The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, December 9, 1997


Will there ever be
another Pre on our tracks?

TALKING to sportswriter and screen writer Kenny Moore about Steve Prefontaine, the athlete whose meteoric life is portrayed in Moore's film, "Without Limits," I asked the inevitable question:

Is there another Pre in our midst or even on the horizon?

Is there any American runner who can move us with the kind of fire and determination the young rebel from Coos Bay, Oregon radiated?

That's quite a tall order these days, and Moore, who was a world class competitor and confidant to Prefontaine, is the first to admit it.

But Moore said he expects "Without Limits" -- which will screen Friday night at the Cinerama Theater -- will catch on with high school athletes.

"Those are the people Pre moved in life," said Moore, noting that many a teen-age athlete remembers where he was the day in 1975 that Pre was killed.

"I'm pretty confident Pre (the film) is going to set fire to a lot of high school imaginations."

But Moore thinks the closest present-day analogy to Pre just arrived in Waikiki last night for Saturday's elite Nike P.L.A.Y. Waikiki Mile.

THAT'S Bob Kennedy, who now holds two of Pre's old U.S. records (5,000 and 3,000 meters) and is fearless, even on the European track.

"Kennedy is a very worthy successor to Pre," said Moore. "Look at how well he is running against these Africans."

At this point, it is important to remember that every world track record from the 1,500 to 10,000 meters is held by an African, and Wilson Kipketer, an African native running for Denmark, holds the 800 record.

"There's a great parallel between Pre and Kennedy," Moore said. "Pre went out and tried to hammer everyone in the last mile of the Olympic 5,000 in 1972, and Kennedy went out the same way against faster Africans in the last mile of the 1996 Olympics. One finished fourth, the other sixth.

"They would not be intimidated. It was, 'I may not win this thing, but it's going to be a damned race, and we'll see who's the last man standing.' "

And don't we wish we could see more Americans take that attitude onto foreign tracks.

"But a huge amount of Pre's popularity had nothing to do with racing toughness," said Moore. "It was the guy who would pop off and call a spade a spade and the AAU a bucket of horse. That's not Kennedy's style. It's almost too much to ask for a reincarnation of Pre."

BUT maybe there's a female version of Pre in our midst this week.

The legendary Mary Slaney -- at 39 -- remains the same warrior on and off the track she has been since she was a 14-year-old prodigy.

"Pre stayed in touch with her between 1973 and 1975 because he thought she was being overtrained and over-raced, and she was," said Moore. ''Mary never forgot that. She told me something very moving: that she never thinks of Pre unless she needs him. If there's something she has to get through, she calls on him."

Having held 17 world and 36 U.S. records, Slaney has always delivered the ultimate fight on the track. Shove her off the track and she'll come right back to shove you over the precipice.

Her square-jawed warning to the USATF in September to correct its drug-testing procedures or face her wrath would've made Pre proud:

"I'll give them a month. After that . . . I'll take no prisoners."

That's the way she lives, that's the way she runs.

Just like Pre.



Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.




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