Downs News & Times, Thursday, May 2, 1929—“The county seat high school athletes walked off with the field and track meet held in Downs last Friday and [also] wound up the day’s activities by breaking the state record on high jump, the feat being accomplished by Junior Stambach, who cleared the bar on the high jump at 6 feet and three and one-half inches, breaking the state record to smithereens.”
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Osborne County Farmer, May 2, 1929— “One of the most marvelous athletic feats ever performed in Kansas was that of Fred Stambach, Jr. of Osborne, son of Mayor and Mrs. Fred G. Stambach of this city, last Friday at the [county] track meet in Downs, when he made a record high jump of 6 feet, 3 and a half inches. This feat not only broke the county record for high jump, but it broke the state record and the world’s interscholastic record by a half inch.
“Stambach is a junior in the Osborne High School and along with being a record-breaking athlete he is also an honor student in academics. Stambach’s high jump will no doubt stand as the county and state record for many years.”
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Fred Garfield Stambach, Jr. was born on July 7, 1912, in Osborne, Osborne County, Kansas. The son of Fred and Carrie (Nation) Stambach, Fred’s interest in jumping went back to the time when he was in the seventh and eighth grades at Osborne and won the high jump and other events at track meets held in Covert in central Osborne County.
Fred wrote the following in 2002 on his high school sports experiences:
“In 1928, the year I was a junior in high school, I had never seen a basketball game. I have no idea why we never went to another town to see one. Transportation wasn’t all that easy, and I guess after football season, we just weren’t interested.”
“In the fall of 1929, after football season, our coach decided since the new gym would be completed by January, that we should learn the game. Only a couple of the boys, who had moved in from out of town, had ever played.”
“At that time the old grade school building was still standing just west of the new high school. In the basement was the furnace that furnished steam for the radiator upstairs, and showers for football players.”
“There were steampipes, running upstairs, in the basement along the upper part of a dressing room. We learned to shoot a basketball by shooting over those pipes. I believe we did practice outdoors, for a while after football season, but that didn’t last long, as it got too cold.”
“We were to play Downs, I think in early January , as the new building would be finished by then. This was to be at the dedication of the new gym. It was a great place to play and had boys and girls showers, and all that modern stuff. Wonderful.”
“In order to five us some practice the coach scheduled a game with the Portis second team. Portis had pretty good teams, so they weren’t all that bad. The game ended with a score of 11-9. I don’t know who won the game.”
“When we played Downs, to dedicate the new gym, I’m sure Downs won, but I don’t think any of us on the Osborne team disgraced ourselves.”
“In high school, in my freshman and sophomore years [1927-1928], I was second in the high jump in the county and district track meets. In 1929 and 1930, I won the high jump in the state track meet in Emporia . . . I remember one of the meets was in the rain. In 1930 I won the high jump at the KU Relays and [also at the] Missouri Valley Conference Championships in Manhattan. Since the school [Osborne High] didn’t have the money, or weren’t interested, I paid my own expense to these meets.”
“In the county track meet in Downs I guess I did jump 6 feet 3.5 inches, although there was always some doubt in my mind about it, as I never did it again until I was in college. In those days the takeoff was bare ground and the landing was in a pile of sand. The cross bar was a bamboo fishing pole, I would guess not always straight. I have wondered if maybe the pole didn’t sag and I jumped over the lowest point.”
“I never used anything but the scissors style [in regards to high jumping-style]. I tried the roll a few times but never felt comfortable with it. One week the track coach in college told me as long as I was winning, I’d better not change.”
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In reviewing Fred’s amazing feat, it bears repeating that he was only a junior in high school at the time. With that single jump he broke not only his school’s record but also the county, district, state, national, and world’s interscholastic records – six records in all. Only a few hours later a high school senior in California claimed the world interscholastic record by jumping an inch higher than Fred, but there was great pride throughout the county in Fred’s accomplishment, as he was a world champion, even if only for a short time.
Fred’s mark stood as the Osborne High School record for the next 80 years.
Ted Hayes, Executive Director of the Kansas State All-Sports Hall of Fame at Wichita, Kansas , inducted Fred Stambach, Jr. into the Osborne County Hall of Fame in 2006. In his induction speech Ted put Fred’s record jump in perspective to today’s athletes.
“The 1929 AAU national high jump event was won at a height of 6 feet, 4 inches, and the NCAA collegiate high jump title that year was won at a height of 6 feet, 4 inches. We had a high school kid here, 16 years old, that was jumping as well as the greatest jumpers in the world that we know of. This would be like if we had some kid in one of the small schools here in this area high jumping 8 feet today, because today the world record is a little bit over 8 feet. Can you imagine the sensation that would cause to have an eight-foot high jumper coming out of a community like this? That would be the equivalent of what Fred Stambach did back in 1929.
“Back in Fred’s day, he was the best high jumper in the state, period. He was the best high jumper in the nation, period. One of the really great accomplishments that kid did, as I understand it, is that he went on to become the mayor of Osborne, and later a county commissioner, and was obviously very successful in whatever he endeavored to do. So with a lot of hard work, dedication and natural ability, he was able to achieve great things.” – Ted Hayes.
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Fred’s track records are as follows:
7th & 8th grade– 1st in high jump
1927—2nd in high jump in county and district
1928—2nd in high jump in county and district
1929—1st in county in high hurdles, high jump, and broad jump
1st in state in high jump
1930—1st in county high jump, high hurdles, and pole vault
1st in district in high jump and high hurdles
1st in state in high jump
1st in Missouri Valley Championships in high jump
His success continued after he enrolled at Pittsburg State College in Pittsburg, Kansas:
1931—Placed in conference high jump
1932—Placed in conference high jump
1933—1st in conference high jump
2nd in KU Relays high jump
1934—1st in conference high jump
1st in Hastings Relays high jump
1st in KU Relays high jump [set Relays & Pittsburg State record with a jump of 6 feet 5.25 inches]
1st in Drake Relays high jump
1st in high jump in prestigious Central Intercollegiate Championships in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
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After college Fred marriedCrystal Amanda Leeka on June 28, 1935 in Pleasanton, Kansas. They had two daughters, Niki and Judith. Fred moved his family back to Osborne and in 1938 took over the Stambach Memorial Works family business from his father. He was active in community and county affairs and served on both the Osborne School Board and the Osborne City Council. A member of the Masonic Lodge, Fred was President of the Osborne Rotary chapter and was twice Vice-President of the Osborne Chamber of Commerce. Fred was also elected mayor of Osborne and from 1971 to 1974 he served a term as Osborne County Commissioner.
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“Last year Fred found out something about what age does for a former athlete. He went to Los Angeles to take part in the Senior Olympics after duly noting the previous games the year before produced a 4’5”high jump that took first place.
“This looked like easy pickings to Fred, so he entered and devoted only eleven days to training for the Los Angeles meet. He beat the 1971 mark by one inch that was good enough for third place, but he was amazed how four feet grew since his college years.” – Osborne County Farmer, September 6, 1973.
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Fred Stambach, Jr. passed away on May 10, 2003, in Lenexa, Kansas, and was laid to rest in the Osborne Cemetery. After his passing an Osborne County Historical Marker was placed at the Downs High School track that was the site of Fred’s greatest sporting achievement. The marker text ends with this homage: “Let the memory and significance of Fred Stambach’s world record jump serve as an inspiration to all student-athletes who utilize this very same track and field in aspiring to their own dreams.”