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Spring Back: Vancouver’s Clem Eischen was master of the mile

State titles were start of storied career for Vancouver’s Eischen

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Clem Eischen competed in the 1948 Olympics in London in the 1500 meters, which let him bring home a participation medal.
Clem Eischen competed in the 1948 Olympics in London in the 1500 meters, which let him bring home a participation medal. (Files/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Because of World War II, the 1943 season was the only other spring prep season to be canceled before this year. In 1944, Clem Eischen of Vancouver High would win the first of his two track and field state titles in the mile. He would go on to compete at Washington State and in the 1948 Olympic Games in London. He would later coach track at Vancouver and Hudson’s Bay high schools. He also had a long career as a physical therapist, serving as a sports medicine volunteer in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The 93-year-old is retired and living in Oregon.

In a side story, the 1945 state meet was the first time the 440-yard dash was run in lanes. Meet director Doc Bohler “has always opposed such a move and is still fighting it, though the state high school athletic association requested the change.”

This is The Columbian’s report on his second title in 1945 state meet held at Rogers Field in Pullman.

Clem Eischen was recrowned king of Washington prep milers Saturday as his Trapper teammates added enough place points to give coach Les Long’s crew third place in the meet. Jim Strahl finished second in the 440, and Hank Habegger wound up third in both the shot put and discus throw.

Everett was the winning team with 21 points followed by John Rogers (of) Spokane with 16.5. Next came the Trappers with 12.

Paced by Everett, the northwest toppled the southwest district as king of the thinclads. The northwest district schools came through with 38 points, while the southwest just nosed out the south central crew 31 to 26 for second place. Spokane scored 21, west central 17, north central 8.5, southest 7, Tacoma 4 and northest 2.

Eischen failed to set a new state record in his favorite event, but won easily. Harold of Monroe pushed him for three laps, but the pace was too stiff and Eischen won by 30 yards in 4 minutes, 33.2 seconds.

Hank Hebegger was way off form as 136 feet, 53/4 inches won the discus throw and 48 feet 5/12 inches took the shot. In one practice heave, he threw the discus 145 feet, but in competition 130 was the best he could accomplish. Hank, however, was not the only one off form in the shot put. Mataya, Cle Elum, had done better than 52 feet, buthis best was 47 at Pullman.

Jim Strahl ran the fastest 440 of his life to finish second in that event. The winner was clocked at 50.3 seconds and Strahl was just 0.5 second behind.

Golden, Longview, won the 880-yard run, but Vancouver’s Kenny Mayes, who has run shoulder to shoulder with Golden all year, didn’t place because of that inevitable dog that always pops up at every football, baseball and track event. Mayes was in fifth place when he tripped on the canine to put him out of a possible place.

Hard luck seemed to hound all of the southwest performers. Francis Polsfoot, Montesano High, was leading the winner at the fifth hurdle, but struck that timber just enough to slow him down and let Rusell, Everett, win. The time in these finals was 14.7 seconds, a new record, but it was disallowed because of the 4-mile-an-hour wind at the back of the runners. Russell’s 14.9 in the preliminaries, however, did go down as official in the record books.

Kelly, South Bend, gave the southwest its only other first place when he leaped 21 feet 41/2 inches in the broad jump.

Written by Ralph Fisher, The Columbian, May 28, 1945

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