Born: 25 January 1951
Died: 30 May 1975 (automobile crash)
Birthplace: Coos Bay, Oregon
Best known as: Oregon running legend and subject of the film Prefontaine
Charismatic, handsome and brashly confident, Steve Prefontaine was one of the leading American distance runners of the early 1970s. Steve Prefontaine won seven NCAA championships while running for the University of Oregon from 1969-73 (three in cross-country, four in the three-mile race) and finished fourth in the 5000 meters at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Prefontaine set more than a dozen American records at distances from 2000 meters to six miles before his sudden 1975 death in a one-car accident in Eugene, Oregon, just a few hours after running his final race at Hayward Field in Eugene.
Steve Prefontaine’s story was told in two unrelated feature films: Prefontaine (1997, with actor Jared Leto as Prefontaine) and Without Limits (1998, with Billy Crudup as Prefontaine). He is also the topic of the 1995 documentary Fire on the Track… The winner of the 1972 Olympic 5000 meters was Finland’s Lasse Viren… At Oregon, Steve Prefontaine was coached by Bill Bowerman, who along with U of O alumnus Phil Knight designed the first Nike running shoes… Steve Prefontaine became the first athlete to sign a contract with Nike, in 1974.
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