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Some Steve Prefontaine information (fyi)

Posted Thursday, September 29, 2011 by Mike Hout

Some have asked about Steve Prefontaine and wanted to learn more about him.  Here is some information we found:

Steve Prefontaine was born January 25th, 1951.  When he arrived at Marshfield High School in 1965, he joined the cross country team, coached by Walt McClure, Jr.  McClure ran under coach Bill Bowerman at the University of Oregon and his father, Walt McClure, Sr. ran under Bill Hayward, also at Oregon.

Prefontaine's freshman and sophomore years were described as unspectacular, managing a 5:01 mile personal best in his first year. Though starting out as the seventh man he progressed to be the second by year's end and placed 53rd in the state championship.  In his sophomore year, he failed to qualify for the state meet in his event, the two-mile. However, his coach recalls that it was his sophomore year where his potential in the sport really began to surface.

With the advice of McClure, Prefontaine took it upon himself to train hard over the summer.  He went through his junior cross country season undefeated and won the state title.

Prefontaine set lofty goals for himself for his senior season. He set a national record at the Corvallis Invitational with a time of
8:41.5, only one and a half seconds slower than his goal and 6.9 seconds better than the previous record.  He won two more state titles that year after another undefeated season, one in the mile and the other in the two mile.

Prefontaine was recruited by 35 to 40 colleges across the nation.  He received numerous phone calls, letters, and drop-in visits from coaches. Prefontaine referred many of his calls to McClure, who wanted Prefontaine to attend University of Oregon.  McClure turned away those universities that began recruiting him late. McClure maintained that he did not sway Prefontaine's collegiate choice except to ask Steve where all the distance runners went to college.

Prefontaine wanted to stay in-state for college and especially the University of Oregon, but had not heard much from the University of Oregon head coach, Bill Bowerman. He only received letters from Oregon once a month whereas other universities such as Villanova stayed in constant contact. As a result, Prefontaine did not know how much Bowerman wanted him to attend Oregon. Bowerman stated that he did not recruit Prefontaine any different than how he recruited anybody else. It was a matter of principle for him to advise recruits where to attend college, wherever it may be, and to not flood recruits with correspondences. Bowerman had followed Prefontaine's career since he was a sophomore and agreed with McClure in his assessment of Steve being a good runner.

It wasn't until Prefontaine read a letter from Bill Bowerman that he made up his mind to attend Oregon University. Bowerman wrote that he was certain Prefontaine would become the world's greatest distance runner if he decided to run at Oregon. Sometime after Prefontaine announced that he signed a letter of intent with the University of Oregon on the first of May in 1969, Bowerman wrote a letter addressed to the community of Coos Bay describing his appreciation for their role in helping Steve become a great runner.

Prefontaine once held the American record in the seven distance track events from the 2,000 meters to the 10,000 meters.  He died at the age of 24 in a car accident.  He won 7 national championships at the University of Oregon and was fourth in the 1972 Olympics.

Prefontaine, Frank Shorter, and Bill Rodgers generated considerable media coverage which helped inspire the 1970s "running boom". Prefontaine was often known for his mustache and his long locks of hair that parted as he ran.

Pre's Rock is a memorial at the site of the roadside boulder where Prefontaine died.  Many runners inspired by Prefontaine leave behind memorabilia to honor his memory and continued influence, such as race numbers, medals, and running shoes. Pre's Rock was dedicated in December 1997 and is maintained by Eugene Parks and Recreation as Prefontaine Memorial Park.  The rock is just across the Willamette River from the east end of Pre's Trail. The memorial features a plaque with a picture of Prefontaine that reads:

For your dedication and loyalty
To your principles and beliefs...
For your love, warmth, and friendship
For your family and friends...
You are missed by so many
And you will never be forgotten...

See pictures of Steve Prefontaine and read more about him at:


1500 - 3:38.1
Mile - 3:54.6
2000 - 5:01.4
3000 - 7:42.6
5000 - 13:21.87
10,000 - 27:43.6

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