Jan. 25, 2013
For immediate release
(Last in a series highlighting the eight members of the Sacramento Running Association’s inaugural Hall of Fame class. Today: Billy Mills).
Billy Mills turned one of the greatest moments in Olympic history into a platform for helping and inspiring others.
Mills stunned the track world by surging past favorite Ron Clarke of Australia and Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia to win the gold medal in the 10,000 meters at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. His then Olympic record time of 28 minutes, 24.4 seconds was nearly 50 seconds faster than his previous best. Mills is the only American to win an Olympic gold medal at that distance; Galen Rupp claimed silver last year at the London Olympics.
The Fair Oaks resident is scheduled to be inducted into the Sacramento Running Association’s Hall of Fame at a dinner on Saturday night at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento.
He joins the inaugural Hall of Fame class of Rae Clark, Eileen Claugus, Chris Iwahashi, Helen Klein, Paul Reese, Dennis Rinde and Linda Somers Smith.
Mills, who grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for Oglala Lakota Sioux in South Dakota, has spent much of his time since then encouraging others to reach for their dreams.
“There are so many social issues in the world today,” Mills said. “The Olympic Games represent what I call the future of humankind. Global unity, through the beauty and character of global diversity.
Global unity through global diversity. We’re all related.”
As the national spokesperson for Running Strong for American Indian Youth, Mills has reached out to Native American youth hoping to help them avoid problems like diabetes and suicide.
Mills said he considered taking his own life as a young man before he heard a voice telling him, ‘No.’ After going on to win an Olympic gold medal, he’s happy to share his story with others.
“All I wanted to do was to become a voice for Native American children,” he said. “As the voice that said to me, ‘No.’ I just wanted to be that voice for a lot of young people who feel nobody cares.”
Mills earned the opportunity to be that voice with his stunning performance in Tokyo. After finishing second in the U.S. Olympic Trials, the Kansas All-American was not one of the medal favorites.
But he surged past favorites Clarke and Gammoudi in the final stretch to win the gold in what remains one of the biggest upsets in Olympic track and field history.
Mills recalls a critical moment in the race with two laps to go when Clarke turned around to see who was behind him.
“My whole inside of me was, ‘My, God, he’s worried,’” Mills said. “That just inspired me … He later said ‘I looked back and didn’t see any of the name runners in the world.’ My perception was he’s worried.
“My whole mentality was I can run with anybody in the world for six miles. … It gave me the strength to stay with him.”
When Mills had lunch with Gammoudi’s daughter during the London Olympics last year, she told him her father thought the race was his with 30 meters to go.
But this golden moment belonged to Mills.
Mills, who moved to the Sacramento area in 1973 with his wife Pat, said he was honored to be inducted into the SRA Hall of Fame.
“I was really thrilled,” he said. “It’s home. We fell in love with Sacramento and the weather, believe it or not, years ago.
“We moved up here to be closer to the ski resorts. We fell in love with the summer months.”
Tickets for the Hall of Fame dinner are $50. Group and table of 10 reservations are welcome and can be made at www.runsra.org.
The dinner, which begins at 6 p.m. and includes a no-host cocktail hour, will also feature the presentation of Annual Achievement Awards to the Sacramento area’s top runners in track, road racing, cross country and ultra running.
High school honorees include Trent Brendel, boys cross country athlete; Maggie Bell, girls cross country athlete; Bob King, boys cross country coach; John DuCray, girls cross country coach; Edixon Puglisi, boys track athlete; Madeleine Ankhelyi, girls track athlete; and Donene Vukovich, girls track coach.
Brendan Gregg will receive the men’s college track athlete of the year, with Deborah Maier earning the women’s track athlete honor. Other college honorees include Trevor Halsted, men’s cross country athlete; Sarah Sumpter, women’s cross country athlete; Rick Anderson, men’s cross country coach; and Drew Wartenberg, women’s cross country and track coach.
Olympian Kim Conley, the athlete of the year, heads the open division. Other honorees include German Fernandez, men’s track athlete; Lindsay Tollefson, women’s cross country, road racing and marathon athlete; Kevin Pool, men’s cross country and road racing athlete; Tim Tollefson, men’s marathon athlete; Jacob Rydman, men’s ultra athlete; and Rory Bosio, women’s ultra athlete.
Masters honorees include Marcelo Lerda, men’s cross country athlete; Karen Jeffers, women’s cross country athlete; Chris Knorzer, men’s road racing and marathon athlete; Midori Sperandeo, women’s road racing athlete; Mary Coordt, women’s marathon athlete; Rich Hanna, men’s ultra athlete; and Jennifer Pfeifer, women’s ultra athlete.
Seniors honorees include Kevin Ostenberg, men’s cross country athlete; Sara Freitas, women’s cross country athlete; Iain Mickle, men’s road racing athlete; Janice Kesterson, women’s road racing athlete; Jacob Nur, men’s marathon athlete; Rena Lantz, women’s marathon athlete; Lee McKinley, men’s ultra athlete; and Karen Bonnett, women’s ultra athlete.
The SRA will also honor several super seniors: Adam Ferreira, men’s cross country athlete; Yvonne Nickel, women’s road racing athlete; Mike Ammon, men’s road racing athlete; Richard Powers, men’s marathon athlete; Nancy March, women’s marathon athlete; Larry Cawthon, men’s ultra athlete; and Barbara Ashe, women’s ultra athlete.
Men’s cross country athlete Robert Seldner, men’s road racing athlete Ronald Gross and women’s road racing athlete Rusty Barnett are the veterans honorees.
The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners. SRA events include the Super Bowl Sunday 10k Run on Feb. 3, the Credit Union SACTOWN Ten-Mile Run on April 7, the Gold Rush 100k on May 11, the Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon on Oct. 27 and the California International Marathon on Dec. 8.
SRA beneficiaries include the American River Parkway, youth fitness programs, local running venues and aspiring young runners.