A Legend Remembered
In Honor of a Star
More than 30 years after his tragic death, Steve Prefontaine remains a track and field icon. The annual Prefontaine Classic, held in his honor at Hayward Field, helps to preserve his memory. The meet, an event unparalleled in the United States, brings out the best of the best.
In 1975, at the age of 24, Prefontaine lost his life unexpectedly in a car crash. A man of great determination and drive, he won the 5,000-meters in the NCAA preparation meet at Hayward Field just hours before his death. The summer after Pre’s death, the University fittingly renamed the Hayward Restoration Meet the Prefontaine Classic, in honor of its greatest running star. The meet had originated in 1973 as a fund-raising event for Hayward Field.
The World’s Elite
The annual Prefontaine Classic consistently draws sell-out crowds and showcases record-setting performances. The meet typically offers a reduced slate of track and field events, with two staple races-the Bowerman Mile and the two-mile. The latter is held in honor of the meet’s namesake, which symbolically, is the last event of the meet.
Athletes must be ranked in the Top 50 in the world in their respective events to be eligible to compete in the Classic. World greats, such as Alan Webb, Hicham El Guerrouj, Sergey Bubka, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Justin Gaitlin, are just a few of the international stars who have participated in the meet.
For the past 10 years, the Prefontaine Classic has been ranked at the top of all annual track and field meets in the United States by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the international governing body for the sport. It is also one of 12 meets in the Grand Prix series, which features the best track and field events in the world. During the past few years, the Prefontaine Classic has also drawn national television coverage.
- During the first "Hayward Field Restoration Meet," which originated in 1973, Prefontaine ran his personal best in the mile, the featured event at the meet, but ended up taking home runner-up honors. Dave Wottle ran 3:53.3 to Pre's 3:54.6.
- In 1974, Prefontaine stole the show at the "Hayward Field Restoration Meet" with his three-mile victory, capturing a new American record of 12:51.4.
- Nike has provided title sponsorship of the meet since 1978.
- The Prefontaine Classic was the highest-rated track and field event in the world outside of Europe in 1998 and 2000-2004.