Tracy Smith
Personal information
Born (1945-03-15) March 15, 1945 (age 79)
Altadena, California, U.S.
Height5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight160 lb (73 kg)
SportTrack, Distance
RankNo. 1 U.S. 10,000 meters, 1966, Track & Field News

No. 1 U.S. 10,000 meters, 1968, Track & Field News

No. 1 U.S. 5,000 meters, 1969, Track & Field News
College teamOregon State University
ClubU.S. Army Track Club, Athletes in Action
Achievements and titles
Olympic finalsRepresenting the United States, 1968 Mexico City, 10,000 meters, 11th Place
National finalsNCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, 3-mile, 6th (1965)

NCAA Cross-Country Championships, 6-mile, 2nd (1966)

AAU Indoor 3-Mile Champion (1966, 1967, 1973)

AAU Outdoor 6-Mile Champion (1966)

AAU Outdoor 10,000 Meter Champion (1968)

AAU Outdoor 3-Mile Champion (1969)
Personal bestMile: 4:03.8 (1967)

1,500 m: 3:43.6 (1972)

2 mi: 8:29.4 (1975)

3,000 m: 7:55 (1968)

3 mi (Indoor): 13:07.2 (1973)

5,000 m: 13:39 (1972)

6 mi: 28:02 (1966)

10,000 m: 28:47 (1968)
Medal record

Bronze, Representing the United States, 1966 International Cross Country Championships, Rabat, Morocco

Tracy Evans Smith (born March 15, 1945, in Altadena, California) is a former American distance runner. He was a member of the 1968 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team, competing in the 10,000 meters.[1] He was ranked multiple times by Track & Field News as the No. 1 U.S. 5,000- and 10,000-meter runner in the mid- to late 1960s, and was a six-time AAU National Champion from 1966 to 1973, winning outdoors in the 3-mile, 6-mile and 10,000 meters, and three times in the indoor 3-mile. He was a three-time world record holder in the indoor 3-mile.

High school and college

Smith was a champion miler in high school, winning the California State Meet at Edwards Stadium, Berkeley, June 1, 1963, in 4:14.4[2]  for Arcadia High. He was also the nation's fastest prep two-miler that year, ahead of Jim Ryun, with a national-prep-record time of 9:11.6,[3] and was the fourth-fastest miler, nationally, in 1963, with a time of 4:12.6.[4]

On July 4, 1963, University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman hosted an all-star high school mile race at Hayward Field, Eugene, OR, that was intended to pit Tracy Smith, the California state champion miler, against Dave Wilborn, Oregon’s state champion miler. But the race evolved into a wild duel between Smith and a then relatively unknown 17-year-old miler from Spokane, WA, Gerry Lindgren. Over the final half mile, Smith would repeatedly surge into the lead only to be countered by Lindgren each time. In a sprint to the finish, Smith made a desperate dive, while Lindgren leaned at the tape for a narrow win in 4:12.9.[5] That race marked the beginning of a decade-long duel between two men who would become the best distance runners of their era.

Smith graduated from Arcadia High in 1963 and attended Oregon State University,[6] finishing sixth in the 3-mile at the 1965 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The following season, he finished second to rival Lindgren, now of Washington State University, over a six-mile course in 29:11,[7] at the 1966 NCAA Cross Country Championships, at Lawrence, KS, Nov. 21, 1966. He would withdraw from Oregon St. after the fall cross-country season because he found the coaches’ training regimen stifling. He would later earn his degree in 1973 from Long Beach State University, where he briefly coached the men’s cross-country team.[8]

Smith burst onto the international running scene March 20, 1966, becoming the first American to ever medal in the International Cross Country Championships, finishing third that year on the 7.5-mile course at Rabat, Morocco, with a time of 36:32.2,[9] behind gold medalist Ben Assou El Ghazi of Morocco and silver medalist Derek Graham of Ireland.

