One looper's leap into the record books

Ben Stoterau
Redwood Falls Gazette

It was the spring of ’93 and Chaska High School junior Jon Markuson was feeling it at the Missota Conference Track and Field Relays in Prior Lake.

The standout high jumper was reaching uncharted heights, literally, as he attempted to tie the Minnesota high school record in the event by clearing 7’1”.

“My opening height was 6’4” which was six inches more than the person in second place who was already out on misses,” Markuson said, “I cleared 6’4”, 6’8” and 6’11”.

When the bar got to 7’1” the meet was stopped and everyone from all 10 schools gathered around the high jump apron to watch me.”

Because the mark was an attempt to tie a state record, a metal tape measure was needed to measure the height.

“It took like 20 minutes to find one,” Markuson said.

According to Markuson, the pit area in Prior Lake was small, and his approach had him starting in the end zone of the football field.

“My first attempt was close, but I didn’t make it. So I didn’t dwell on it long and attempted the jump again and cleared it,” he said. “My coach said I had cleared the bar by a lot and the bar was then set to 7’2” and I waited for the measurement to be completed again. I missed.”

Markuson – who had cleared 7’2 in practice the day before the meet – had tied the 20-year-old record of 7’1” set by Rod Raver of Rochester John Marshall at the 1973 Minnesota state tournament.

The national record was set by Vernon Turner of Yukon High School in Yukon, Okla. who cleared 7’6” back in April 2017.

Markuson would go on to finish second at the state meet, losing out to Jon Pontius of Fergus Falls who had the third best jump in state history that season at 7’0” 1/2” and who would go on to also win titles in the long jump and triple jump.

“I’m still excited to be a part of the Elite High Jump Club of the over seven footers,” he said. “To this day, I’m always asked why I didn’t increase the height by a quarter inch to have the state record to myself, but I honestly thought I was going to jump higher than 7’1” that day and didn’t want to waste my energy doing extra jumps. My second attempt was close, but I knocked the bar off with the heel of my shoe and my final attempt was close but not close enough.”

Following a memorable high-school career, Markuson would go on to sign with the University of Minnesota Track & Field program and now helps tutor young skill athletes for the Redwood Valley track team.

He helped standout Cade Johnson capture a high jump title for the Cardinals back in 2016 (6’6”).

Growing up in Chaska in the 80s and early 90s, Markuson also had the unique opportunity to be a “looper”, a golf caddy at prestigious Hazeltine National Golf Club.

“Growing up there were not very many jobs for 15 and 16 year olds at that time. I lived near Hazeltine National. Some of my friends held jobs there as caddies. My friends thought I was strong enough to carry golf bags and wanted me to work there too, so that’s what I did,” he said.

According to Markuson, he would wake up at 6 a.m. every day during the summer to get to the Caddyshack as soon as he could. He explained how there were two levels of caddies who would then pick and choose who they wanted to caddy for.

“I would bike to the golf course early in the morning and put on my caddy jump suit. The first group, the more veteran caddies, would then choose the members they wanted to caddy for first, picking the members that were often the best tippers. The second group of caddies, myself included, were left with the members who either did not tip or who tipped very little.”

Markuson would usually carry two loops per day if he was able to get out early enough each morning. He was also afforded the opportunity to play the course later in the day.

“When we got out too late, we would golf the course for free after 5 p.m.,” he said. “I played many rounds of golf and lost many golf balls on the signature hole 16, while pretending I was a professional.”

In Summer 1991, Hazeltine was host to the 91st playing of one of golf’s four major tournaments in the U.S. Open.

It was a fun time to be a caddy.

“I can remember weeks before the event, the golf course was getting prepared for the event. I caddied for the celebrities who wanted to golf the course before the tournament,” he said. “I was on the list of caddies available to help if a professional needed a caddy for the event, but I was never called.”

Markuson mentioned a couple of his caddy friends actually looped for the event while he had a more humbling job.

“I had the honorable job of collecting trash,” he said. “I watched the event while following around the best golfers in the world. I remember seeing Fuzzy Zoeller hit a hole-in-one and guys like Jack Nicklaus, Fred Couples and Greg Norman play.”

It was the last U.S. Open played by legend Lee Trevino and then amateur Phil Mickelson would finish in 55th place.

The ’91 Open will also be remembered for tragedy as lightning struck and killed a spectator (wounding five others) on the opening round of the tournament.

“After that day, golfers new to the course always asked to see the tree that was struck by lightning,” he said.

The event was eventually won by Payne Stewart in an 18-hole playoff over Scott Simpson. It was the third major win for Stewart who would tragically die in a plane crash just eight years later in 1999.

“Following the tournament, everything went back to normal,” he said. “I stopped caddying after that summer and began pursuing my next love of track and field.”

Locals may have seen Markuson at high-school sporting events in Redwood Falls taking pictures, good pictures, of Cardinal athletes in action.

The 13-year resident of Redwood Falls who shares step children Gavin and Gabby Dow and son Garrett Markuson with wife Nikki Markuson enjoys the chance to give back to the parents and the kids of the community.

“I just know that when I was back in high school it was before cell phones, so I never even got a photograph of me jumping when I broke the record that day,” he said. “This is one of the reasons why I take photographs at athletic events. I want to capture these memories for the athletes, so they have something to remember.”