TrackTown, USA: Today’s post is a reflection on the death of a young athlete 38 years ago. Such a very sad day.
Photo of Steve Prefontaine from an old NIKE poster
Steve Prefontaine died 38 years ago today in a terrible auto accident in Eugene, Oregon. At the time of his death, the Olympic distance runner held too many American distance records to count, was loved by his family, and adored by the entire State of Oregon. Dave and I were friends with Pre – Dave was his college teammate. I was working in the production department at the student newspaper and had to place the terrible truth in black and white, through tears.
30 May 1975 – Photo by Brian Lanker
The evening of this tragic event, Pre had raced at Historic Hayward Field. Of course, he won. Frank Shorter was second and our own DT was third. (DT is 6th in the above photo – wearing a bright yellow singlet.)
1973 NCAA Cross Country Champions! University of Oregon, of course.
Back: Coach Bill Dellinger, DT, Gary Barger, Randy James, Scott Daggatt, Coach Bill Bowerman.
Front: Terry Williams, Steve Prefontaine, Tom Hale
The track meet we are attending this weekend is the Prefontaine Classic, and it has been called the Pre Classic since Steve’s death. His spirit still lives at Historic Hayward Field. Images of the popular athlete racing – with his long hair flying in the wind – are visible all over town this week. It’s hard to imagine Pre would be 62 years old today and most likely wouldn’t have much hair at all.
Maybe after 38 years, the legend is larger than the man? A man who will forever be 24 years old. Always be handsome. Always fit. I don’t think so. The proof of Pre’s skill on the track are in the record books. Facts are facts. His good looks, his cocky attitude and will-to-win live on through the legions of young runners who continue to visit his grave in Coos Bay, Oregon and the Pre’s Rock memorial – where he crashed his teeny MGM 38 years ago tonight.
Watch the meet on NBC Saturday. It’s on from 1:30-3p, pacific.
And always wear your seat belt.
Until my next update, I remain, your GO PRE correspondent.
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