People Who Kick Buts: Steve Prefontaine
Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts.
- Born on January 25, 1951 and passed away on May 30, 1975.
- Was an American middle and long-distance runner. Prefontaine once held the American record in the seven distance track events from the 2,000 meters to the 10,000 meters.
- Fontaine died at the age of 24 in a car accident.
- Steve Prefontaine was born on January 25, 1951, in the coastal logging town of Coos Bay, Oregon. His father, Raymond Prefontaine, was a carpenter and a welder after his time serving in the U.S. Army in World War II. Steve’s mother, Elfriede, worked as a seamstress.
- When Prefontaine 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.
- Prefontaine was recruited by 35 to 40 colleges across the nation. He received numerous phone calls, letters, and drop-in visits from coaches.
- Following his collegiate career at Oregon, Prefontaine prepared for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. While running for the Oregon Track Club, Pre set American records in every race from 2000 to 10000 meters.
- On May 30, 1975, returning from a party, after dropping off friend and distance champion Frank Shorter, Prefontaine was driving down Skyline Boulevard, east of the University of Oregon campus near Hendricks Park when, for unknown reasons, his orange 1973 MGB convertible swerved into a rock wall and flipped.
- The Eugene Register-Guard called his death “the end of an era”. By the time of his death, Prefontaine was probably the most popular athlete in Oregon, who, along with Frank Shorter and Bill Bowerman, was credited with sparking the running boom of the 1970s.