Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Steve Prefontaine

Today would Steve Prefontaine's 60th birthday. Pre's dominance of US distance running during the early 1970s is well known. Perhaps it's bad form on his birthday to highlight two losses, but two ex-Villanova greats beat Prefontaine over 2 miles (Buerkle, 1974, in above photo) and 1 mile (Liquori, 1975) in back-to-back CYO meets at College Park, MD. While the latter might not be terribly surprising, given that Prefontaine was not noted as a miler, Buerkle's defeat of Prefontaine at the 1974 CYO 2 mile championship broke Pre's two-year undefeated streak decisively, 8:26.2 to 8:33.2. Buerkle went on to set an indoor world record over the mile and to make the 1976 (winning the trials) and 1980 US Olympic teams over 5000 meters. The next year, at the 1975 CYO meet in College Park, MD (by which time Liquori had moved up to 5000 meters), Liquori defeated Prefontaine over a mile, with a classic late move. Buerkle was the US #1 ranked 5000 meter runner in 1974 and 1976, while Liquori was US #1 at 5000 in 1975, 1977 (ranked #1 in the world), and 1978.

1974 CYO meet: Buerkle defeats Prefontaine by 7 seconds over 2 miles

1975 CYO meet: Liquori downs Prefontaine over 1 mile

The photo below is from a 1974 meet in Germany, showing Marty Liquori, Tom Fleming, and Dick Buerkle.


  1. For all the success Dick and Marty had I believe they both were never truly appreciated.

  2. I agree -- especially for Buerkle. Prefontaine was a rock star, to be sure, but never attained the world rankings that Liquori did (who was #1 twice at the 1500/mile and once at 5000 meters). No denying Pre's charisma, though.