Sports

Hornet distance runner set the pace for years to come

Dave Van Hoof regularly was the first to break the tape during the 1970 track season. -
Dave Van Hoof regularly was the first to break the tape during the 1970 track season.
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Dave Van Hoof said a Hall of Fame nomination from Enumclaw High School was something he never thought about or considered, but he’s honored to be among the 2008-09 athletes who will be inducted Friday night during halftime of the Enumclaw and Sumner boys basketball game.

“It was a lot of fun,” recalls Van Hoof, who works for Gamblin Motors in Enumclaw. “I was a kid in high school having a ball.”

Van Hoof was a three-year, three-sport letterwinner for the Hornets, but will be honored primarily for his time with the track and field team. During his day – 1970 – he set the school and stadium records in the 880-meter run, mile and 2-mile races throughout his senior year.

Enumclaw High Athlete Director Tim Tubbs said Van Hoof earned the school’s highest place in the state track and field championshpis that year with a second-place finish in the mile with a time of 4 minutes, 19.5. seconds. In 1970, Tubbs explained, track was not broken into separate classifications. Van Hoof’s record stood for 18 years and still stands as the No. 2 all-time mark.

“It was the school’s highest individual honor up to that point,” Tubbs said. “It’s a great honor, but it’s as much about who they are as much as their accomplishments.”

Tubbs said Van Hoof was one piece in one of the finest track teams EHS has assembled.

Van Hoof has to agree.

“It was a pretty phenomenal class,” he said. “It was a pretty phenomenal group of athletes.”

Alongside Van Hoof, Dan Wakefield set school and league records in the 100-yard dash and an EHS record in the 220. Van Hoof, along with Rob McLean, Mike Damery and Wakefield, set a school record in the mile relay.

Van Hoof’s Hornet teammate and friend Rich Hall, who was a standout hurdler on the team, said Wes Hanson coached them to be competitive.

“We wanted to win,” Hall said, and with Van Hoof leading off each meet with the mile, they knew they had a good chance.

“He would run the 800, mile and two mile, all in one meet, and win them all,” Hall said.

At first glance, Hall didn’t look like a runner.

“He was tall and had a lot of strength,” Hall said. Hall said Van Hoof would work in the woods with his dad, who was a tree faller, at elevations of 3,000 to 4,000 feet.

“They’d run up and down these hills,” Hall said. Sometimes Hall would go with them. “I couldn’t keep up,” he said.

“I’m half as fast as I was then,” Van Hoof jokes of the time he put in on the track, but at the time and for sometime after, he was in a field all his own.

Around 1980, Van Hoof said he was training for a run at the Olympics, and was posting sub-4-minute mile road course times. But with a job and family, training became too difficult.

“It was too hard, so I gave up my Olympic dream.”

Hall has no doubt he’d have made it.

“He was a natural,” he said. “He didn’t have to train hard. He could just at the drop of a hat go like crazy.”

To those who know Van Hoof, the amazing part of the story is he didn’t run cross country, but instead played football during the fall season. Hall, who was a running back for the Hornets that year, swears the lanky tight end scored a touchdown every time he was thrown the ball.

“He’s a fantastic athlete,” he said.

Reach Brenda Sexton at bsexton@courierherald.com or 360-802-8206.

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