The South Eugene Axemen were once considered the best high-school track-and-field program in the country. Many of their national high-school records from the ’70’s and ’80’s have never been broken. This is the biography of a sports program, spanning decades and told through the lives and memories of many athletes and coaches. This tradition now provides an inspiration to a group of current South athletes working to recapture the spirit of a former dynasty.
I am uniquely positioned to write this full history of the Axemen track program. I was a co-team captain for the 1978 season and was a member of a national relay record team for South. Through extensive interviews and research, including rare photos and first hand accounts, a story of past seasons of excellence will come alive.
The story begins with the emergence of Eugene as "Track Town U.S.A.", and follows the Axemen program through a lineage of coaching. After the departure of Harry Johnson, the most successful coach in Oregon high-school history — who was hired in 1977 to coach NIKE’s first elite squad — the program is led for the next four decades by a succession of Harry’s former athletes. An unmatched history of championships and records accumulates as the new Axemen teams of the ’80’s strive to better the successes of earlier teams. Along the way the Axemen suffer many off-the-field challenges, not the least of which is the sudden death of Johnson’s predecessor on the eve of the 1970 state meet. At times memoir is woven through the history. I met my own challenges during my senior year with the death of my father and the Axemen’s only championship loss that decade. Through the years the whole Axemen community is stunned by the untimely deaths of a series of past teammates.
Today, a group of South Eugene runners find inspiration from their school’s deep tradition and are attempting to write their own chapter in this unfolding legacy. I have worked with and have interviewed several members of the current group of South athletes. Their stories are the fulfillment of a legacy that comes from a time before they were born. My narrative will end after the completion of the 2014-2015 season.
This book project, undertaken in full cooperation with all past and present South Eugene coaches and athletes, has been in development for three years. The plan is to publish a book that is worthy of this venerated program and reflects the respect that all past Axemen have for the history we have shared—a beautifully designed hardcover book with more than fifty photographs. Now it needs your extra support to bring it to completion. With the funds raised I will continue to travel for interviews and research, do photo archive restoration, take time to finish writing the book, and have the book edited, designed, printed, and distributed. Thank you for supporting this work.