The legacy of Prefontaine lives on in 'Pre's People' documentary

A Coos Bay man who grew up admiring Steve Prefontaine is letting his legacy live on through a documentary called "Pre's People." Photo courtesy Pirate Films

Watch #LiveonKMTR Wednesday, May 25 at 6:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. for Anthony Kustura's full story.

EUGENE, Ore. - A documentary about track and field legend Steve Prefontaine was born inside a garage.

"There's a chapter of Pre's life that hasn't been told yet and I'm out to tell that story," said Brad Jenkins, the biographer.

But Jay Farr helped write in that chapter with "Pre" in Coos Bay decades ago.

"I was lucky enough, I guess, to have possession of my dad's mechanical stop watch," Farr said.

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Prefontaine and Farr were neighbors.

"So there were races between telephone poles and records to keep and to break, and Steve was part of that," Farr said.

Bob Huggins was two grades ahead of the track star, but his brothers were on the same team as Prefontaine growing up.

"Once he realized his talents, I think he thought he could do just about anything on track and field and he just about could," Huggins said.

So while Farr, Huggins, and all their friends maintained their social circle, 12-year-old Jenkins was from a distance with his own friends.

"So my dad took me to the track meet and here comes Pre wearing these really cool red, Nike sweats, long hair, big 'ole sideburns and the place is going crazy," Jenkins said.

Jenkins remembers the day vividly.

It was May 9, 1975 when Prefontaine shattered the 2,000m record at Marshfield High School.

As a Coos Bay native himself, it created a lasting impression for Jenkins over the years. But what he remembers most about the running superstar is his humility.

"He hung out and signed autographs for all my little buddies, because we're all 10, 14 years old," Jenkins said. "I was awestruck; this guy was awesome, and he became a part of my life at that point."

Just three weeks later, Prefontaine died in a car crash.

"Even 35-40 years later, you know, those of us that knew him are still pretty emotional. It is still pretty raw," Jenkins said.

It brought an entire community to its knees in both pain and grief.

"The whole town was devastated, I remember the news got out that day and people were in shock. It was really tough for the city of Coos Bay," Jenkins said.

Overwhelmed, Jenkins moved on until he found an old promotional poster from the 1975 meet.

It brought back a flood of emotion and Jenkins decided to make 100 copies to pass out. While he did so, nearly every person shared their favorite memory of Steve Prefontaine.

"I love Pre's story. You know, for me, as a person that actually saw Pre run, and just that one race, that one time I saw him changed my life. It was like seeing a rock star for the first time," Jenkins said.

Those memories make him want to learn more about Prefontaine's people, friends, family and fans.

Jenkins kept his 9 to 5 job and added pseudo film producer to his resume. Several comrades helped with the production.

"Over the years it has been time consuming," Jenkins said.

The project turned out to be an expensive hobby, but it shares the true message of "Prefontaine."

"You can be from a little town and with not much opportunity, but if you train hard and dream big, big things can happen for you," Jenkins said.

Each person who knew the track star, or was impacted by his achievements, honors him differently.

For Jenkins, it comes packaged in a movie.

For Farr and Huggins it's running toward life's finish line in Prefontaine's memory.

"He lived a shorter life than it's been since he died, and he's still remembered and it's for some pretty special properties that we were foraged here," Farr said.

No matter where the chips fall, they say they are all "Pre's people."

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