By Matthew Royal, staff writer
Famed runner Jim Ryun visited Newman University on Oct. 19, as the Wichita-born Olympian inspired students from Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.
The event, held on the evening before the Heartland Conference Cross Country Championships, allowed sudent-athletes from various high schools and universities the opportunity to listen to the legend as he spoke.
“It was an absolute honor to have Jim Ryun come and speak at our school,” Sports Information Director Jesika Elmquist said. “It’s not every day that you get to meet a legendary Olympian, and he was a wonderful speaker. This was a great opportunity for the school and everyone who attended, and for that we should be very thankful to Head Coach Josh Schepis for making this happen.”
The lady runners finished second in the Heartland Conference Cross Country Championships on Saturday and the men placed first.
The weekend for the runners resulted in both teams progressing to Regionals, looking to continue their good form.
“Listening to Jim Ryun was truly a great experience,” sophomore Rubi Torres said. “I still can’t believe I was getting advice from an Olympic runner and record holder. Everyone in the conference room had his full attention and after listening to him speak I knew I was ready for the conference championship.”
Ryun, a Wichita East High School graduate and Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee, became the first high school student to break the four minute time for a mile, and remains the only high school junior ever to have done so.
Following his achievement, Ryun qualified for the 1500 in the 1964 Olympics as a senior.
Ryun still holds five of the six fastest mile times in U.S. high school history, and earned a silver medal in the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.
Ryun earned his medal running at high altitudes and finished with a time of 3:37.8. Ryun, after more than 40 years, still holds the American 19 and under records at the 880 yd., 800 m., the 1500 m. with a time of 3:36.1, and the two mile with a time 8:25.1.
The accomplishments achieved by Ryun was heard by runners and coaches from different high schools and universities. Among the coaches present at the event were Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mark Potter and his entire team of athletes.
The speech was not limited to college-level athletes. Runners from East High School were present at the event, supporting their famous alumnus.
These runners stayed until the end, asking Ryun for his advice which he seemed glad to offer.
Other students from East were taking pictures with the Olympian, getting books signed, as well as T-shirts, flyers and even the odd running shoe. The event concluded with grateful student-athletes shaking hands with Ryun.