Tuesday , 19 September 2017

Three Old Friends, Classmates Unite as MHS Track Records Recognized After 45 Years

Submitted by RD Foster

By the time Rob Hendricks, son of the late Texas Congressman Bob Hendricks, had graduated from McKinney High School in 1967, he had broken and re-set every long-distance track record in the MHS record book. He went on to SMU to help the Mustangs win three consecutive Southwest Conference Cross Country Championships.

However, on the official track-and-field record board at MHS, the legendary miler’s name was conspicuously absent; it erroneously showed that the school’s best time for the event was set in 2001 with a time of 4:24.

Larry Eubanks, former MHS teammate and Hendricks’ college roommate, said, “The issue surfaced during a casual conversation between Keith and Debbie Reeder and Donna Hendricks, Rob’s wife. Keith knew it was important to Rob and asked if I could possibly look into it. I needed to first confirm Rob’s time without him knowing I was doing the research. Once I had the information and matched it to the school record board, it was obvious that Rob’s time was almost six seconds better than the posted time.”

A byproduct of the research was the revelation that although Jack Faubion’s record in the High Hurdles was still posted, his time was actually faster and his 330-yard hurdles time was missing.

The 1966-67 school year had been especially memorable for athletics in McKinney. The football Lions will always be remembered as the first MHS team, in a long tradition of champions, to reach a Texas State Championship game. The basketball team won the district championship, the first in many years, and advanced into the playoffs. The track team, following a long tradition of great McKinney runners, would set records that still stand today. Dominating multiple events, Rob Hendricks, Jack Faubion and Larry Eubanks would set four records in the 6AAA District meet, sweep through the Regionals, and go on to compete in another State Championship match. Eubanks and Faubion were joined by Tommy Lewis and Frank Daniels to form the Mile Relay team that won District and Regionals, thereby advancing to the State Championships as well.

Going in to the final meet, Faubion, son of McKinney High School’s principal and a first-team All-State selection in football, held the best times in Texas in two events. His 37.4 in the 330-yard hurdles was not only best in the state but a national record as well. Posting a 13.7 in the 120-yard high hurdles, he had not lost a race all year. However, at the state meet, running his best race and leading by two yards, his speed caused him to crash into the final hurdle costing him first place. He fought through to a remarkable third place finish. In his next event, running neck and neck all the way through the 330 hurdles, Faubion and his main challenger finished with the exact same time, with his opponent winning by a nose in a photo finish.

Eubanks, All-District safety in football, and winner of the prestigious Lion Heart Award, also qualified for three state championship events. In a thrilling race that ended in a storybook finish, Eubanks, considered an underdog, won first place in the 880 nearing his personal best time with a 1:54.2. Shortly after posting his win in the 880, he had a quick turn around in 330-yard hurdles, along with teammate Faubion, but came up just short of a medal.

Meanwhile, long-distance runner Rob Hendricks was on his way to being a McKinney track legend. Having advanced to Regional as a sophomore, he went on to win District and Regional in the Mile Run two years in a row, setting numerous records along the way. Even with all his success and the second-best time in the state, Hendricks went into the state meet as an underdog, running against heavily favored Robert Gonzales from Falfurrias, who held the nation’s best time. Running a valiant race, Rob tied for second, with his best time ever of 4:19.8.

Along with the accolades came scholarships. Faubion selected Rice University, where he became a football and track star, helping the Rice Owls win the Southwest Conference Track-and-Field Championship in 1971. Eubanks and Hendricks chose SMU, where they became roommates. Eubanks moved to the 440-yard hurdles and went on to win the Southwest Conference title in 1969, setting a Conference record. At SMU, Hendricks would see his best success, running on a Cross Country team that won three straight championships. All three men would go on to be successful businessmen, husbands and fathers, with Hendricks and Eubanks still married to their high school sweethearts.

However, the story doesn’t end there. After Eubanks heard about the possible error on the record board, he learned that Rob had recently been diagnosed with Glioblastoma, a type of primary malignant brain tumor. “Rob was sort of like the Energizer Bunny – he never stopped running. Given his health issues, we wanted to do something that might lift spirits a bit. The best thing we could do was to make sure his name got on that record board.”

After visiting with a track historian in Austin, and researching the microfilm archives at the McKinney Public Library, Eubanks found all the evidence he needed in the 1967 sports pages of the McKinney Courier Gazette. With more than enough proof in hand, he then met with athletic officials at McKinney High School who were extremely grateful for being provided the correct data.

For more than four and a half decades three McKinney track records had stood unbroken but missing from the records board. Last week, on Oct. 25, a small ceremony, including family, teammates, school friends, and coaches, took place at McKinney High School, where the records were added to the board. Coming as a complete surprise to the honoree, Eubanks, on behalf of the Class of ’67, presented 63-year-old Rob Hendricks with several mementos to honor his name and time as they were added to the long list of champions, showing that after forty-five years his record in the Mile Run, 4:19.8 (since converted to metric standards, 1600 meters – 4:18.3) still stands.

Said Eubanks, “Although facing a significant medical challenge ahead, Rob continues to receive treatment and maintains a remarkably positive attitude, much as did when he ‘laced ‘em up’ and stepped on the track to compete.”

Photos: Top of page, Jack Faubion and Larry Eubanks in 1967, Top right, Faubion, Rob Hendricks and Eubanks at last week’s ceremony. Above left, Hendricks in 1967. And above right, Hendricks at last week’s ceremony.

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