Olympic legend and National Track & Field Hall of Famer Bill Mills will be the special guest of honor at the 2007 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships, USATF announced Friday. More than 3,000 athletes will compete at the event, to be held December 8 at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kansas.
The 1964 Olympic 10,000-meter champion and University of Kansas graduate, Mills will provide the young athletes attending the Junior Olympic Championships with an inspirational talk during the opening ceremonies. Mills will sign autographs and will be on-hand race day to support USATF's young athletes.
"We are truly honored to have Mr. Mills attending the Junior Olympics and hope the young athletes can learn from his wonderful life story," said USATF Missouri Valley President Gilbert Castillo, whose Association is hosting the Championships. "He's not just a national hero, he is a local legend who is greatly admired by a wide range of people."
"I look forward to returning to Lawrence where I have so many fond memories," Mills said. "I am honored to be around our wonderful young athletes as they fulfill their dreams."
Born in Pine Ridge, S.D., Mills is an Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Native American who was was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and orphaned at the age of 12. At the University of Kansas under Hall of Fame coach Bill Easton, he was an All-American in cross country in 1958 and 1959. After graduating from Kansas, he became a lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Considered a huge underdog, his win at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics has been called the greatest upset in Olympic history. His winning time of 28:24.4 was almost 50 seconds faster than he had ever run before and set an Olympic record for the event. He also placed 14th in the Olympic marathon.
The following year, Mills set a world six-mile record, running 27:11.6. Mills later became active in Native American affairs and in 1972 was named one of America's "Outstanding Young Men." He was inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1976 and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1984. He is the subject of the 1984 film Running Brave, starring Robby Benson.
Mills serves as the spokesperson for Running Strong for American Indian Youth, an organization that helps support projects that benefit the American Indian people.
For more information on the 2007 USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships, visit http://www.usatf.org/events/2007/USATFJuniorOlympicXCChampionships/
For more information on Billy Mills, visit http://www.usatf.org/HallOfFame/TF/showBio.asp?HOFIDs=110