Heading into that final day of the 1983 state track meet, Kapaun Mount Carmel coach Mark Carney was worried about the weather.
His 3200-meter relay team, which included the state's top two half-milers — Jeff Boleski and Mario Pyles — was poised to set a Class 5A record. But if the weather varied from the cool temperatures the area had all spring, the team could have a problem.
"If it's hot and windy... (the wind) comes over the bank on the south end, and you're shot on the backstretch," Carney said.
He need not have worried. Conditions were perfect that day, and Kapaun ran the relay in 7 minutes, 52.6 seconds, a nearly five-second improvement over the previous record.
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That 5A record still stands, one of 26 boys records that have been around for 25 or more years. A picture of the relay team runs in the state track program each year.
"Every time I'm running, I think about that," said Pyles, now a doctor in Indiana. "It's something that never goes away. You cherish it. You share it with your children."
Carney went into the state meet planning on his team setting the record, specifically because he had Pyles and Boleski, who finished first and second in the 800 in 1982.
"We knew we had the horses to do it," Carney said."... But it's hard to get all four of those guys, especially when they're running other events the day before, running their best."
He trained that team hard, pushing them to work, pushing them to focus. He had help from Pyles and Boleski, who were loaded with talent and drive.
And then there was Chris Ridder.
Ridder, the comic of the group, was only running because he couldn't play football (he had suffered multiple concussions) and he'd been cut from the basketball team.
"They turned me into a half-miler, they had to," Ridder said. "Mario called me up in the summer, 'Have you been running?' I was lying, 'Yeah, yeah, I've been running.' "
Pyles laughed as he recalled those conversations.
"'Yeah, yeah, sure. Yeah, right. I'm running.' Those are his words," Pyles said. "There was plenty of pauses in between."
The fourth teammate, Jerry Regan, he was a true distance runner and had little interest in dropping down to the 800. But he was needed for this relay, too.
So Pyles and Boleski urged Ridder and Regan on, worked to motivate them, worked to make it fun.
The final key to setting the record was Carney's strategy. Instead of putting the state's top two 800 runners on the first and final legs, Carney put Pyles as the third leg, and Boleski at anchor.
"I really think the brains behind the entire set-up was Carney," Pyles said.
Part of the thinking was to put Regan on the first leg because he'd run with the rest of the pack, whereas he might not run as fast if he were in the second leg.
"I was the one most likely to implode," Regan said. "I needed to be in a race scenario instead of running free — the field is scattered and you have to manage yourself."
By the time Regan handed off to Ridder that Saturday, Kapaun was in fourth, as expected. Ridder also did as expected, moving Kapaun into second.
When Pyles grabbed the baton, he quickly dominated the field. By the first stagger, he was ahead by 10 meters.
Midway through the race, Pyles started thinking about a state record.
"I heard the announcer say, 'Kapaun's on their state-record time,' " Pyles said. "I said, 'Oh my God. Let me pick it up.' "
When he handed off to Boleski for the final leg, he told him, "We've got this record, slam it, slam it, slam it!"
Boleski was well ahead of the field, but that didn't stop his teammates from screaming that the other runners were gaining. They ran through the infield from spot to spot, urging Boleski to run even faster.
Boleski was wasted after the race and vomited during the medal ceremony. He still went on to finish second to Pyles in the 800.
"I remember everybody was cheering, the whole stadium," Ridder said of the moments after the race."... It was like the stadium was full of people. I felt like I was floating."
Just recalling it brings goosebumps to Pyles.
"It feels like it happened yesterday," he said. "that clearly.... I was so charged, so much adrenaline going."