Esquibel backed up his talk on the track

KHS athlete of late 1950s got his start when he challenged coach

Photo Courtesy of the Mohave County Museum<br> 
Frankie Esquibel, left and Tom McCraley. Combined they broke six records in the running events at the Northern Arizona Championship in 1958.

Photo Courtesy of the Mohave County Museum<br> Frankie Esquibel, left and Tom McCraley. Combined they broke six records in the running events at the Northern Arizona Championship in 1958.

Sonny Alvarado and his friend Frankie Esquibel had just finished baseball practice when they decided to watch the Kingman High track team.

The two were sophomores at KHS in the mid-1950s that day when Frankie decided to issue a challenge to the track and field coach.

"We were hanging around and Frankie told the coach, 'I can beat your top runner you have there,'" Alvarado recalled. "So the coach picked up an old pair of track shoes that were too big for (Frankie), and he put them on and ran the half-mile and beat those guys.

The coach said, 'You're going to run track now!'"

What began as an idle boast turned out to be Esquibel's calling. In his senior year at KHS in 1958, he set four records at the Northern Arizona Conference meet in Flagstaff and took first in the mile and two sprints - the 220 and 440 - to lead the Bulldogs to the title.

"Frankie used to like to challenge everybody," Alvarado said. "When we were down in the valley he would say, 'Watch, I'm going to beat those guys.' OK."

Esquibel passed away on Dec. 23. He was 73. A rosary service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Mary's Catholic Church followed by burial at Mountain View Cemetery.

Esquibel was born on March 17, 1939, and grew up in Kingman, attending St. Mary's Parochial School where he and Alvarado forged a life-long friendship. Esquibel participated in Little League and played basketball at St. Mary's before attending Kingman High.

In addition to excelling on the track team, he was an offensive and defensive back on the 1956 Bulldog football team that won the Northern Arizona championship, and whose only loss came in a 12-6 defeat against Las Vegas Bishop Gorman.

"I was in junior high when Frankie was on the KHS track squad," said Chuck Cook, whose father Charles was the head football coach in 1956. "Frankie and the athletes at KHS during the late 50s were our heroes."

At the time Kingman only had four varsity sports, football, baseball, basketball and track, and no girls sports. Today, KHS offers 19 sports, thanks in large part to the nine girls sports that was a direct result of the 1972 federal law known as Title IX.

"We loved sports, otherwise high school would've been boring to us," Alvarado said. "We played all the sports they had. We practiced baseball and then we would switched over and did track."

When Alvarado and Esquibel ran track, they didn't have the good fortune of running on the synthetic surfaces that today's athletes compete on. Instead, the tracks consisted of dirt, gravel and weeds, and when it rained they were expected to run through the mud.

"If they had (today's track surfaces) in those days, there would be a lot better times," said Cook, who also serves as the Bulldogs unofficial historian. "You were lucky if you were a mile runner in those days and broke five minutes. A lot of meets were won at five minutes or 4:55 and stuff like that."

In 1958, Esquibel established a new record in the mile at the Luke Greenway relays by running a 4:35. It was a record that later on in life would cement his place in the Greenway Invitational Track and Field Hall of Fame.

"We didn't have the training facilities that we have now," Alvarado said. "If we would've had those facilities, he probably would've broke many records."

After graduating from KHS, Esquibel was offered a full scholarship to Arizona State University and attended there a few years before transferring to Northern Arizona.

After attending NAU, Esquibel returned to Kingman where he settled down.

"Frankie was a special guy," Alvarado said. "Rest in peace my friend."