Gearhart’s Jim Grelle, a former University of Oregon track star and Olympian who helped lay the foundation for the Ducks’ middle-distance legacy, died on Saturday at age 83.
Grelle, who was teammates with Phil Knight and coached by Bill Bowerman, was the NCAA mile champion as a senior in 1959 — and the runner-up in 1957 and 1958 — and finished eighth in the 1,500 at the 1960 Summer Games in Rome.
In 1962, during a race at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, California, Grelle became the fourth American to run a sub-4 minute mile when he finished in 3:59.9. That also made him just the second runner with Oregon ties to break the four-minute barrier.
Grelle famously missed his chance to make the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo when 17-year-old high schooler Jim Ryun edged him by an inch at the Olympic Trials for the third and final spot on the U.S. team.
Among Grelle’s other notable accomplishments were winning a gold medal in the 1,500 at the 1963 Pan American Games, and earning the Pan Am silver medal in 1959.
Grelle, who was a state champion for Portland’s Lincoln High, also set the American two-mile record in 1963 (8:25.2) and held the American mile record (3:55.4) for nine days in 1965 until it was broken by Ryun.
Grelle was inducted into the Oregon Ducks Hall of Fame in 1994, the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Mt. SAC Relays Hall of Fame in 1991.