Casey Carrigan (1968): High School athletes who made the U.S. Olympic Team, from the Athletes Only Archives (2004), by Mark Winitz and James Dunaway


Remember how amazed everyone was when Sydney McLaughlin made the Olympic team as a high schooler in 2016 at the 400m hurdles and Noah Lyles came oh so close, finished 4th in the 200m in 2016?

High Schoolers have made the U.S. Olympic teams! We wrote about 12 of them!

As I was clearing out my Dad's house, I found this 2008 copy of one of our magazines in his office. As I opened it, I found this wonderful piece by Mark Winitz and James Dunaway, originally written in 2004, on 12 High school athletes who mae the US Olympic team. Mark Winitz and James Dunaway were two of the writers who wrote for the most for American Athletics, American Track & Field and California Track & Field News. From 2003 until 2014, near the time of his death, the late James Dunaway wrote, edited, mentored and exchanged strange text message, and phone calls.

Many times there were messages like, " You are probably going to fire me after this phone call, so call back soon." Mark Winitz, one of the most prolfic writers, was one of the few people who could calm James Dunaway down. James loved working with Mark.

I can think of no better way that to put these two men's important piece on RunBlogRun. Please enjoy! The other 11 athletes will be added to RunBlogRun.

Our first story is on Casey Carrigan.

Casey Carrigan .jpgCasey Carrigan vaulting in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, and smiling for his senior photo! photo courtesy of Casey Carrigan/ USOPC

Casey Carrigan, 1968, pole vault, Orting, WA high school

In Orting (pop. 1,200), Casey Carrigan started pole vaulting at an age when most boys are still in Little League. He and his two older brothers lived on 40 acres near Mt. Ranier, and the boys made rope swings (think, Tarzan), as well as high jump and pole vault pits in their "back yard".

With plenty of wood available, they built their own jumping standards. At first, they even used willow trunks for vaulting poles. Mom and Dad drove the boys to competitions all over the state, and bought Casey his first fiberglass pole in 8th grade! Never formally coached, Casey learned technique watching top vaulters in person and on TV, and his older rother Andy helped him iron out the kinks. Casey jumped 14-6 as a high schooler freshman in 1966, 15-8 as a soph (won State both years), and began to think, " I might have a shot at the Olympic Trials."

Next year, barely 17, he took third in the AAU (now USATF), setting a high school record at 16-8. He then went on to take third in the Trials with another high school record, 17-0, vaulting his age and beating, among others, the NCAA outdoor champion, Jon Vaughn, the AAU indoor champion, Dennis Phillips; and the AAU outdoor champion, Dick Railsback.

In Mexico City, Casey jumped high enough (16-1) to qualify for the final, but an official's questionable decision turned it into a miss. The Olympics caused Casy, an all-state football halfback as a junior, to miss all but two games of his senior football season. "Football was my favorite sport," he recalls, "but going to the Olympics was worth it. It was a great experience." Today, Casey Carrigan is a fire captain in Long Beach, California. "It's a great job for a former athlete, " he says.

casey carrigan pv .jpegCasey Carrigan, Stanford University (finished 4th in NCAA in 1970, ranked 4th in world in 1974! photo courtesy of Stanford University

Editor's note: Casey took a scholarship to Stanford, taking 4th in the 1970 NCAA Champs. Suffering burn out, he did not try for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and gave up his scholarship at Stanford. In 1974, he was ranked 4th in the world in the PV and in 1975, he cleared 5.45m, 17'8.25, just 20 cm below the world record!

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