Leaders of the Long Distance Decades

Symbolizing Success

Kenny Moore: The Write Runner

Kenny Moore found success in both avenues of the sport--as a competitor and as a professional sports writer. The two-time Olympic marathoner placed fourth during the 1972 Munich Games. Prior to the Olympics, he and Florida running great Frank Shorter tied for first in the U.S. Marathon Trials held in Eugene. Among his countless honors, Moore won two Pac-8 steeplechase titles, and was a three-time track and field All-American. He was also a cross country All-American and helped lead the Ducks to back-to-back runner-up finishes at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Moore carried his dedication for running over into his career as a writer, working for Sports Illustrated and other sports publications. He is also the author of Bowerman and the men of Oregon: the story of Oregon’s legendary coach and Nike’s co-founder.

Steve Prefontaine: THE Running Legend

One of Oregon’s premier running legends, Steve Prefontaine set 13 American-records in seven different events from 1971-1975. Prefontaine drew a loyal following of fans and perfected the victory lap as he lost only three races at Hayward field during his career.

While at Oregon, he won seven NCAA Championships and held eight collegiate-records. From 1970-1975 he never lost to an American in outdoor races ranging from two miles to 10,000-meters. Two years younger than any of his competitors, he competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics, and although he ran a courageous race and pulled ahead of the pack with a mile to go, Prefontaine ultimately finished fourth.

Steve Prefontaine, 1971
Steve Prefontaine, 1971
Prefontaine, Steve  [19] (recto)
Prefontaine, Steve [19] (recto)
Steve Prefontaine, 1970
Steve Prefontaine, 1970

In the years after the Olympics, Prefontaine ran four of his personal bests. Tragically, on May 30, 1975, he lost his life in a car crash in Eugene. Prefontaine is remembered for his running and perseverance in several memorials in Eugene, including Pre’s Trail, a wood-chip path along the Willamette River, and the Prefontaine Classic track and field competition held at Hayward Field every year.

  • 1969 NCAA All-American (cross country-third place)
  • 1970 NCAA Champion (cross country, 3-mile)
  • 1971 NCAA Champion (cross country, mile, 3-mile)
  • 1972 NCAA Champion (5,000-meters)
  • Olympic contender (5,000-meters)
  • 1973 NCAA Champion (cross country, 3-mile)
Alberto Salazar and Henry Rono
Alberto Salazar and Henry Rono

Alberto Salazar: Marathon Man

A notable distance runner for the Oregon Ducks, Alberto Salazar, along with teammate Rudy Chapa, rejuvenated Oregon’s distance running craze during the mid-1970s and early 1980s.

Throughout his career, Salazar established three American-records, in the marathon, 5,000-meters, 10,000-meters respectively, and he won two National Cross Country Championships. Salazar dominated the marathon field during the early 1980s, capturing three consecutive New York Marathon victories in 1980, 1981 and 1982, and a Boston Marathon Championship in 1982. Salazar also made two U.S. Olympic teams and won an NCAA Cross-country Championship in 1978.

The All-American played a key role in leading Oregon to a NCAA Cross Country Team Championship in 1977, three runner-up honors (1976, 1978, 1979) and two top-five track and field NCAA finishes in 1978 and 1979 respectively. Today, he remains an instrumental mentor in the distance running arena, coaching members of the NIKE Oregon Project’s members such as Olympian Adam Goucher and Oregon’s Galen Rupp.

Otis Davis: Golden Boy

Otis Davis stole the show during the 1960 season. The Oregon sensation brought home two gold medals for the United States in the Rome Olympics, winning top honors in the 400-meters and the 1,600-meter relay. Davis’s 400-meter mark of 44.9 seconds earned him world and American-records in 1960 and still stands as the University’s record. Although Davis’s dazzling work on the track made him a legend, basketball was actually his first sport of choice. Davis didn’t take up track until the age of 26 when he was a student at the University of Oregon.

Rudy Chapa, 1977
Rudy Chapa, 1977

Rudy Chapa: Sparking Superstar

Rudy Chapa emerged as one of the premier American distance runners during his career and remains a prominent contributor to the sport. Chapa, together with teammate Alberto Salazar, helped lead Oregon to a NCAA Cross Country Championship, three runner-up honors and two top-five track and field NCAA finishes. In addition to his team honors, Chapa was the 1978 NCAA 5,000-meter Champion. During the 1979 season, Chapa set the American-record in the 3,000-meters and finished second in the 5,000-meters at the NCAA Championships. A stellar star at a young age, Chapa still holds the national high school 10,000-meter record, and, just recently had his U.S. Junior record in the same distance overtaken by Oregon’s Galen Ruup. Today, Chapa has carried his passion for running over into his career. In 1999, he launched his own sports equipment and media company called SPARQ (Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction, Quickness).

Bill McChesney, Jr.: Distance Prodigy

Bill McChesney, Jr. was another great Oregon runner who could rally the crowd at Hayward Field. The South Eugene High School graduate earned All-American honors in cross-country and track and field. In addition, he made the 1980 U.S. Olympic team in the 5,000-meters. Despite injuries throughout his career, during the 1981 season, McChesney was ranked first in America and fourth in the world in the 5,000-meters. He remains Oregon’s record holder in the 5,000 and 10,000-meters today. Often compared on the track to Steve Prefontaine, McChesney ironically also lost his life at a young age in a car crash.

Joaquim Cruz: South American Sensation

Three-time Olympian Joaquim Cruz truly ran in the international spotlight while at Oregon. A Brazilian native, the world-class mid-distance runner won two NCAA 800-meters Championship, in 1983 and 1984 respectively, and one NCAA 1,500 top honor in 1984. His pair of gold medals in 1984 helped Oregon capture the NCAA Championship team title. Cruz proceeded to win bronze at the 1983 World Championships, gold during the 1984 Games, and silver in the 1988 Seoul Games, all in the 800-meter race. He also competed in the 1,500-meter-race during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He still holds the top collegiate 800-meter time with his mark of 1:41.77.