Steve Roland Prefontaine (January 25, 1951 May 30, 1975) (nicknamed Pre) was an American middle and long-distance runner. Prefontaine is considered to be among the greatest and most inspirational runners of the modern era by many of his fans. Prefontaine helped inspire a running boom in the 1970s along with contemporaries Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers. Born and raised in Coos Bay, Oregon, Prefontaine was primarily a long-distance runner who once held the American record in the five distance track events from the 2000 meters to the 10,000 meters. He is known for his extremely aggressive "front-running" racing style and for always believing in giving a full effort. Prefontaine died at the age of 24 in a car accident.
Prefontaine won the 1972 Olympic trials in Eugene with an American record 13:22.8 ... beating a veteran George Young (2nd, 13:29.4) and Leonard Hilton (3rd, 13:40.2).
On Sunday, July 9, 12 men toed the line for the start. The weather was warm but not stifling. Gerry Lindgren led past the 880 in 2:09.6, before drifting back through the pack. Pre took over and averaged around 66 seconds a lap through 1.5 miles. Then Pre ran laps of 64.7 and 65.1, stringing out the pack. Only Young moved with him quickly and was close up with 3.5 laps to go. Pre began the task of breaking Young, one of the guttiest runners in track history. Pre ran a lap in 63.4, which dropped Hilton 25 yards behind, but the veteran Young held on grimly. With the crowd roaring, Prefontaine began a remarkable drive. A lap in 61.5 weakened Young and left Hilton 75 yards back, but Pre was only beginning. He increased the pace and opened an 8-yard lead with a lap to go. Young had to surrender, and Pre completed the lap in 58.7. With Young beaten, Pre slowed in the homestretch. Then he thought better of it and picked up for a respectable finish in 13:22.8, a time bettered only by Clarke (twice) and Dave Bedford's 13:22.2. Once finished, Pre took a STOP PRE tee shirt (designed by Pre's rivals in good jest) from someone in the stands and then enjoyed the time to sign autographs for the kids.
Prefontaine's 5000m time of 13:22.8 is a USA Olympic Trials record that still stands today.