Changing with the times
For the longest time a discus thrower named Tim Vollmer was given credit for the high school record with the college-weight implement. Years later Vollmer himself admitted that he got away with using a lighter high school discus.
Vollmer fessed up and Shepard used his best legitimate effort.
Although Shepard is not hung up on many of the stats his peers cling to, like the affect of altitude and requiring four schools to be in a meet for a record to be considered, he isn't blind to the affects of wind and timing devises.
Shepard will accept a record from a dual meet provided there are accurate wind gauges, fully automatic timing and creditable coaches.
"If you have a dual meet and you know it's well-officiated, why not?" asks Shepard, fully aware that the National Federation would swoon if asked the same question. "We're more concerned about how the mark was officiated than the kind of meet.
"We don't agree (with the National Federation) and that's OK."
He tells the story of marks from Texas state meets, which he attended until recently, where both fully electronic and hand times were recorded for 20 straight years.
"Because the hand times were faster when they converted them, they just reported the hand times," said Shepard, who went to his first meet with his dad at the age of six in 1941. "That happened for a long time. When they finally went to fully automatic, many of the records were questioned and rightfully so. Instead of adding (the standard hand-automatic conversion) .24 for example to Roy Martin's 20.0 for 200 meters, they just added a zero and made it 20.00. We found the fully electronic reading and it was 20.13, which is still the national record."
But he also admits that modern technology is helpful in determining questionable performances. He can scan a complete result on the computer in 20 seconds. While others might watch video of a 100-meter race to see who won, Shepard finds himself looking for evidence of wind conditions like flags being straight out, a potential sign of an excess breeze.
He tries to limit his list from 100 to 150 names while Kennedy has between 300 and 400.
"Having that many names does provide a good data base," said Shepard of Kennedy's list which is an open window for athletes to watch in the future.
The two are good friends and often help each other get splits when they both attend the same meet. Both have numerous sources to help gather information and they keep those secret so coaches aren't tempted to try to influence them.
"Jack is very meticulous in what he does," says Kennedy, former Los Angeles Times sports writer who went from collecting coins as a youngster to searching for track performances and joined Shepard in 1982 in organizing his half of the lists for Track and Field News.
"He approaches things in a very organized way so he can utilize his time very well."
Kennedy says gathering girls performances is probably a little harder than boys because until recently there were fewer sources. He, like Shepard, scans thousands of results.
"We've gone from famine to feast," he says. "For example, last weekend in Texas alone there were more than 80 meets. Not dual meets, we're talking about 80 invitationals. They're not all big ones but you never know where a quality mark will be."