Competitive Drive: Former Wichita East, KU Olympian Jim Ryun to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Competitive Drive

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Jim Ryun’s journey started right here in the Air Capital.

On the track at Wichita East High School, Ryun wasn’t afraid to not only dream big or work hard.

“I was willing to try and did do the workouts that were unbelievable during those days, you’d go from zero to literally 100 miles per hour week,” said Ryun.

That dedication to his craft was on full display on June 5, 1964 at the California Relays.

“I was eighth in the race when I crossed the finish line, I was a little disappointed, I didn’t know whether I had run that well or not, the announcer came on and said for the first time history, the first eight runners have run under four minutes,” said Ryun.

Ryun, a junior for the Blue Aces at the time, would become the first high schooler to run a sub-four-minute mile (03:59.0).

He would later take his talents to the University of Kansas and ultimately to three Olympics (1964, 1968 & 1972).

He would find his greatest Olympic success in the 1,500M in the ’68 games in Mexico City.

“It was a great honor to represent our country, the stars, and stripes, to be apart of the US Olympic team, I still remember those as treasured moments,” said Ryun. “Then to come away with a Silver medal is truly a great moment.”

Ryun has continued to be both active and involved in the community.

Since 1975, he has held the Jim Ryun running camps every year. This year the camp is virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, Ryun would serve in the United States House of Representatives, representing Kansas 2nd congressional district from 1996 until 2007.

It is all apart of why Ryun will be honored on Friday as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Obviously, when it came my direction, I was honored to have it, but also it was a matter of understanding the great honor that it is by going back and seeing all the different recipients along the way,” said Ryun.

Ryun says he is also thankful for those who’ve helped make this possible.

“I have such a wonderful wife Anne, who has been through, when we first started out in college, all the ups and downs of not only an athletic career, a congressional career, as have our children and for this to be given during the time while I’m alive is pretty special because many of them are given posthumously,” said Ryun.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established in 1963. The prestigious award is the Nation’s highest civilian honor.

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