Mile News

40 Years of Prefontaine: Legend

June 01, 2015

“Pre was a rebel from a working-class background, a guy full of cockiness and guts,” said Nike co-founder Phil Knight. “Pre’s spirit is the cornerstone of this company’s soul.”


In 1973, two years after the Nike brand was born and the first Swoosh adorned shoes, the nascent footwear company signed its first star runner. The phenomenal Oregon native held multiple American distance records, competed on track & field’s greatest stage in Munich in 1972 and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as “America’s Distance Prodigy.”

The prodigy was Steve Prefontaine, America’s best-known track & field athlete at age 22. He possessed warrior determination and ran each race as if his life depended on it. His competitive fire, gutsy race tactics and inherent charisma charmed crowds and inspired up-and-coming runners to stick with the sport and give it their all

On track for greatness
At 15, competing for Marshfield High School in in Coos Bay, Ore., Pretontaine set his first national record, running the 2 Mile event in 8:41:5. He won back-to-back state cross country championships in 1968-69, and went undefeated in cross country and track his junior and senior years. Heavily recruited by top running schools during his senior year, Prefontaine was swayed by a handwritten note from llegendary University of Oregon head coach Bill Bowerman. “It said if I came to Oregon, he’d make me into the best distance runner ever,” Prefontaine recalled. “That was all I needed to hear.”

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Tags: steve prefontaine (15) , phil knight (3) , olympics (72) , nike (4) , bill bowerman (8)

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