Steve Roland Prefontaine: a brief biography of one of the most famous track stars of all time

Essay by ab1273College, UndergraduateA, February 2004

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Steve Roland Prefontaine, known in the track world as "Pre," was born in Coos Bay, Oregon, January 25, 1951. He was the son of Raymond Prefontaine, a carpenter, and Elfriede Sehnholz, a seamstress. He had two sisters and was never married. Prefontaine grew up speaking German, and was teased at school. This is what pushed him toward sports. At Marshfield High School, Prefontaine learned that track was a perfect sport for his small size and frame. His sophomore year he joined the track team, and by junior year he had begun to win major titles; he had found his gift for running fast. In 1968 Prefontaine was recognized as state champion in the two-mile and cross-country competitions. He did this again during his senior year, and set a national record two-mile run at 8:41.5, seven seconds under the previous record. The race has now been cut down to 3,200 meters securing Prefontaine's impression in history.

In 1969, Prefontaine graduated from highschool and went to University of Oregon. He earned his B.S. in 1973. While at the University, he was trained by the legendary coach, Bill Bowerman, and finished third as a freshman in the National Collegiate Athletic Association cross-country championships. He never lost another race while attending the school. From 1970-1973 he was the Pacific Eight Conference and NCAA cross-country champion, and in 1970 and 1973 he took his school to the team championship. In 1972 he set the U.S. and NCAA records for 5,000 meters, and in 1973 he set U.S. and NCAA records for six miles. While at University of Oregon, Prefontaine was Pacific Eight Conference three-mile champion all four years and the mile champion in 1971. Prefontaine was better at running long distances fast, but did make a few accomplishments in short distance races. His...