“It’s not easy to build character. It’s not easy to establish personal standards for effort and commitment. It’s not easy to accept and grow self-discipline. It’s not easy to become a leader. We need people in our lives to give us direction and show us how. Fortunately, they are there.”
WHO: Steve Prefontaine (University of Oregon) and Donal Walsh (Villanova University, Ireland)
WHEN: November 23, 1970
WHERE: NCAA Cross Country Championship (College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia)
(Villanova Running Blog) The top contenders for the team championship were UTEP, which had won the crown in 1969 and returned all 5 top finishers from that race, Oregon, 3rd in 1969 and led by the iconic Steve Prefontaine, and Villanova, which had won the title in 1966, 1967, 1968 and finished second behind UTEP in 1969.
Oregon, though, had seemingly pulled the upset. Steve Prefontaine, 3rd the year before, won the race in 28:00 with Donal Walsh 2nd in 28:08. Oregon was declared the team champion, beating Villanova 86-88. UTEP was third. The championship trophy was awarded to Bill Dellinger and his Ducks, the top teams stood atop the podium, and the press conference was held. Oregon departed for the airport, trophy in hand, believing it had won the championship.
However, when Les Nagy, Villanova’s 5th finisher, look at the results board, he noticed that several runners he knew he had beaten were listed ahead of him in the list. Nagy claimed that after having crossed the finish line he had fallen to the ground, and several runners had passed him in the finish chute prior to the runners having gotten their place cards. Villanova filed a protest of the results and refused to leave the site until the 8mm film of the finish line was reviewed. Sure enough, Nagy was correct. After reviewing the film, Nagy was awarded 62nd place overall, instead of 67th.
Villanova was declared the team champion 85-86 over Oregon.
Editor’s Note: Due to the graciousness of Jeff Johnson, John Goegel and others, we are carrying over a series begun during the track season on our sister site, newhampshiretrackandfield.com . For those of you that don’t know, Jeff Johnson was employee #1 of Nike. He actually is the one responsible for naming the company. Fortunately for us, he was also a world class photographer of our great sports in the 1960s and 1970s during which he captured thousands of sports photographs. We are honored and thankful for their choice to use our sites as their medium for sharing their passion. We hope our presentations can do them justice!
Photos by Jeff Johnson
Quotes by Jeff Johnson from his work in progress: “In Other Words: Things I Think I Said When I Was Trying To Think Of Something To Say.”
If you are interested in a poster version of a photo from this series, they are available for a small charge. Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org