go after the hurdle,” her mother added. “Which Hunter does anyway. But attack every single hurdle. Finish strong. Don’t be afraid of the hurdle. Go for it.”
“Because those last three hurdles you cross in the 300-meter hurdles” Rockne-Stimson continued, “it’s a grinder. And you’re, like, looking at the finish line, ‘Holy cow, is it ever going to get here?’”
Beating her mom’s record time is likely as Stimson continues to impress in the 300-meter event, most recently finishing in second place with a time of 49.43 at Thursday’s Berthoud Spartan Spike Invitational.
But high school track-and-field in 2018 is very different from what it was in 1984. And like the rest of the team at Summit High, Stimson has the benefits of an athletic trainer in Steve Sedlak, a targeted strength-and-conditioning program drafted by coach Karl Barth and 34 years of improvements in shoes, equipment and fitness knowledge.
Case in point, 34 years ago — back when track and field was the only spring girls sport at Summit High — coach Irwin had to pull double duty.
“Our athletic trainer was Bill Irwin,” Rockne-Stimson said with a laugh. “If we had issues, he’d also be taping ankles.”
It was a few years ago when Rockne-Stimson told her old coach about her daughter’s burgeoning track-and-field passion as a middle schooler. Ther former coach and pupil would run into each other at the Breckenridge Recreation Center.
“So when I’d see him (I’d say), ‘you know, Hunter’s coming up and playing basketball,’” Rockne-Stimson said. “And he’d come watch some of her basketball games and he’d come to watch track in middle school, and he’d text me all the time and say, ‘when’s her next meet, when’s her next meet?’”
Summit County in 2018 is a very different place from what it was in 1984. But when Stimson goes out there for her next 300-meter event, she’ll have much the same routine her mother exhibited before that fateful race on May 16, 1984.
She’ll be sure to focus on herself, not watching any of the other girls running beforehand. She’ll imagine herself crossing the finish line first. She’ll play out what it takes to “attack,” each hurdle, continuing the rhythmyic cadence of 20 to 25 steps between jumps.
And then, she’ll race.
“It’s very similar,” Rockne-Stimson said. “And I had forgotten about (my pre-race routine) and she said, ‘I discovered something new, to not watch all the runners performing.’ And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s exactly what I did.’”
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