Scenes of Steve Prefontaine (Scene 1)

Scene 1

In 1975, the Oregon Legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution 11. It reads:

Whereas Steve Prefontaine died May 30, 1975; and

Whereas Steve Prefontaine was the nation’s most outstanding distance runner, holding American records at 3,000 meters, two miles, three miles, 5,000 meters, six miles and 10,000 meters; and

Whereas Steve Prefontaine came out of the Oregon coastal community of Coos Bay where he had been a national high school champion, went to the University of Oregon where he won the NCAA three-mile championship three times and the cross country title four straight years, and went to the 1972 Olympics in Munich where he placed fourth in the 5,000 meters; and

Whereas Steve Prefontaine drew admiration and respect as a sincere, outspoken and indefatigable advocate of a national program to enable amateur athletes to more effectively participate in international competition; and

Whereas Steve Prefontaine served as an inspiration for all those who wish to excel in life; now, therefore,

Be It Resolved by the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon:

That the Fifty-eighth Legislative Assembly mourns the death of a truly dedicated runner who brought much to all who were privileged to know him, Steve Prefontaine…

Around the same time, a poet named Charles Ghigna published a poem titled “Prefontaine.” Since its publication the poem has been widely included in anthologies of sports poems from a long lost literary era when poets wrote poems about sports and athletes such as Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Bill Russell and Gale Sayers and prestigious magazines and journals published them. Ghigna had competed against Prefontaine and lost, which made perfect sense because nobody writes a poem about someone you beat in athletic competition.

The poem reads:


He wore old Oregon on his chest,

a new mustache on his 24-year-old lip

and a scowl on his brow

that could jump out of his mouth

quicker than that famous final kick.

We all agreed

he could run and run and run

after women and whiskey and ribbons,

a chip off the old lumberjack block.

We in the stands gave our clapped-red hands

to him and his victory laps.

We watched and prayed for his runty form

under suns, gym ceilings and television rooms.

He stood us wild after each mile

witnessing his sudden bursts of speed.

We curse a coffin car we never saw.

In 1995, a film documentary titled Fire on the Track: The Steve Prefontaine Story was released. It was narrated by Ken Kesey. In 1997, Hollywood released a biopic of Steve Prefontaine titled Pre. It starred Jared Leto. In 1998, Hollywood released another biopic of Steve Prefontaine, this one titled Without Limits. It starred Billy Crudup.