Ken Swenson
Personal information
BornApril 18, 1948
Clay Center, Kansas[1]
Medal record
Men's Athletics
Representing the  United States
Pan American Games
Gold medal – first place 1971 Cali 800 metres

Kenneth Lloyd Swenson (born April 18, 1948 in Clay Center, Kansas) is a retired middle-distance runner from the United States. Swenson was the world leader at 800 meters in 1970 and competed in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.


As a senior at Kansas State University, Swenson won the 880 yards in 1:46.3 at the 1970 NCAA outdoor championships.[2] He also won at that year's national (AAU) championships, narrowly defeating Mark Winzenried as both were timed in 1:47.4.[3][4] Swenson set his personal best for 800 meters, 1:44.8, on July 16, 1970 in Stuttgart in a dual meet between the United States and West Germany; the time was the fastest in the world that year and a new American record for the metric distance.[5][6][note 1] Track & Field News ranked Swenson the world's second-best half-miler that year, behind Yevgeniy Arzhanov of the Soviet Union.[8]

In 1971 Swenson only placed third in the AAU outdoor meet (behind Juris Luzins and Jamaica's Byron Dyce); however, he won gold at the Pan American Games in Cali, running 1:48.08.[3][6] At the 1972 Olympic Trials Swenson ran 1:45.1, his best time since 1970; he lost to Dave Wottle (who equaled the world record of 1:44.3) and Rick Wohlhuter, but took the third and final Olympic qualifying spot ahead of early leader Jim Ryun.[6][9] At the Olympics in Munich Swenson qualified from his heat, but was disqualified in the semi-finals.[1]

Swenson continued his career for several more years; in March 1975 he joined the International Track Association (ITA), a professional circuit.[10][note 2] Swenson set his personal best for the mile run, 3:59.1, in an ITA meet on May 3, 1975; he was the 75th American to run a four-minute mile.[11]


  1. ^ The previous record was Jim Ryun's 1:44.9 from 1966. Ryun's time had been set at 880 yards (804.672 m), and was worth about 1:44.3 for 800 m.[7]
  2. ^ At the time, track and field was primarily an amateur sport, and most athletes only received under-the-table money. Professional athletes were not allowed to compete in the Olympics or other amateur meetings.


  1. ^ a b "Ken Swenson Bio, Stats and Results". Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on April 18, 2020. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  2. ^ Hill, E. Garry. "A History of the NCAA Championships" (PDF). Track & Field News. Retrieved July 6, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b Mallon, Bill; Buchanan, Ian; Track & Field News. "A History Of The Results Of The National Track & Field Championships Of The USA From 1876 Through 2011". Track & Field News. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  4. ^ "UW's Winzenried Loses By Eyelash". Sheboygan Press. June 29, 1970. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  5. ^ "Winzenried Takes 4th, Sets Pace for Record". The Milwaukee Journal. July 17, 1970. Archived from the original on October 27, 2018. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c "Ken Swenson". Track and Field Statistics. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  7. ^ "USA Records Progression". Track and Field Statistics. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  8. ^ "World Rankings — Men's 800" (PDF). Track & Field News. Retrieved July 6, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Hymans, Richard. "The History of the United States Olympic Trials – Track & Field". USA Track & Field; Track & Field News. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 6, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  10. ^ "Ken Swenson Turns Pro". Mansfield News Journal. March 27, 1975. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  11. ^ "Chronological Listing of U.S. Milers Who Have Broken 4:00 in the Mile". Track & Field News. June 9, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.