Friday, February 21, 2014

Mike Ryan, Wilcox Class '65 RIP

Sad news passed along to me by Santa Cruz HS coach, Greg Brock about the passing of former Wilcox HS runner, Mike Ryan who passed away last night due to a cardiac arrest at a Bakersfield Hospital.  Brock raced Ryan a few times in his career and remembers him as an incredible talent.

Ryan had quite a resume when it came to running as he won the 1964 California state track and field meet as a junior in the mile, running 4:11.2.  As a senior, Ryan finished in 2nd place (4:09.5) in the mile behind a name that may be familiar to most of you, Tim Danielson (one of 5 US HSers to break the 4 minute mile).  Ryan didn't run the 2 mile at the state meet as it was first held in 1965 but he did run 8:57.8 on November 7th, 1964 in the National Postal Meet which was at the time an all-California best time.  According to his bio on the Santa Clara Unified School Hall of Fame page, Ryan was the first prep in history to run 2 miles in under 9 minutes.  With a little more digging, I was informed by Jack Shepard of Track and Field News that Ryan was in fact the 2nd prep to break 9:00 in the 2 miles.  Gerry Lindgren was the first with 2 efforts indoors and 3 efforts outdoors in 1964.  Ryan also ran on the Wilcox DMR team which produced the nation's leading time of 10:13.7 at the West Coast Relays.
Following high school, Ryan attended Stanford University for one year and then transferred to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.  He won the NCAA Cross Country title in 1968 (photo below) on the famed Van Cortland Park course with a then collegiate record 29:16.8.  He finished in 2nd place in 1969 behind Washington State University runner, Gerry Lindgren.  He competed in the West Valley Track Club briefly in the early 70s.  He has since lived in Bakersfield as a district attorney for many years.


Anonymous said...

He was possibly the last person EVER to beat Steve Prefontaine in a cross country race. Pre finished 3rd at the NCAA Nationals Lindgren won, and I don't think he ever was beat again. RIP Mike Ryan, seemed like a great runner.

Anonymous said...

Lindgren went to WSU, not UW.

Albert Caruana said...


Unknown said...

I'd be happier if someone else from our team commented, but Mike was one of my personal heroes at the time. I was second from the bottom myself.

Mike was good and helpful with other team members like me. He was helpful with others in many ways beyond the field too. And he was a recognized scholar with the California Scholastic Association. He was just plainly a good man who lived a life that counted.

I'm so sad he's gone, and glad he was here. --Gary Greene, Wilcox Class of 65

Anonymous said...

Mike wasn't a personal friend but simply a classmate. He was truly a nice guy. He didn't walk around with that "here I am I'm a super jock attitude". He was so intelligent and would take the time to help explain things simply. His expressions made me think he was always two or three steps beyond everyone else. Maybe he just was somewhere else. Ruth Fast
Happy trails Mike.

Lee Green said...

Wow. Five years late finding out about Mike's death. I was a year, and many racing steps, behind him at Wilcox. I ran track/cross country for my first 2 years. His parents had a sporting goods store in town. He was very careful of what he ate so he could get the most benefit from the food possible. He even used to bring Wheat Germ to school in order to supplement his diet. I remember him literally leaving everyone in the, usually distant, dust when he ran. He was a hero to the entire school but you would never know it talking with him: no BMOC for him, just a regular guy with incredible lung power and massive legs.

RIP, Mike.

Lee Green, Adrian C. Wilcox class of '66

Anonymous said...

Lee, Mike Ryan was not related to Ryan and Sons Sports in Santa Clara. Different family. Mike's Dad was a retired Air Force Captain.
I attended Wilcox the Fall after he graduated. We became wonderful friends. He was always receptive to my phone calls. He even once came out to NorCal and was willing to speak at a clinic I hosted for distance runner's.

PaulO said...

I saw Mike Ryan run the 8:57 at Stanford's Angel Field in 1964. He took off like a shot and never looked back - it was an amazing experience. I will never forget that race - just a great effort!

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