Not holding public office and considering myself to be a generally amiable person, I was surprised to get word a few years back that someone I didn't even know actively hated me. It was a strange feeling, to be sure, that, without my knowledge, I had done something to some stranger that raised his pique to the point that it transformed to actual hate.
Of course, I am fully aware that people who actually do know me may easily tire of me and eventually come to hate many parts of me. But, a stranger? I had no idea what I could have done. Dinged his car? Insulted his girlfriend? What?
What I had done, it turns out, was win the 800 meter race at the Condor League Championship high school meet in the spring of 1985. Yes. 1985.
In the land of small schools in Southern California - in a time of short shorts and white Vuarnets - I was a decent runner who was good at, but also hated, the 800 meters. I'd cut a deal with the coach my senior year that I'd run the 800 meters whenever the team needed the points, but that I'd get to run the 200 all the other times. It was a great compromise for everyone, except for one accomplished 800 meter runner from a rival school.
This runner - who shall remain nameless to protect him from my convoluted story - had dominated the 800 meters throughout the 1985 season - and, as I've been told, never went head-to-head with me in the event that year. The day of the Championship meet arrived, and anticipation of his victory had been such that all manner of family had come out to support him and video tape the event. Unfortunately, things didn't quite unfold as planned.
With the league championship on the line, my coach had me run the event, which as images show, I ended up winning pretty handily - and, it seems, scarring this person for a number of years; so much so that when one of my friends mentioned my name in passing a few years back he blurted: "Hank Dart? I hate Hank Dart!"
To stir things further, this runner - who is actually a great guy who graduated from Harvard College, eventually married one of my best high school friends, and is more successful professionally than I may ever be, recently came into possession of the video tape of the infamous 800, which it turns out shows an uncalled false start on my part (body movement, but not forward motion). The discovery made for some entertaining Ahabian Facebook/YouTube posts (videos below), with his calling for my relinquishing the ribbon, and my using Orwellian logic to the effect of: if the false start wasn't called, and there wasn't a chance for restart, it didn't happen.
To be honest, I don't know what the ruling should be on a 25 year old race in a rinky-dink league. But, since I can't even find the ribbon, it looks like I'll have to keep it regardless.
I will admit that the Way-Back Machine aspect of all this has been pretty fun. That day was one of the prominent memories from my senior year. I took home four blue ribbons (counting the one in dispute) and League MVP - which was awarded to me by Olympic Decathlon medalist Jürgen Hingsen. The sun was shining. And life was waiting to be explored.
YouTube Videos - Posted by Runner Up
Check out those short blue shorts....
...and tight gray sweats.