April 17, 2000
The late Steve Prefontaine, who dominated amateur cross country and track and field in the late 1960's and early 1970's leads a class of 14 individuals selected for induction in the 2000 class of the National High School Sports Hall of Fame.
The 2000 class is the 18th group to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, which was started in 1982 by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) to honor athletes, coaches, contest officials, administrators and others for their extraordinary achievements and accomplishments in high school athletics.
This year's class -- which includes former professional basketball player Kevin McHale from Minnesota, Iowa basketball star Gary Thompson; coaches Normand "Bill" Belisle, Larry Campbell, Dave Houle, Diane Laffey and Sandra Meadows; officials Mario Donnangelo and Robert Oldis; and administrators John Olson, John Roberts, Don Sparks and Al Burr -- increases to 260 the number of individuals who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Induction ceremonies for the 2000 class will be held July 8 at the Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in conjunction with the 81st NFHS Summer Meeting.
Prefontaine, who was one of the nation's top middle-to-long distance runners was perhaps best known for holding every American record from 2,000 meters to 10,000 meters at the time of his death in 1975.
From the outset, it was clear Prefontaine was something special.
"Man imposes his own limitations. Limitation was not in Steve's frame of reference. He was continually extending the boundaries of his frontier," said Walt McClure, Marshfield's legendary track and field skipper who coached Prefontaine from 1965 to 1969. "I will always cherish the many hours we had together in his early years of training."
He had a stellar prep career in which he won two OSAA (Oregon School Activities Association) State Cross Country Championships in 1967 and 1968, representing Coos Bay's Marshfield High School.
But the highlight of his high school career came on a warm April afternoon in Corvallis, Oregon in 1969 at the Spartan Invitational Track Meet when Prefontaine set an interscholastic two mile record of 8:41.5. The race has now been converted to 3,200 meters cementing Prefontaine's mark in history.
Prefontaine went on to the University of Oregon where he excelled for another legendary coach, Bill Dellinger.
"It's impossible to put a measurement on the influence his life and accomplishments in track have had on runners worldwide," said Dellinger. "However, as the track coach at the University of Oregon for the past 32 years, I can tell you it has been huge!"
Prefontaine was three-time NCAA cross country champion (1970, 1971, 1973) and a four-time NCAA 3-mile or 5,000-meter champion (1970-73) at Oregon.
He placed fourth in the 5,000-meters in the 1972 Olympics, broke the four-minute mile nine times and was previously inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame and the Oregon Sports Hall of fame in 1983. In 1997 and 1998, Prefontaine's life story inspired the movies "Prefontaine" and "Without Limits".
Prefontaine was nominated for induction by Coos Bay Superintendent of Schools, Giles Parker.
"Oregon hasn't had an inductee for a long time, and I thought getting Steve Prefontaine inducted was long overdue," said Parker. "In my belief, Prefontaine did more for the sport than any other person and really got us into the modern era of track and field."
Prefontaine is the fourth Oregon athlete to be inducted into the NFHS Hall of Fame. Others include former Portland Public Schools Superintendent Paul McCall (1982), Eugene basketball star Danny Ainge (1992) and former Jefferson High School football great Mel Renfro (1995).
Prefontaine died in a one-car accident in 1975. He is honored every September at the Prefontaine Memorial Run, a challenging 10K-road race across one of his old training courses. Appropriately, its finish line is at the high school track where Prefontaine's running career began.