Class of 1975
The women’s side of the Hall of Fame is filled with a combination of (from the early years) exceptional talents who were “discovered” and coached to early Olympic success, as well as those who trained with intense focus and gold medal intent to achieve their dreams. In the amazing Lynn Bjorklund, however, you have a self-proclaimed “accidental athlete” who really harbored no such ambitions and was not, at least initially, seen as a prodigal talent.
As a junior at Los Alamos HS in New Mexico, running was a way of discovering the mountains and natural beauty around her, as well as keeping up with her brother and the other boys in the neighborhood. Girls’ prep track had not yet started. But the friends of her brother Mark happened to include future road racing star Ric Rojas and future Olympic Trials marathon champ Anthony Sandoval.
Lynn and Mark discovered the Duke City Dashers 100 miles away in Albuquerque, coached by another Sandoval – future Cal Bears coach Tony – and joined up. Back home, Lynn started training with the Los Alamos boys team, even though she couldn’t officially compete. During her junior year, when she did have competitive AAU opportunities, her great talent and the effects of the “training” showed up.
In the fall, Bjorklund qualified for AAU junior nationals, then won the 1973 title. Then, in the spring/summer of 1974, Bjorklund set a pair of 2-mile national records in the AAU girls meet and AAU seniors, running 10:14.8 and 10:11.1 – among several other outstanding performances.
When she returned to AAU XC competition the next fall, she went for the senior division even though she was still a young high school senior. She captured the title and qualified for the IAAF World XC Champs – but women had to pay their own way in those days and she didn’t compete there.
In the summer of ’75, the AAU had switched its 2-mile to a 3,000m, but Bjorklund again ruled with a 9:29.4 HSR. Just two days later at AAU seniors, she ran a remarkable HSR 9:10.6. That presented her with international team travel opportunities and when Bjorklund competed in Kiev, USSR in July, she lowered her 3k mark to 9:08.6.
Bjorklund would repeat at AAU XC the next fall, then finally got to compete at the IAAF Worlds, taking 7th to help Team USA win the bronze. Then a few years later, after recovering from injuries, she established herself as a top mountain runner, winning the Pike’s Peak Challenge in record time.
What Bjorklund is most proud about her running, however, came in 1997, when she and Mark were camping near Santa Fe and witnessed a plane crash. In a rescue attempt, Bjorklund covered 18 miles of rugged terrain on foot in less than three hours. She guided two helicopters to the crash site, and the two men were airlifted to safety.
Did You Know?
Lynn Bjorklund’s 3000m high school record lasted for 41 years until Katie Rainsberger broke it at the 2016 World U20 Championships.