Some notes on Gerry Lindgren ...by John Molvar

Starting in his freshman year '61-'62 he began running megamileage. By his junior year he was running 150 miles a week consistently. He even had a 250 mile week which is considered the highest ever by a serious runner. When Dave McGilverly did his run from Florida to Fenway park (1983?) he came close to 250 one week. The highest 2 week total ever is 420 by Gary Bjorkland in March of '76. Gary, in the Olympic Trials 10,000 lost his shoe with 3 laps to go but still outkicked Bill Rodgers for the 3rd and final spot on the team. Frank Shorter won. When Lindgren was a junior in HS ('64) he ran 8.40 and 4.01. A month later he ran the still standing 13.44 5000 to make the Olympics behind current Oregon Coach Bill Dellinger. He finished in the top 10 at the games. (Bob Schul won the event, Dellinger was third , Billy Mills won the 10k in 64 but that's another story) He is still considered the greatest HS XC runner ever, not just with respect to his competitors but on an absolute basis. Meaning no HS runner from any era could have beaten him in an xc race. I estimate he could have run about 14.20 on the Footlocker course compared to Mohamed's 15.20 and Reina's record of 14.36. His 13.44 is still the 5th greatest perfomance ever by a HS distance runner:

5 Greatest High School performances of all time

Lindgren went on to WSU and was a 6 time NCAA champion ( Wash. St. three-mile run 1966-67, 5,000-meter run 1968, six-mile run 1966-67, 10,000-meter run 1968) and ranked in the top 10 in the World in the 5000 almost every year from '64-'69. His PR was about 13.30. (It's tough to improve when you ran as much as he did in HS). The highlight of his career was the summer after he graduated from HS when he took on Olympic Champion Billy Mills in the US Championship 6 mile in June of 1965. Just before he died in 1985 the editor and founder or T&F News, Bert Nelson, called this race the greatest race of all time. Mills and the prodigy tore up the track, lap after lap at sub WR pace. The lead changed 15 times in the first 23 of 24 laps and 4 times in the final lap, ending in a photo finish with Mills winning in a WR time which was superior to his 10K WR he set winning the Olympics the year before. Mills retired soon afterwards. In the fall of 1969, 5th year senior Lindgren ran into true freshman Prefontaine in the Pac 8 XC meet. The current editor of T&F News, Gary Hill says this was the greatest race he ever saw with Pre winning by one step. Lindgren came back to get him in the NCAAs. Soon after graduating Lindgren became scizophrenic and abrubtly left the running scene forever. He was "sighted" homeless in Hawaii in 1985. This should be a movie! The problem of course is that he had no charisma like Pre.

From: Joel Truesdell 4-14-97 "Gerry Lindgren is alive and well in Hawai`i where he works as a running coach and frequently runs races."

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Date: Thu, 21 May 1998 16:37:10 -0400 (EDT)
From: Dave Johnson 
Subject: t-and-f: Gerry Lindgren's college career

On May 18, MICHAEL J SCHLATER wrote:

>I read somewhere the other night that Gerry Lindgren was the 1969
>NCAA cross-country champion.  I believe he was a 1964 high school
>graduate.  If so, did he take one or two years off before going to
>college?  Did he redshirt?  Did he go on a mission?  What's the scoop
>here?
>
>Also what happened to Gerry in 1968?  Did he make the Olympic team?
>
>In my opinion, he (like Jim Ryun) was an unbelievably talented high
>school runner that never came close to fulfilling his potential
>afterward.  I still view his 8:40 indoor 2-mile high school record as
>equally incredible as Ryun's outdoor sub-4 miles.

- --------------------------

Lindgren didn't start college at Washington State until after the cross
country season of 1964 because he was running in the Tokyo Olympics that
October.  When he did start college comptition in the spring of '65,
athletes were allowed only three years of eligibility, but that changed in
1967-68, when freshman eligibility was put in place.  Lindgren thus had
only three tries at various titles in his sophomore, junior and senior
years; he won 11 NCAA championships, and lost only once.

