09 May, 2017

Joan Benoit Samuelson the Star of a Special Night at Pre Classic

  • Joan Benoit Samuelson - PhotoRun.net

Joan Benoit Samuelson earned ever-lasting fame as the first Olympic gold medalist in the women’s marathon. The Prefontaine Classic will recognize her historic running accomplishments and pioneering spirit with a night of incredible talent on Friday, May 26th.

May 2, 2017
For Immediate Release 

Joan Benoit Samuelson the Star of a Special Night at Pre Classic

(The 43rd Prefontaine Classic, a member of the IAAF Diamond League of elite international track & field meets, will be held May 26-27, 2017 at historic Hayward Field.)

 
            Eugene, Oregon – Joan Benoit Samuelson earned ever-lasting fame as the first Olympic gold medalist in the women’s marathon.  The Prefontaine Classic will recognize her historic running accomplishments and pioneering spirit with a night of incredible talent on Friday, May 26th.

            Joan Benoit Samuelson Night is a tribute to a special athlete who broke barriers and remains an inspiration for women runners, especially in the U.S.  Joan will be in attendance at Hayward Field to witness the events held in her name.
 
            These include elite international and national fields on a night dedicated to women in track & field:

  • High School Girls 200
  • Women’s 800 (National)
  • Women’s 1500 (National)
  • Women’s Steeplechase
  • Women’s 5000
  • Women’s Long Jump (IAAF Diamond League)
  • Women’s Javelin (IAAF Diamond League)

           All of Friday’s portion of the Prefontaine Classic is again free, thanks to longtime sponsor, NIKE. 
 
            Samuelson was known as Joan Benoit when her career found barrier-breaking success in August 1976.  After a freshman year at Bowdoin College, she won the Falmouth Road Race 7-miler in a meet record by over a minute.  The men’s winner was marathoner Frank Shorter, whose Olympic gold medal win in Munich inspired the creation of the race, soon to become the most prestigious road event in New England outside of the Boston Marathon (Joan would eventually win it six times, the most by a woman).  A year later, Samuelson was the youngest competitor in the first U.S. women’s 10k track championship, finishing 6th.

            More barriers came down in 1979.  In her first competitive marathon, Samuelson famously wore a Red Sox baseball cap backwards and won the Boston Marathon with an American record by almost 3 minutes.  It was her senior year at Bowdoin and a month later she won the national collegiate 10k crown in record time, clear of anyone by over 40 seconds.

            She would dominate often for Athletics West, including a 2:26:11 American record at the Nike/Oregon Track Club Marathon in Eugene in September 1982.  Her second Boston victory in 1983 was jaw-dropping, winning by over 7 minutes with her first world best in 2:22:43.  Boston would not see a faster time until 28 years later.

            Still, Samuelson’s most magical miles were ahead of her.  She qualified for her only Olympic team in May 1984 just 17 days after arthroscopic knee surgery performed by renowned surgeon, Dr. Stan James.  On August 5, she entered the Los Angeles Coliseum to a thunderous roar, the first woman to win an Olympic distance longer than 3000 meters.  A year later she lowered her American record to 2:21:21, a mark that only two Americans have bettered in 30-plus years.

            Samuelson has continued involvement in the sport, even running a sub-2:50 marathon at age 50 in the 2008 Olympic Trials in Boston and participating in the Boston Marathon as recently as 2015.  (Joanie, who will turn 60 on May 16, has a stated goal to run a sub-3:00 marathon at age 60.)  Back in 1998, she founded the TD Beach to Beacon 10K as a way to give back to the sport.  Held on the first Saturday in August in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, it now attracts over 6000 runners and promotes and celebrates health, fitness and giving back.  It is one of the most popular races in the U.S., and the field fills up in a few minutes each year.  With the motto, “Shine the Light on Kids”, the race benefits a different children's charity each year.  The B2B will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017.

            The Prefontaine Classic is the longest-running outdoor invitational track & field meet in America and is part of the elite IAAF Diamond League of meets held worldwide annually.  The Pre Classic’s results score has rated No. 1 or No. 2 in the world in each of the last six years by All-Athletics.com, the official data partner of the Diamond League.

            Steve Prefontaine is a legend in the sport of track & field and is the most inspirational distance runner in American history.  He set a national high school 2-mile record (8:41.5) while at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, Oregon, that is the fastest ever in a National Federation-sanctioned race.  While competing for the University of Oregon, he won national cross country championships (3) and outdoor track 3-Mile/5000-meter championships (4), and never lost a collegiate track race at any distance.  As a collegiate junior, he made the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team and nearly won an Olympic medal, finishing 4th in the 5K at the 1972 Munich Olympics, at age 21.  After finishing college in 1973 and preparing for a return to the Olympics in 1976, he continued to improve, setting many American records.  His life ended tragically on May 30, 1975, the result of an auto accident, at age 24.  The Pre Classic began that year and has been held every year since.