The Knights of Columbus Indoor Games Top 50 Memories
Compiled by Ned Powers
- 1965 – Olympic-contending international athletes came to Saskatoon the first-ever indoor games, thanks in part to the Saskatchewan Diamond Jubilee and Canadian Centennial Corporation who financed a track. The meet leaders were Dick DuWors, who came up with the idea for a 185 x 85 track inside a hockey rink. Jack Wells was president of the first Games.
- 1966 – The Games faced a financial crisis in the first year and faced cancellation. Inspired by the enthusiasm demonstrated in that first year the Saskatoon Knights of Columbus accepted the title sponsorship.
Saskatoon captured the attention of the track and field world when Bob Seagren, a business major at the University of Southern California, set a world indoor record for the pole vault, reaching 17 feet, one inch, on December 29.
- 1967 – Bob Seagren hit 17 feet again in the pole vault, much to the delight of 3,800 fans, and Greg Heet, an America, upset John Thomas, an Olympian, in the high jump.
- 1968 – Dick Fosbury, the Oregon State star who invented the Fosbury Flop in high jumping, pleased the crowd with a six-footsix mark in his remarkable style but lost the event to Ron Tull, an American, who hit six feet, 10 inches.
Diane Jones won her first invitational women’s high jump, reaching five feet, four inches, the same as Debbie Brill of British Columbia but Diane won because of fewer misses.
- 1969 – American Lee Evans lost in the 300-metre invitational but turned up the burners the next night and won the 600 in one minute, 10.9 seconds.
- 1970 – Rocky Rochelle accepted the presidency of the Games on his way to becoming one of the longest to serve in that role at 11 years.
Bob Seagren came out of retirement to win the pole vault at 16 feet, eight inches and Tom Von Ruden won the top international athlete award for his victory in the 800 metre race.
- 1971 – American Al Feuerbach won the shot put at 67 feet, seven inches and was voted top international athlete.
- 1972 – Al Feuerbach gave a textbook performance in the men’s shot put, eclipsing 67 feet in five of his six throws and winning the event at 67 feet, eight inches.
- 1973 – The Prairie Golden Striders matched the stars from the Philadelphia Pioneers Club in the 4×400 metre relay, each timed in three minutes and 20 seconds, but Canada’s Randy Makolofsky nosed American Maurice Peoples at the wire for an unbelievable success story.
Mary Decker was a 15year-old from California who won the invitational women’s 800 metres and Saskatoon was watching a star in the making. Decker suffered an unfortunate fall at the 1984 Olympic Games but was ultimately hailed for winning two gold medals at the 1983 World Championships, repeatedly setting world records in middle distance races – at least 17 times – and repeatedly setting American records – 36 times at final count.
- 1974 – Saskatoon’s Joanne McTaggart burned up the track, winning the 200 metres in 24.7 seconds and the 300 metres in 39.5 seconds. At the time, she was the S second fastest Canadian at 300 ra metres and the best-ever on a 125metre indoor surface.
- 1975 – Paul Cummings of Beverly S Hills Striders won the invitational W mile in 4:02.5; Reynaldo Brown of Los Angeles won the high jump at a seven feet, two inches; and Diane Jones won the women’s high jump at six feet, one inch.
- 1976 – The remarkable thing about 1 the meet was that three poles vaulters, Dan Ripley, Earl Bell and to Bob Pollard, all cleared 17 feet, six f inches – Ripley winning because a of fewer misses – and a fourth, S Ken Wenman, also cleared 17 feet.
Joanne McTaggart had another night to remember, winning the women’s 200 metres in 24.7 seconds, equalling her best time ever at the Saskatoon meet.
- 1977 – Bob Reindl of Saskatoon’s Riversdale Club made a daring 1 move on the bell lap to overcome America’s Alfred Nichols and won] the invitational 1,000 metres with a time of 2:26.9. He also won the 600 metres. Paul Cummings wont his third straight mile.
- 1978 – Fred Sowerby’s winning streak in Saskatoon continued and he took the invitational men’s 400 in 49 seconds flat, the fifth straight time he’d won the event.
Caren Rathie, later to marry Bob Reindl, won the women’s 400 metres in 56.3 seconds, dethroning champion Freida Nichols of Barbados, and also picking up the Canadian athlete of the meet award.
- 1979 – In what would be the last meet in the Arena, noted for its four-lane track and the intimate setting, Bob Reindl out-duelled the field in the 800 metres and Fred Sowerby won another 400 metre race.
- 1980 – The Knights of Columbus meet found a new home at the Saskatoon Field House, a venue which they use to this day. Angella Taylor of Toronto took an immediate liking to the track, beating Merlen Ottey of Jamaica in the women’s 300 metre in world record indoor time.
- 1981 – Games organizers took a surprising turn when they decided to eliminate the pole vault, long a fan favourite, because the vaulting area was too far away from the spectators in the stands. Fred Sowerby added to his medal collection by winning the men’s 600 metres and Paul Cummings won the mile for a fourth time.
Just five years before Rueben Mayes made his debut as a running back in the National Football League, he was a medallist at the K of C indoor Games. He was nipped by Saskatoon’s Ben Daku in the Open 60 metre final. Mayes, originally from North Battleford, played seven years in the NFL, first with New Orleans Saints and then with Seattle Seahawks.