He won outdoor 3M/6M doubles in 1966 and '67, and a 5K/10K double in the
'68 Olympic year.  He won the indoor 2M in '66 and '67, then finished 2nd
to Jim Ryun in the '68 2M when Ryun won a M/2M double.  In cross country,
he won the NCAA in '66, '67 and '69.

Lindgren redshirted the '68 cross country season in anticipation of running
the '68 Olympics.  However, he didn't make the '68 team, finishing 5th in
the 10,000 and 4th in the 5000 at the Olympic Trials at Echo Summit.

In his last collegiate race, the '69 cross country race at Van Cortlandt
Park, Lindgren beat Mike Ryan of Air Force (the defending champ who had won
in Lindgren's absence), who finished second, and freshman Steve
Prefontaine, who finished third with his only NCAA loss.

As for Lindgren's potential:  Following his '65 freshman year he ran
27:11.6 for 6M, finishing one-tenth behind Billy Mills; both shared the
World Record, when it was faster than the existing 10K WR based on
conversions.  It was his only Collegiate Record at the distance.  At 10K,
he twice set CRs, getting down to 28:40.2 in '67.  At 3M, he set a pair of
CRs, with a best of 12:53.0 in '66.  This mark was only 0.6 seconds short
of Ron Clarke's 3M WR, and at a time when both were faster than Kip Keino's
WR 13:24.2 for 5K, and inferior performance on conversion.  The 12:53.0 was
faster than Prefontaine ever ran as a collegian, even considering
conversions.  In the 5K, he set a pair of CRs, with a best of 13:33.8 in
'68.  And throw a 3000 CR of 7:58.0 in '65 on top of that.

In other words, Lindgren was 0.1 short of the best 6M/10K ever run (and
based on rounding rules of the day was the =WR holder) and 0.6 short of the
fastest 3M/5K ever run.  He was second-fastest ever in world history at
different times during his collegiate career, a feat bettered among
collegians by Henry Rono (who held set both WRs in 1978).  And no American
has ever been so high on both lists.

Did he fulfill his potential?  Who does, and how do we know?  However you I
think you can make a pretty good case for Lindgren running very well.

But throw in the overtones of some of the things he accomplished:  beating
the Soviets in the US-USSR dual in the 10K as a high school kid when the
U.S. had next to no reputation in the event; standing up to the NCAA by
running in the AAU meet at the height of the NCAA-AAU feud and setting a WR
in the 6M (the NCAA had threatened loss of eligibility and his scholarship
if he ran, and he had yet to run a varsity race at the time); running in
the early-70's with stomach ulcers when the U.S. Army hounded him at the
height of the Viet Nam war to join the U.S. Army track team (he didn't
join).

As for his high school indoor 8:40.0:  That's only the tip of the iceberg.
Consider that in June of his senior year of high school he ran 13:44.0 in
the 5000.  In August that year he ran a one meet double of 4:01.5 (August
13 '64) and 13:17.0 for the 3M (August 15 '64).  Whether you want to use
the 5K (slightly faster on conversion) or the 3M, if you average the 3m/5K
pace with the Mile pace, you find him capable of running a Two-mile in
8:26.6 to 8:27.2 in mid-August '64.  The WR at the time was held by Michel
Jazy at 8:29.6 from 1963, the year Jazy set the WR in the mile.  In '64
Jazy finished fourth in the OG 5K behind Schul, Harald Norpoth and Bill
Dellinger, and ahead of Keino.

How many high school middle distance or distance runners ever had WR
ability while still high school athletes?  Can you say Ted Meredith
(800/880 in 1912) and Lindgren?  Not Ryun, nor any of the other greats who
seem to be mentioned on this site.


Dave Johnson
davidsj@pobox.upenn.edu