40 Years Later, Prefontaine's Last Big Record Is Busted

Galen Rupp beats his 5K meter record by 0.13 seconds

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 30, 2012 8:59 AM CDT

(Newser) – It took 40 years, but Steve Prefontaine's US record in the 5,000 meters finally fell Thursday night. It was the last major record held by Prefontaine, who died in a 1975 car crash at age 24, reports the Wall Street Journal. Galen Rupp finished his race at the US team's Olympic trials in 13 minutes, 22.67 seconds, beating Prefontaine's record by just 0.13 seconds. "I really just told myself, 'Keep your head down, keep your form good, and keep driving to the finish,'" said Rupp.

In part, the longevity of Prefontaine's record is an indication of how mediocre the US men's distance running program has been in the last few decades, observes the Journal. Its members have won only one Olympic medal since 1976—a silver in the marathon in 2004. But running experts said that this year's Olympic team looks strong. When Prefontaine died he held every American record from the two mile to the 10,000 meters; a USA Track & Field rep says it appears only two of his records now remain: six- and three-mile school records for the University of Oregon. But "those are far from commonly run distances anymore," she said.

15 Sep 1972:  Steve Prefontaine of the USA in action during a track and field event at Crystal Palace in London, England.
15 Sep 1972: Steve Prefontaine of the USA in action during a track and field event at Crystal Palace in London, England.   (Getty Images: Tony Duffy /Allsport)
Galen Rupp celebrates after finishing first in the men's 5,000 meter finals at the US Olympic Track and Field Trials Thursday, June 28, 2012, in Eugene, Ore.
Galen Rupp celebrates after finishing first in the men's 5,000 meter finals at the US Olympic Track and Field Trials Thursday, June 28, 2012, in Eugene, Ore.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
EUGENE, OR - JUNE 28:  Galen Rupp (C) leads Lopez Lomong (L) and Bernard Lagat (R) en route to winning the Men's 5000 Meter Run on day seven of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at the Hayward Field on June 28, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon.
EUGENE, OR - JUNE 28: Galen Rupp (C) leads Lopez Lomong (L) and Bernard Lagat (R) en route to winning the Men's 5000 Meter Run on day seven of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at the Hayward...   (Getty Images)
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