David Peterson is a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer for the Des Moines Register. Below is his story he originally published on Facebook. In 2014, he published a book featuring some of his Drake Relays photos, click here! David was one of our first guests on our Next Level Iowa Podcast. You can see more of David’s photos at his website, click here!
Feature photo:The start of the record breaking two mile relay. A young David Peterson leads off (far left). ©David Peterson 2019
He ran track at Kansas State University and fifty years ago he was part of a World Record breaking two-mile relay. He shares his memories below.
THIS IS A TRUE STORY – insanely improbable but worth sharing. Fifty years ago today, four midwestern kids flew to Houston, Texas to run a relay race and ended up on top of the world. I was one of those four, along with my roommate Jerome Howe from Treynor, Ia, Bob Barratti from Wichita, Ks. and Ken Swenson from Clay Center, Ks.
For three of us, it was our first varsity competion running for Kansas State University. We were two freshman, a sophomore and a junior. Only Swenson had run in competition as a K-Stater. The track meet was the very first one ever held in the Astrodome.
I came to K-State to run with other good runners and to run in big meets like this one. But in my wildest dreams, I never saw this coming. We were entered in the two-mile relay against a stellar field. We were to each run an 880 (half mile) and the order would be Peterson, Howe, Barratti and Swenson. At the starting line (see photo) I was handed a cardboard baton with a Houston Astrodome logo on it. It was a souvenir that I would end up keeping and cherishing for 50 years.
I ran the first leg like a scared rabbit, splitting 1:50.3, giving Jerome Howe the lead. Howe, who was mostly a miler, ran a 1:52.5, giving Bob Barratti the lead. Barratti kept our lead with a 1:50.7 and handed the baton to the incomparable Ken Swenson, who would later become an Olympian. Swenson breezed to a 1:50.2 carry and we won the race comfortably. But what we didn’t know until a few moments later was that we had just set a World Indoor Record for the two mile relay of 7:23.7.
In the joy of the moment, I remember grabbing the baton from Swenson and later having all of us sign it.