So, we asked Jeff Benjamin to come up with a few memories of the Eugene 2022 world championships, and here is what he wrote for his wonderful first remembrance.
Eugene 2022 World Championships Memories – First In A Series Of Personal Recollections
Legends Meeting A Legend!
By Jeff Benjamin
I was once advised that the word “IF” is the biggest word in history.
As time marches on, whether one studies history or experiences it for themselves, that 2-letter word sure has created quite a lot of ramifications, both positive and negative, leading to many crossroads decisions in life.
The word certainly crossed my mind once again a few weeks ago at the World Championships in Eugene, but not in ways that one would think.
After one of the Championship sessions, Oregon Track Fan & Friend Mike Shriver drove 2 legends and me up one of the Eugene hills to hold a summit with another legend!
The “Chairman Of The Boards”, Irishman Eamonn Coghlan, and America’s great World XC Champion (Twice!) Craig Virgin was embarking with us towards the home of “The Magician” Bill Dellinger!
The legendary Dellinger, who won a 1964 Olympic 5000 meter Bronze and subsequently went on to Coach his Oregon Ducks (Dellinger is known as one of the “3 Bills” – Bill Hayward, Bill Bowerman & Bill Dellinger), greeted the legends alongside Oregon Great and Gonzaga Coach Pat Tyson, who after giving the tour of the Coach’s remarkable home, proudly displayed some of Dellinger’s adidas Shoe creations from the 1980s.
In a remarkable get-together over pizza, the room filled with great stories going back close to five decades over the next two hours. The 89 years young Dellinger, who suffered a stroke a few years ago, was just as animated, engaging, and funny as the rest of these “characters” in the room!
“It sure was tough trying to beat you 2 guys!” said Dellinger to Virgin & Coghlan!
This brings us to that remarkable two-letter word!
Virgin reminisced about how, as the Illinois High School runner who broke Pre’s 2-Mile Prep record, he almost came to Oregon, even passing around with other old memorabilia a photocopy of a handwritten recruitment letter from Pre himself!
“I was interested in coming here to Oregon,” said Virgin, echoing his story, which he also told in his autobiography, “Virgin Territory.” But his close-knit family support back in his home state of Illinois turned out to be the deal breaker.
Coghlan, who was recruited by Villanova’s legendary “Jumbo Elliott,” said that his abilities pre- college did not warrant any attention from Bowerman & Dellinger, alluding to the fact that it was Irish athletes running for the Wildcats who pushed for him to come to Villanova.
“It would have been interesting to see Eamonn & I competing in the Green of Oregon, though!”, joked Virgin, which was echoed by Coghlan.
Those ideas sure let people’s minds wander.
Would Virgin, who had a long career in competitions from the late 1960s right through the 1990s, gone on to be a member of 3 Olympic teams and win what many considered to be the toughest of all annual distance races – the World XC Championships – for America twice?!?
Would Coghlan have found his passion for the Indoor Track Boards as an Oregon Duck and still gone on to break the Mile record indoors numerous times, eventually becoming the first man under 3:50 indoors (3:49.78), then winning a 1983 World Championship Outdoor 5K title and then becoming the first 40-year-old to break the 4-minute mile barrier?
That’s why “IF” is the biggest word in all our lives!
And while there was a chance to throw in a lot of that word in these extraordinary conversations – another theme came across from this wondrous meeting as well.
“There are no regrets, though,” said Coghlan, a point echoed by Virgin and “The Magician” himself!
“No regrets!” said Dellinger.
Bell-Lap – I’m truly indebted to Eugene resident and passionate trickster Mike Shriver and his wife, who drove us around gratis for the entire 10 days and was just as thrilled to have driven Craig & Eamonn as well!
I’m also indebted to Pat Tyson, Pre’s roommate, who was a great runner, a great coach, but most importantly, a great person!
To purchase a copy of Virgin’s Autobiography – “Virgin Territory” – please go to