Steve Prefontaine

International Track Star - Running Legend

2014 Wyatt Cunningham
North Bend High School
Southern Oregon University

Fight for your Gift

An Essay by Wyatt Cunningham

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." - Steve Prefontaine

Growing up in the home of two All-American high jumpers planted the seed of my passion for track and field. The stories they told me of their track experiences taught me competitiveness, work ethic, and respect for the sport and its history. During my freshman year I immersed myself in the history of track and field. I was inspired by the brilliant athletes who came before me: Jesse Owens for breaking down racial barriers by winning four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Dick Fosberry for defying social norms to achieve his dreams, and Steve Prefontaine for becoming a hometown legend through his intense work ethic. His inspiration touched my life as a ten year old running the memorial kid's Pre, and as a high school athlete competing at the prestigious high school meet held annually in May. One of Pre's quotes sums up how he lived and competed each day, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." I've based my academic and athletic endeavors upon this belief and the older I've become the more Pre's quote has shown true to my life.

As I've gained wisdom throughout high school, I've experienced first hand the importance of hard work. In school it has become a point of emphasis to take advantage of dual credit courses offered by my high school through SWOCC. With the work I've put into those classes I will graduate high school with 60 college credits. On the track my greatest trial was when I experienced a "Sophomore Slump". Freshman year was very successful, but my sophomore year was plagued with injuries and unsatisfying marks. I had a decision to make; I could give up and let the negativity take over or I could fight through the tough season and work even harder to get back to the success I strived for. I knew that I had to step up and put forth my best effort to get back on my feet. I got healthy in time for districts and qualified for state; where I eventually went on to win my first state title. Pre's influence that taught me that if you give less than your best, the potential to be great will never be realized. Pre set the bar high for athletes in our area; he showed this small community that hard work and dedication can make anyone's dreams come true no matter what their background is.