Dick Buerkle is a 1976 Olympian in the 5,000m, former world record holder in the indoor mile and a 1993 NYAC Hall of Fame inductee.
Buerkle was born on September 3rd, 1947 in Rochester, New York.
When Buerkle graduated high school in 1966, his personal record in the mile was 4:28; as such, he didn’t receive scholarship offers from any top collegiate programs. Undeterred, Buerkle enrolled at Villanova University and walked onto the track and field team, determined to prove himself. Under the direction of legendary coach Jumbo Elliot, Buerkle became a three time All American in the two miles and earned a scholarship his senior season.
In 1974, Buerkle defeated Steve Prefontaine in the 2 miles race at the CYO meet in College Park, Maryland, breaking Prefontaine’s four year unbeaten streak. The two maintained a friendly rivalry until Prefontaine’s tragic death in 1975, which prompted Buerkle to write the poem “Ode to S. Roland” in his memory. The poem was published in the Oregon Register-Guard on May 31st, 1975, the day after Prefontaine’s death.
Buerkle qualified for the 1976 Olympic Games in the 5,000m but failed to advance past the heats. He also qualified for the Games in 1980 but didn’t compete as a result of the US boycott of those Games.
The apex of Buerkle’s career came in 1978. On January 14th of that year, at the CYO Invitational in College Park, Maryland, Buerkle broke the world indoor record in the mile with a time of 3:54.9. Only a few weeks later, he won the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games. He was rewarded with, among other things, an appearance on the cover of the February issue of Sports Illustrated, the headline of which read “New Master of the Mile.”
Buerkle retired from competition in 1981, and then began teaching Spanish at a high school outside of Atlanta. He and his wife, Jean, have three children.