With the U.S. Olympic Trials for Track & Field kicking off yesterday (6/21/12), we couldn’t think of a better person to highlight for Flashback Friday than Steve Prefontaine! Prefontaine (nicknamed “Pre”) is considered one of the greatest American runners of all time!
He was born in Coos Bay, Oregon in 1951. In high school, he tried playing basketball and football but was never selected for any games because he was too small for those sports. He decided to take up running instead. He became one of the best in cross country and track in the nation! During his senior year at Marshfield High School, he set the American record in the two mile run.
Track coach Bill Bowerman at the University of Oregon recognized Pre’s talent and recruited him. During his career at the University in Eugene, Oregon, Pre had won 7 NCAA titles – 3 in cross country and 4 in the three-mile in track. He was the first athlete ever to win 4 NCAA titles in the same event! On top of that, he held 8 collegiate records. His records for the 3 and 6 mile races have not been broken to this day!
He made the 1972 Olympic team in Munich in the 5000 meter run and ended up in fourth place. Regardless, he became a local celebrity in Eugene, Oregon. People would cheer “Pre! Pre! Pre!” when they saw him compete. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 19. During his running career, he won a total of 120 out of 153 races.
He had set a goal to win a medal in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal but in 1975, when Pre was only 24 years old, he was killed in a car crash. His legacy will live on forever. The Prefontaine Classic, the most prestigious track meet of the world, is held in his honor every year.
To this day, Eugene, Oregon, where the U.S. Olympic Trials are held, is known as Track Town, USA.
“Don’t be a afraid to give up the good to go for the great” ~ Steve Prefontaine