When Sandra Myers started reminiscing about her track career in Kansas, her memories were blurry. Like staring at a faded photograph, she had to force her brain to remember those high school years in Little River.
It's been 31 years since Myers competed in the 1979 state track meet, 31 years since she set the Class 1A long jump record at 19 feet, 7 1/4 inches, 31 years since she finished her high school career with four first-place medals to add to the nine she had won her previous three years.
"It's kind of strange, trying to think back to all those things," said Myers, who has lived in Spain since she competed at Cal State Northridge. "There were some good times and very exciting races. My memory is very sketchy, though. I was only 15, 16, 17 years old."
Even so, Myers remembers the emotions well.
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"Those were probably some of the most exciting parts of my track and field memories," said Myers, who grew up on a wheat farm. "We had some good times back then."
Myers still holds Class 1A records in the 200 meters (25.0 seconds) and 400 meters (56.5) and in the long jump — no Class 1A girl has leaped 19 feet since — but she also had plenty of thrilling moments in her international career.
Myers, who became a citizen of Spain after marrying weight lifter Javier Echarri from whom she is now divorced, competed in two Olympics for Spain.
She set an American record in the 400 hurdles at Northridge, won a gold medal in the 1991 European Championships, and at one point owned Spanish records in sprints from 60 to 400 meters, and the long jump, both indoors and outdoors.
Her first experience with track was as a 7-year-old after her physical education teacher suggested she compete in the Junior Olympics. Myers ran with older girls and finished last in the 50-yard dash.
"I think I was crying or whimpering and one of the teachers came over to me. 'Why on Earth did you run the entire race with your hands in your pockets?' " Myers recalled.
Myers, a music major in college, is a professor of music at the upper level conservatory in Salamanca, Spain. Music, specifically piano, has always been a vital part of Myers, but she often pushed it aside to focus on track.
That work ethic came naturally.
"For most kids they go out for track and they'll start a couple weeks early to get ready to get conditioned," said Myers' father, Franklin. "She would never get out of condition. She did it the whole year."
She ran at least four miles on summer nights. She lifted weights during lunch period, and when the school was closed in the winter, she'd turn it into her workout area.
"When nobody was at the schoolhouse, she'd run up and down the hall," Franklin Myers said. "The hall was like a block long ... she'd run up and down those halls so she could keep in condition."
That dedication always impressed Little River football and girls basketball coach Shane Cordell, who coached Myers in her senior season.
"She was very dedicated in whatever she did, whether track or music or academics," he said."... She had the gifts plus the work ethic."
Though it's been years since Myers took an in-depth look at her high school career, she remembers the thrill of running on a Tartan — all-weather — track. She was used to running on dirt tracks, so she had long spikes on the bottom of her shoes that stabbed into the dirt.
"I don't know how we ran on them," Myers said with a quiet chuckle.
The state track meet brought a whole different atmosphere, too.
"You know your times will be quick, you know there's a big stadium out there with people watching you," said Myers, who has three daughters. "When you're very, very young, those are some pretty big responsibilities. People expected me to win.
"And so that is all probably magnified when you go to the Olympics. But that was the first experience with those big championships, the big high school state meet."
Myers doesn't remember being tested at the state meet.
"I never had any nervousness that I might not win," Myers said. "I was very sure about myself. On a 1A level, I really didn't have much competition. I had a good time with all those girls; we had a lot of fun.
"But I think it might have been more practical even to consider combining (the classes).... It might have been more exciting for the spectators to combine the four, five different classes."
As her father remembers, Myers raised her goals since everyone expected her to win.
"She wasn't satisfied unless she had a state record," he recalled recently.
Myers' greatest disappointment was not qualifying for the state meet in the long jump during her junior year.
Myers competed in four events at her 1978 regional, so she was going back and forth between semifinal running heats and long jump heats.
"Somehow I remember there was some confusion of what board I was supposed to jump from," she said. "I jumped from the wrong one and I didn't get to go to the state meet in my favorite event. I remember that clearly."
While the long jump had always been her favorite, the 400 was not. At all.
"It's always the most uncomfortable one because the last few meters are pretty tough," she said.
Early on, she had no desire to run the 400 when her junior high coach put her in the race.
The reason? She was convinced she'd lose.
"That was my first act of humility," she said. "It was long distance. My coach made me run this, and I did win the race. Later he laughed at me because I was so convinced that I wouldn't be able to win. His answer to me was, 'It might be good for you to not win.' It was probably true. I needed that."