Upon learning Monday that his Nebraska state track record that stood for 51 years finally had been broken, Kent McCloughan jokingly protested.
“It must have been a short track,” the 69-year-old said with a chuckle.
Kenzo Cotton, a sophomore from Papillion-La Vista, made it look like a short track at Omaha Burke on Saturday, racing to an all-class gold medal in the 200 meters in 21.31 seconds.
The electronically timed mark eclipsed the hand-held 21.4-second 220-yard dash time McCloughan, from Broken Bow, ran in 1961. Mike Ockerman of Bellevue West ran a hand-held 21.4 200 meters in 1981 for a share of the record.
“I couldn't believe that record kept sticking around,” said McCloughan, who went on to play football and run track at Nebraska and then played six years of pro football with the Oakland Raiders.
“I'm sure there were guys through the years who could have broken it, but just caught the wrong day or the wind was blowing the wrong way. I'm sure there was a little luck in that.”
The state track meet in 1961 was held in Lincoln inside Memorial Stadium. McCloughan said he remembers the weather being nice with calm conditions on the floor of the stadium.
“They tried to go over the track and smooth it out for us, which probably helped a little,” he said. “It was sand and cinders that we ran on.”
That was the same year Gale Sayers of Omaha Central set a state record in the long jump at 24 feet, 10½ inches — a mark that held up for 44 years before Bellevue East's Robert Rands topped it.
Sayers and McCloughan never met on the track in high school or college. Sayers, who went to Kansas, was a jumper and hurdler, while McCloughan focused on sprinting.
McCloughan said he didn't realize until about 10 years after his record-setting performance that his mark still stood. After that, his wife often checked with relatives in Nebraska each May to see if it had been broken.
“It needed to be broken,'' McCloughan said. “And it sounds like the young man who did it can really run. And you say he just turned 16 (last week)? It sounds like he'll break it again. That's great.''
McCloughan isn't running track anymore, but remains active. He called The World-Herald back on Monday after a long bike ride near his home in Loveland, Colo.
Two weeks ago, McCloughan retired after 39 years with the Raiders in scouting and player development. The organization just rehired his son, Dave, as a scout. Dave played on the 1990 national title team at Colorado before spending four years in the NFL.
“It was time for me to do something different,'' said McCloughan, who spoke highly of the Raiders and their longtime owner Al Davis.
When McCloughan turned 65, he met with Davis, who was 78 at the time, to discuss retirement.
“I told him I thought I should move on so some young blood could come in,'' McCloughan said. “He listened a little, then he said, ‘Listen, young man, you aren't retiring before I do.' ''
Davis died last October at 82.
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