- 1982 – Saskatoon audiences got their first look at Ben Johnson. Running for York University Optimists, he won the 60 metres in 6.6 seconds, a new Canadian record, and he finished second to America’s Cliff Wiley in the 50 metres.
After a one-year absence, the pole vault was rescheduled as an invitational event and Jeff Buckingham, who had to borrow poles for competition, beat onetime world record holder Steve Smith with a meet record of 17 feet, 9.75 inches. 1982 Fred Sowerby’s streak of five straight wins in the invitational 500 metres came to an end when he was beaten by America’s Scotty Davis.
- 1983 – Stanford’s Robin Campbell won both the 600 metre and 800 metre races, giving her a total of five invitational triumphs since she first appeared at the K of C meet as a 16-year-old in 1975.
Innocent Egbunike, a Nigerian who came to Canada with Athletes in Action, was voted international athlete of the meet when he clocked time of 33.55 in the 300 metres, the fourth best time in the world.
- 1984 – Carey Nelson, a student at the University of Victoria via Bedford Road, returned to his hometown for the Christmas break and won the invitational 3,000 metres with a time of 8:12.36.1985 – Billy Olson, a Californian who once owned a car fitted with the licence plate, 19 FEET, proved it was no idle boast and he won the K of C meet with a vault of 19 feet, 2.75 inches. It was part of a comeback after Olson missed the 1984 Olympics because of a hamstring injury.
- 1985 – Bob Barkman began an 11year run as president of the K of C Indoor Games and then he became the executive director, a post he still holds today.
- 1986 – One brother couldn’t make it to the Games so another showed up and won. As a replacement for his brother Charles Cheruyiot, his brother Kip, a Kenyan attending university of Maryland, won the 3,000 metres with a time of 8:04.83.
- 1988 – Organizers shifted the scheduling of the Games from late December to early January. Jillian Richardson won the invitational 400 metres for women with a time of 54.04, faster than any woman had ever run in Saskatchewan.
- 1989 – As a means of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Games, organizers moved the invitational events into Saskatchewan Place where the highlights included a win by Fred Williams in the men’s 800, another victory by Billy Olson in the pole vault and a record-tying performance by Louise Ritter in the high jump.
- 1990 – Saskatoon was added to the Mobil Grand Prix circuit, a remarkable coup of North American recognition. Three new meet records were set – Bruny Surin at 6.6 seconds in the 60 metres, Kim McKenzie of Florida at 8.62 in the women’s 60 metre hurdles and Jake Jacoby at 2.26 metres in the men’s high jump.
- 1992 – Oakville’s Donovan Bailey made his first impact on the Saskatoon Games, finishing in a three-way tie for first place with Boris Goins of Florida and Jeff Williams of Colorado, all recorded 6.72 in the 60 metre final.
- 1993 – There was a stunning development when Ben Johnson, often a Saskatoon winner, was disqualified for two false starts in the 60 metre dash. That opened the door for America’s Jon Drummond, who won with a new meet record of 6.64 seconds.
- 1994 – Speed was quickly becoming the focal point of the meet, with Henry Neal of Texas out-running Donovan Bailey in the 60 metre final.
- 1995 – Two Canadian speedsters, Donovan Bailey and Bruny Surin were thrust into the spotlight again. Bailey won the 60 metres with a meet record of 6.55 seconds, Aston Morgan of Jamaica, nosed out Surin for second.
Ladonna Antoine of Regina, a star in the women’s 400 metres, began a streak as winner of the Saskatchewan athlete of the meet award, a streak which stretched out four years in a row.
- 1996 – The main attractions were two Canadians sprinters. Bruny Surin winning in 6.53 seconds and Donovan Bailey coming third in the 60 metre final. That was just a stepping stone in Bailey’s most famous summer of all – a gold medal in the 100 metres at Olympics in Atlanta and an anchor on Canada’s gold medal-winning team as well.
- 1997 – Shaun Benefield of Team PowerAde was honoured with the invitational athlete of the meet award, winning the 800 metres in 1:49.91, the second fastest time in the Indoor Game’s history.
- 1998 – Natasha Kaiser-Brown won the women’s 400 metres in a time of 53.45 seconds, winning the event for the fourth time in five years.
- 1999 – Philomena Mensah set a new meet record for the women’s 60 metres with a time of 7.18 seconds. It was her second straight championship.
- 2001 – James Davis of the United States won the men’s 400 metres and was a member of the 4×400 metre relay champions, getting the nod as invitational athlete of the meet.
- 2003 – Nicholas Macrozonaris became the new face of Canadian speed, winning the 50 metres in 2003 and repeating as champion in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008, winning the 60 metres in 2004, 2005 2008 and 2009. Macrozonaris was named the Jack Wells Testimonial award in 2009.
- 2004 – Kelsie Hendry, the pole vaulter from Saskatoon, became the hometown hero for much of the decade, winning the Saskatchewan athlete of the year award five straight times, 2004 through 2008, and taking the Jack Wells testimonial award in 2007.
- 2013 – Britney Reese of the United States won the women’s 50 metre race for the third straight year and also received the Jack Wells Testimonial award.
- 2014 – Cordero Gray of the United States won the men’s invitational 60 metres for a second straight year, a success story which included triumphs at 50 metres in two previous years.