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Lam's Legendary Lap
Updated: Sunday, May 11 2014, 11:42 PM CDT
Frame by frame a projector tells a story. But as we learned in Lampasas, the tale of the tape is sometimes about more than just a flickering film strip.
"It's without a doubt the most exciting race I've ever seen," said Lampasas resident Trent Lancaster.
At the 1976 UIL state track & field meet, Lampasas High could win its first state title with a victory in the mile relay. But when Johnny Jones took the baton on the anchor leg, his Badgers were buried in seventh place. According to Lancaster, whose brother ran on the relay, the Lampasas team was 30 to 40 yards behind the leader when Jones took the baton.
"It was overwhelming," Jones recalled. "I felt like I actually wanted to cry before I got the baton."
But what happened in those next 440 yards not only made Johnny "Lam" Jones a state champ, it turned him into a Texas legend.
"He took off like nothing I've ever seen before," said Ernest Goodwin, who attended the 1976 state meet.
Jones caught and passed every runner in front of him to win the race and the state title.
"It would've been a miracle to win, but miracles do happen," said Goodwin, who owns of The Trading Post in downtown Lampasas. However, unlike the way antiques and collectibles in his store take you back in time, there was not a way to re-live that final lap - not even for Jones himself.
"The race itself became like a fish story, because we didn't have a film of it," Jones admitted.
But thanks to Austin resident Dave Kerr, this fish story is not about the one that got away.
A track aficionado, Dave's father filmed the final leg of that '76 mile relay. It's believed to be the only video evidence in existence of Lam's incredible comeback. Just three and a half years ago, a mutual friend set-up a meeting between Kerr and Jones.
"It was my Dad's dream to one day give that tape to Lam."
And when Johnny finally saw the film of his miracle run, his dreams also came true.
"I immediately picked-up the phone and called my son because he had been hearing about the story his whole life," Jones recalled.
The fame Jones garnered from that last lap in '76 reached far past the small town of Lampasas. Now, nearly 40 years later and with the film to prove it, Lam wants to pass the baton and help others get a leg-up from his miraculous anchor leg.
"That's what we're going to use the video for: to raise money," Jones explained. "We're going to be able to help a lot of families battling childhood cancer."
He has a big heart to go with an equally-large spot in track & field lore. Whether it's those who weren't alive or fans who saw it live, once more folktale than feat - Lam's last lap is now real; thanks to this 38 year old reel.
by Adam Winkler