By Jason Schock
While Diamond David Lee Roth may not climb up onto, let alone take flight from, a drum riser these days, there’s a record-breaking Falls City High School track and field athlete of similar vintage who is still standing there with his back against the record machine.
And Raph Thompson can still “Get up!”
It was sadly poetic that DLR and the Brothers Van Halen this summer performed the 1984 B-side “Drop Dead Legs” for audiences throughout the United States more than three decades after the pinnacle of the band’s popularity. It was likely a vinyl version of a much more vigorous VH that filled the air when Thompson was jumping into the record books 30 years ago, so it’s truly inspirational that when the FCHS Class of 1985 met for its 30-year reunion in June, Thompson not only remained agile enough to perform the classics, he even had forthcoming chart move on the horizon.
More than three decades after triple-jumping 46-7 1/2 to put his name — presumably, at this point, for the rest of time — in FCHS’ record book, and a couple months removed from a 30-year class reunion and 47th birthday, Thompson stepped back into the track spikes, counted his steps, practiced his takeoffs and landings and stretched those hip flexors the rest of us misplaced about same the time our 32-inch waists went missing. It’s not just flexing hips, either. According to experts, the triple jump utilizes “buttocks” and “torsos” and legs actually “swing” and knees “collapse.”
Actually, triple jump by most accounts, puts more stress on an athlete’s body than any other field event. It’s comprised of the same four phases that get a short guy on a bar stool: Approach, hop, step and jump, but different.
According to Biology of Sport, a journal published by the National Library of Medicine, the triple jump is a precise and demanding athletic move that exposes an ill-conditioned or otherwise untrained athlete to significant risk of injury to muscles, tendons and joints “due to the high impact forces from the ground and powerful muscle/tendon efforts. The triple jump is therefore one of the most technically and physically demanding athletic events.”
No Tiger athlete has jumped like Thompson, an employee at Falls City Mercantile for many years, and few guys in the U.S. approaching 50 can (or would dare try).
On Aug. 2 at the State Games of America, Thompson at Lincoln High School jumped 33-feet, 8 1/2 inches to grab the Silver in the 45-49 Age Division. Only Eric Hunter Johnson, of Raleigh, N.C., one of the highest ranked jumpers in the country, beat Thompson and it was by fewer than two inches. Two other guys ages 45-49 competed, but neither eclipsed 30 feet, however an Arkansas jumper, Mike Henson, went 34-4 in the 50-54 age group.
More than 1,000 athletes in 800 events competed in the 2015 State Games.
Today, it seems, its popular for pundits to compare athletes from different generations. Suppose because it’s popular to argue. There’s also a commonly held belief that today’s athletes are superior to those who came before them.
In that light, it delights us here at The Journal to report that had Raph Thompson jumped 46-7 1/2 at Omaha Burke High School last May, as he did as a teenage Tiger in 1985, he would’ve been the 2015 Class B State Champion. In Class A, he would’ve placed third.
Furthermore, the 47-year-old Raph Thompson who jumped 33-8 1/2 a month ago would’ve been a state qualifier in Class D at the State Track Meet.
SNL’s Sally O’Malley was 50, liked to kick and stretch and it was funny.
Raph Thompson is simply just kicking butt. No joke.