Spokane, WA—Billy Mills, whose come-from-behind victory in the 1964 Olympic 10,000 meters thrilled spectators and inspired a generation of American distance runners, will be in Spokane later this month for a talk at Spokane Falls Community College. Mills’ talk is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, November 17, at Building 15, Music Auditorium, on the SFCC campus.
Mills, of Oglala Sioux heritage, was virtually unknown to most Americans prior to the Tokyo Olympics. Born in 1938 and orphaned at age 12, he grew up on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Mills attended the University of Kansas on a track scholarship, and in 1961 he won the Big 8 Conference two-mile. After graduation he joined the Marine Corps, and in 1964 he qualified for the 10,000 meters in the U.S. Olympic Trials along with Gerry Lindgren, who had recently graduated from Spokane’s Rogers High School.
In the Olympic final, Mills shadowed race leader Ron Clarke of Australia and the rest of the pack through most of the 25 laps around the track. As he moved up in the final 400 he was jostled by another runner and nearly fell, but Mills recovered to unleash a stunning sprint that carried him to victory in an Olympic record of 28:24.4. He is still the only American to win a gold medal in the Olympic 10,000. Mills life story was featured in the 1983 movie “Running Brave,” which starred Robbie Benson.
Mills’ visit is a Native American Month Program sponsored by the Red Nations Student Association, SFCC Student Government, and Northern Quest Casino.
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