World records and AAU Championships

Smith was a three-time world record holder in the indoor 3-mile, first breaking the mark at the AAU Indoor Championships March 4, 1967, Oakland, CA, with a time of 13:16.2.[10] He bettered his own indoor 3-mile world record, turning in a time of 13:15,[11] March 1, 1968, at the Maple Leaf Games, Toronto. On Feb. 24, 1973, Smith, having come back from what many thought was a career-ending Achilles injury, and what he has often described as the highlight of his running career, thrilled a crowd of over 15,000 to once again break the world indoor 3-mile record at the AAU Indoor Championships at New York's Madison Square Garden in a time of 13:07.2.[12]

Smith was the AAU Indoor Track and Field Champion in the 3-mile in 1966, 1967 and 1973.[13] He was the AAU Outdoor Track and Field Champion in the 6-mile in 1966,[14] the 10,000-meters in 1968,[15] and the 3-mile in 1969.[16] He was the Track & Field News No. 1-ranked U.S. 5,000-meter runner in 1969,[17] and its No.1-ranked U.S. 10,000-meter runner in 1966 and 1968.[18]


On June 30, 1968, Smith ran the 10,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials prior to the Mexico City Games. In order to simulate the altitude of Mexico City, the 1968 Trials were held on a temporary, synthetic Tartan track, one of the first ever installed, amid granite boulders and 100-foot-high ponderosa pines (even in the track’s infield) at Echo Summit, CA, in the Sierra Nevada, south of Lake Tahoe.[19] At an altitude of 7,377 feet—nearly a mile-and-a-half high and 28-feet higher than the upcoming Mexico City Olympic venue—the 1968 Trials were the highest-altitude, world-class track meet ever staged in the U.S.[20] The thin oxygen at such an altitude presented significant problems for the Olympic hopefuls, especially distance runners in the 10,000-meter race. Smith ran most of the race in the lead, trying to press the pace. He faded badly, however, with just over a lap remaining before gathering himself for a sprint over the final 200 meters to win, notably, over 1964 Tokyo Olympics 10,000-meter gold medalist Billy Mills in a time of 30:00.4.[21] Smith would go on to finish 11th in the 1968 Olympics with a time of 30:14.6.[22]

Smith, in a bid to make his second U.S. Olympic team, competed in the 5,000 meters on July 9, 1972, at the U.S. Olympic Trials, at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field in Eugene. Smith challenged hometown favorite Steve Prefontaine for most of the race until Prefontaine pulled away in dramatic fashion, setting an American record that would stand for 40 years with a time of 13:22.8.[23] Smith finished fifth with a time of 13:44.8,[24] failing by four seconds to qualify for his second Olympics.

International Track Association

From 1974 until its demise in 1976, Smith was a founding member of the upstart International Track Association, an organization that attempted to introduce professionalism to the sport by paying its athletes to compete in a series of track and field meets in a format similar to professional golf and tennis. This flew in the face of the AAU and the International Olympic Committee, which greeted the ITA with outright hostility, clinging to the timeworn Olympic credo that track and field athletes should be unpaid amateurs. The AAU immediately banned all ITA athletes and officials from participating in AAU-sanctioned meets. Likewise, ITA athletes received lifetime bans from Olympic participation. The AAU also pressured television networks from broadcasting ITA events. In addition to Smith, a number of world-class track and field stars had joined the ITA, including Bob Seagren, Lee Evans, Jim Ryun, Brian Oldfield, Kip Keino, Ben Jipcho and Marty Liquori. The ITA managed to stage over 51 meets during its existence, but its demise came shortly after the 1976 Montreal Olympics when most track and field athletes, intimidated by the AAU and the IOC, shied away from the ITA for fear of hurting their amateur status.[25]

High school coaching

Smith retired from international racing in the mid-'70s and settled in Bishop, CA, where he taught school and was an assistant track coach in charge of the boys and girls distance runners at Bishop Union High School. He helped mold the Bishop track teams into a regional powerhouse that won several team and individual Desert-Inyo League and CIF Southern Section Championships.[26] Smith, a disciple of his 1968 Olympic coach Mihály Iglói, was an advocate of the intense interval-style training method that Iglói had introduced to the track world in the ‘60s,[27] and deployed these methods with great success to train his high school runners.

