The shotput record recognized by the National Federation of State High School Assns. once stood for 11 years. Then along came Michael Carter of Dallas Jefferson High School in 1979. He put it out of sight.
His throw of 77-feet-0 did two things. It made everyone forget about Sam Walker's old standard of 72-3 1/4 set in 1968, and it brought on comparisons to Joe DiMaggio's major league-record hitting streak of 56 games.
Neither would ever be broken . . . or so people said.
Carter himself was not one to go along with that theory, at least as far as his record was concerned.
"I've always said it's going to be a while before someone gets close to the record, but I've also always said some day there's going to be someone who will break the record," said Carter, now one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. "Sam Walker's record stood for 11 years. It's kind of ironic that now my record has been there, and this is the 11th year. Maybe everything happens on 11 . . . 11 is the number for some reason.
Or so hopes Brent Noon of Fallbrook High, who for the past three years has been inching toward Carter's 77-footer. In 1990, 11 years after Carter, it's within sight.
Just three weeks ago, Noon created believers, kicking up dirt at 76-2.
That's just 10 inches away.
They may be looked upon as 10 short inches considering Noon has already added a little more than six feet to his first throw of the season, 69-11 3/4. Surely another 10 inches can be found somewhere. After all, Carter improved 12 feet his senior year.
They could also be looked upon as 10 long inches, considering Noon is running short on time and that he recently strained a hamstring, forcing him to half-speed at the section preliminaries last week. He threw 61-0 1/2, still the top mark of the day.
Noon says the hamstring, his left, is still a little tight but has progressed nicely.
It better have. Just three chances remain. The San Diego Section finals are this afternoon at Poway High beginning at 2. Next week, the state preliminaries and finals will be held on consecutive days at Cerritos College.
Noon remains confident that a throw over 77-0 awaits.
"I'm excited about (today)," he said. "I think I can get a big throw. I'm stretching (the hamstring) out, and it's going pretty good."
Things were going more smoothly before the injury, of course. Noon had just learned a secret, the same one Carter had learned when he threw 77-0.
Actually it's not as much a secret as it is a discovery. Noon uses a golf analogy to explain it.
It's like the rookie golfer, he says, who whacks the ball as hard as he can and notices that it just doesn't seem to take off. Sooner or later, he learns to ease up and take a natural, fluid swing. When he does, the ball jets away.
Although Isaac Newton doesn't mention it, the same physics apparently hold true with a 12-pound steel ball.
Noon said he figured this out at the Orange Glen Invitational April 27, when he let his technique do the throwing on his sixth and final effort. It went 74-4, which at the time was a personal best, a section record, an all-time state best (no official state records are kept in high school) and this year's national best.
Before that, Noon's best mark was 73-5 3/4. On his first five throws at Orange Glen, Noon was having trouble reaching even that distance, his best effort measuring 71-11 1/4.
But instead of becoming frustrated and pressing, Noon decided to just ease up.
"I didn't even try," he said. "I just decided to go ahead and go on auto-pilot."
Why hadn't he figured it out before?
"Stupidity," he answered.
Well, maybe not. It was something Carter also failed to understand until late in his senior year, just before he set the record, in fact.
"When I threw 77 with the shot, I mean the throw felt so easy I thought it was going to fall around 72 feet," he said. "But the next thing I knew, it threw up a hunk of dirt like you couldn't believe, and when they measured it, it was 77 feet. I mean, it felt like a 72-footer. I think it came because the technique was there. From that point on, everything was going easy for me. All I had to do was hit it at the right time, and it was a great (put)."
Though both speak about letting technique do the work, Noon throws with an altogether different motion than Carter did.
Noon is a spinner, putting the shot with a method similar to that of a discus thrower.
Carter was a glider, starting with all his weight on one leg in the back of the ring, skipping to the front, shifting his weight to the other leg and letting the shot go.
Gliding is considered an easier technique to master but not as effective. Both techniques require the same attribute for success: quickness.
Carter definitely had it.
"He's extremely quick," Noon said. "That's why he threw it so far."
Noon, too, has some speed. At 6-2, 260 pounds, he does the 40 in 4.8 seconds.
But how does quickness come into play? Both said it translates into explosiveness, key at the end of a throw.