IAN RUTGERS of Bishop Lavis High School was a sprinter and long jumper of many years – with a comeback in between.
He had a sprinting style similar to Edmund Lewis of Paarl, in other words, the ability to run relaxed at full speed with not much etched on his face. You could hear the fast tick-tick-tick of his spikes as he came round the bend in the 200m.
While Lewis was the senior sprint champion from 1976, Rutgers was exactly that at junior men’s level. He was also a top Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union (WPSSSU) athlete.
Rivalry with Selwyn Thomas
Rutgers’ sprint duels with Selwyn Thomas of Cathkin High School, as teenagers, on the Athlone Stadium, were much-talked about in athletics circles.
Their records changed hands at Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union (WPSSSU) level and at South African Senior Schools Sports Association level (SASSSA).
Thomas held the SASSSA boys 15 under 100m (11,0 secs), 200m (22,7) and long jump (6,60m) records respectively in 1975. Rutgers held the SASSSA boys under 16 200m record of 22,3 seconds set in 1976, as well as the WPSSSU boys under 17 long jump record of 6,71m. And so their rivalry endured.
Thomas and Rutgers were regular competitors at school and club level. Rutgers believed in the Andrewena Series which was a competition for athletics. He believed the competition gave you the opportunity to prepare for bigger meetings, and Rutgers was a big meet competitor.
Running in the colours of Spartans as a club athlete he competed in many club meetings across the Peninsula. Russell Lykert, Christopher Johnson of Grassy Park, and Lesley Burgess of Spartans were some his other competitors. Lykert and Johnson would, on the odd occasion, beat Rutgers in the 100m. The 200m was an altogether different race for Rutgers.
Rutgers was the South African Amateur Athletics Board’s junior men’s 200m champion in 1977 equalling Edmund Lewis’s then record of 22,1 seconds in Port Elizabeth. In 1978, he was the SAAAB junior men’s 200m, 400m and long jump champion in Paarl. His 400m time of 50,2 seconds was pretty good for its time. The great Terrence Smith held the SAAAB junior men’s 400m record of 49,3 seconds set in 1973 in Cape Town. He was just sixteen years old.
Fabulous relay quartet
After high school, Rutgers studied at Hewat Training College. The Hewat sprint records were a tall order and it was the quality of Nazeem Smith who had the audacity to break the 100m (10,2secs), 200m (21,2secs) and 400m (47,1 secs) sprints records at the national level. The Hewat sprint records prior to Smith’s arrival were: 100m K Roman 10,4; G Maclean 200m 21,3 seconds and 400m A O’Ryan 50,5 seconds.
Rutgers was, however, part of a fabulous relay quartet made up of Jeremy van Wyk, Russell Lykert and Keith Cyster. They held the 4x100m in 1979 with a time of 42,5. Again Nazeem Smith had a big hand in smashing this record with a time of 42,1 seconds. His team mates in the relay were Bernard Adams, Naziem Moos and Clement du Plessis.
Rutgers was the SA colleges record holder in the long jump with a distance of 7,01m set in 1979. He was an excellent sprinter and long jump champion and nothing we have seen until the arrival of Craig Steyn and Shaun Vester in 1985.
In 1985, the year he made a comeback, he was the SAAAB senior men’s 200m champion in Port Elizabeth after being out of the sport for four years. At the first SAAAB Prestige Track and Field Meeting at the Vygieskraal Stadium in 1985, Smith won the senior men’s 100m in 10,5 seconds. Rutgers clocked 10,5 seconds but had to settle for second place.
Rutgers went on to win the 200m. That was pretty much how he signed off his illustrious sprinting career in 1985.
*Ian Rutgers has an older brother, Andy, who also competed at the highest level as a sprinter and long jumper.
In the photograph, left, is Andy Rutgers, right, winning the boys under 16 100m at the Green Point Track, Cape Town in 1970.
The Green Point Track, in those days, was the nerve centre of track and field athletics.
Many champions made a name for themselves on the cinder track which lies adjacent to the modern Waterfront in Cape Town.