In 1994, he moved his family to Bend, OR, where he served as head coach of the Crook County High School (Prineville, OR) cross country and track teams, as well as a special education teacher.[28] In 2017, he coached the Crook County High School boys cross-country team to the 4A state championship, the school’s first such title in 41 years. Smith was ecstatic for his runners after the team’s win, telling The Bulletin (Bend, OR), “Oh, my gosh. What a great feeling. I haven’t had a feeling like this since running in my younger days. I had a pretty good feeling with individual titles every now and then, but whoa. This is amazing.”[29]

Smith has since retired, but has continued his lifelong love of running.


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  3. ^ "1963 Track & Field News - Top Marks List - Jan '64 issue". Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  4. ^ "1963 Track & Field News - Top Marks List - Jan '64 issue". Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  5. ^ Robinson, Roger (2013-02-08). "American Legends". Runner's World. Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  6. ^ "1966 Oregon State University Cross Country Medi... | Oregon State University Sports Media Guides | Oregon Digital". Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  7. ^ "NCAA DI Cross Country Championships - Complete Results". MileSplit United States. Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  8. ^ "Every Coach and Its Team's Accomplishments". Long Beach State University Athletics. Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  9. ^ Athletics - Scotland Sixth in International - Murray's Poor Performance - What heartbreak there was in the Scottish camp here this afternoon when we again finished sixth in the International Cross-country Union championships although with an improvement in pointage of 102 over last year..., Glasgow Herald, March 21, 1966, p. 4, retrieved October 3, 2013
  10. ^ "Track Stats - W/I/M". Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  11. ^ "SMITH SHATTERS 3-MILE RUN MARK; Tops His World Record in 13:15 in Toronto Meet". Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  12. ^ Amdur, Neil (1973-02-24). "Tracy Smith Sets Three‐Mile Mark". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  13. ^ "USATF - Statistics - USA Indoor Track & Field Champions". Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  14. ^ "USA Track & Field - USA Outdoor Track & Field Champions". Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  15. ^ "USA Track & Field - USA Outdoor Track & Field Champions". Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  16. ^ "USA Track & Field - USA Outdoor Track & Field Champions". Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  17. ^ "U.S. Rankings -- Men's 5000, Track & Field News" (PDF). April 13, 2019.
  18. ^ "U.S. Rankings -- Men's 10,000, Track & Field News" (PDF). April 13, 2019.
  19. ^ Burns, Bob (2018-10-02). Track in the Forest: The Creation of a Legendary 1968 US Olympic Team. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781641600804.
  20. ^ Burns, Bob (2018-10-02). Track in the Forest: The Creation of a Legendary 1968 US Olympic Team. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781641600804.
  21. ^ "Track and Field Statistics". Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  22. ^ "Athletics at the 1968 Summer Olympics – Men's 10,000 metres", Wikipedia, 2019-03-01, retrieved 2019-04-13
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  24. ^ "Track and Field Statistics". Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  25. ^ "International Track Association", Wikipedia, 2019-04-06, retrieved 2019-04-13
  26. ^ "CIF Southern Section, Monthly Bulletin, Vol. 41, Sept. 1977" (PDF). April 13, 2019.
  27. ^ Elliott, Rich (2014-01-27). "How Hungarians Launched America's Greatest Track Era". Runner's World. Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  28. ^ Scholz, Holly (August 25, 2017). "The heart of a champion: Long-distance Olympian runner Tracy Smith puts his whole heart into coaching local students". Central Oregonian.
  29. ^ Lucas, Grant (2017-11-05). "Crook County boys win first state cross-country title since 1976". The Bulletin. Retrieved 2019-04-13.