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Legendary UO athletes reflect on accomplishments at Sub 4 Reunion

Legendary University of Oregon track athletes met at the Sub 4 Reunion Friday night. SBG photo

EUGENE, Ore. - It's been more than 60 years since Roger Bannister made history by becoming the first person to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. It was a moment that inspired many athletes to strive for better times in their races.

Nine of the 10 surviving members of the Oregon track team that broke the 4 minute mile barrier under legendary Coach Bill Bowerman, gathered at the Jaqua Center for the "Sub 4 Reunion" Friday.

"When I lived in this country, I understood how important a 4 minute mile was. Then I knew all that year that I would break it," said Arne Kvalheim who ran a mile in 03:56.4 in 1968.

Steve Savage is the youngest in the group. He only ran a sub 4 minute mile once in 1970, but he still remembers the feeling.

"Some races you feel like you have wings on your feet and other times you feel like you have cement boots, and I had wings on my feet that day," Savage said. He ran his mile in 03:59.2 on June 5, 1970.

Dave Wilborn said he chose to go to college at Oregon for a reason.

"I came here to Oregon because of Grelle and because of Bailey and because of San Romani and because of Archie, guys that came ahead, before me; it's just a great tradition," Wilborn said. He ran a mile in 03:56.2 on June 23, 1967.

Jim Bailey started the tradition. He was the first member of the Oregon track team to break a sub 4 mile while Bowerman coached. Even now, Bailey can't believe how popular the sport has become.

"Track wasn't a big deal. The football players were the heroes and what else? The basketball players. But track wasn't a major sport. I never - I never imagined that it would ever gain this status," Bailey said. He ran 03:58.6 on May 5, 1956.

At 86 years old, Jim bailey not only broke the 4 minute barrier in the mile; he was the first to do it on American soil.

The Sub 4 Reunion was hosted by the Oregon Track Club before the start of the Prefontaine Classic. In honor of the runners, Hop Valley Brewing Company released a special "Sub 4 Ale."

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