Our Stories

Thanks for a Great Run, Nick!

Willamette wants to thank Nick Symmonds '06 for a great run at the Beijing Olympics. A growing fan base from around the world cheered Symmonds on during the past year as he swept race after race, ultimately landing the top spot on the U.S. 800-meter Olympic team. If you've somehow missed the run that awed millions, you can watch it here (and re-watch, and re-watch).

Hundreds of newspapers, TV programs and bloggers have followed Symmonds' progress, tossing around words like "legend." Letsrun.com said Symmonds is so "raw and talented it's unreal," and Sports Illustrated reporter David Epstein said the event he was most looking forward to in Beijing was the men's 800 meters. "You don't have to be a track fan," he wrote, "you just have to be alive -- as in, if that race didn't get you excited, you better check your pulse." The local Statesman Journal added another clock to their newsroom, set 15 hours in advance to reflect Beijing time, so they could continue their Nick watch, and nearly 5,900 fans from around the world visited the guestbook at Nicksymmonds.com (link below).

Symmonds outran the competition in his preliminary round in Beijing while NBC Olympics announcer Bob Costas told TV viewers that Symmonds had told him Willamette was the place where "he learned how to run from the front to the back and everywhere in between, and how to weave through traffic." Costas even pronounced "Willamette" right.

Symmonds finished first in his preliminary race in Beijing, but went on to a fifth place finish in the semi-final. He articulated his feelings on The Final Sprint website (link below).

"It is August 24th and I have just finished packing my bags ... "
" ... When I went to find one more gear on the home stretch, I found nothing. I had seriously mistimed my kick ... I was frustrated. I was sad and disappointed, but I signed on to represent my country to the best of my abilities in victory or defeat. I began to storm off the track, but I heard my mom's voice in the back of my head, 'Win or lose, just be the first person across that line to shake your opponents hand.'"
" ... It's funny how this sport is sometimes. I was only 45 minutes removed from competing in my first Olympic Games and already I was looking toward the future and setting new goals for myself ... It is a goal that is four years in the future, and there are dozens of steps to get there, but life is all about the journey."

Symmonds will return to Eugene, Ore., to begin preparations for the 2009 season. "I would like to run 1:43 or faster before the season is over," says Symmonds, whose personal best is 1:44.10. He plans to compete next summer at the world championships in Berlin, and he has already set his sites on the 2012 Olympic Games. The biochemistry graduate eventually hopes to become a doctor like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

You can send best wishes to Symmonds in his guestbook at Nicksymmonds.com. Thanks, Nick!

Quotable Quotes

  • I have watched track for 40 years. The 800 finish was one of the best performances in track history!
  • Your race the other night had me about 6 inches from the TV screaming from the top of my lungs.
  • Back in elementary school, I knew you were fast... but damn, I didn't know you were THIS fast.
  • You provide teachable moments about living your dreams.
  • I am just proud to have known you since you climbed on the walls at the JFK Library.
  • The finals were one of most exciting events I've seen in my 50 years of following track.
  • You make all of WU proud with your achievement and grit, even those of us long gone from campus.
  • Nick Symmonds is a running god!
  • Congratulations on representing our Fraternity and our Country. You are the man ... (who, by the way, is going on our recruitment board).
  • There we all were two years ago, the WU chem profs asking all the senior chem majors what they planned on doing in the next five years. After several talked about their plans for med or grad school, you confidently said, "Run in the 2008 Olympics."
  • You were a class act in the exit interview.
  • Condolences on not making the finals. I admire your demonstration of passion, self-control, wisdom and perseverance.
  • You may have been disappointed in that second race, but you made all of us proud!

Willamette has produced five Olympians since 1936, including an honorary graduate who served as interim university president.