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Jim Spivey   United States



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James ("Jim") Calvin Spivey (born March 7, 1960 in Schiller Park, Illinois) is a former American middle distance runner and Olympian.

The Beginning: From Gym Class to State Champion
Spivey began running competitively in 1975 as a sophomore in cross country, after coach John Kurtz asked him to come out for team. He had run 6:48 for the mile in gym class at Fenton High School in Bensenville, Illinois, and caught the coach's eye.

In his first race four days later, he ran 19:05 for three miles at the Warrenville Invitational. Two months later he finished third in the Varsity Conference meet, running 15:41 for three miles. His times continued to drop, and he was running 9:21 for two miles (equivalent of 9:15 for 3200 m) in track.

His junior and senior year, Jim was runner-up at the Illinois State Cross Country Championships, running 14:00 for three miles at the Illinois State course in Peoria, Illinois in his final year. In track, he was a state qualifier in the two-mile his sophomore year, was runner-up in the two-mile his junior year in 9:00.5 (8:55 3200), and state champion in the 880 yards his senior year.

As a senior, his times of 1:50.2 880 yards was the #1 ranked high school time in the country. His 4:06.2 mile was the 2nd fastest high schooler for 1978.

Indiana University and Big Ten
Jim attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana from 1978-1983. He won 13 Big Ten Titles, and was awarded an All-American 13 times. He was coached by USATF Hall of Fame coach, Sam Bell. In 1981-82, the Big Ten awarded the first Big Ten Athlete of the year to Jim for winning two NCAA individual championships, the National Sports Festival 5000 m, and USA vs. USSR duel meet 1500 m in Leningrad (currently St. Petersburg).

After College
From 1987 through 1997, Jim was coached by Mike Durkin, a two-time USA Olympian in the 1500 m, and Ken Popejoy, ranked 9th in the world and current DuPage County (Illinois) judge. His greatest success came at the World Championships in Rome 1987 over 1500 m where he won a bronze medal.

He also won the Silver Medal at the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis, Indiana, and set the current American Record in the 2000 m. His successes were rewarded by USA Track & Field by receiving the Glen Cunningham award for best distance runner of the year.

The Olympic Years: 1984, 1992, 1996
In 1984, he also won the Olympic Trails for the 1500 m, and placed fifth in the Los Angeles Olympic Games. His time of 3:36.06 is still the fastest run by an American in the Olympic final.

Spivey did not qualify for the 1988 Summer Olympics (finishing fourth at the US trials in Indianapolis) in the same season in which he set his personal best over 1500 m (3:31.01, Koblenz).

In 1992, Spivey won the US Olympic trials in New Orleans ahead of Steve Holman to qualify for the Olympic Games in Barcelona where he came eighth.

In 1996, Spivey competed in the Olympic 5000 m competition in Atlanta, where he was a semi-finalist with a 14:27.72.

Records & PRs
He currently holds the American record for the 2000 m at 4:52.44 set in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1987.

His personal bests include (for more PRs, see FAQs)

  • 1:46.5 800 m -- 1982 San Francisco
  • 2:16.05 1000 m -- 1984 Eugene, Oregon
  • 3:49.80 mile 1986 -- Oslo, Norway
  • 7:37.07 3000 m 1993 -- Cologne, West Germany
  • 13:15.86 5000 meters 1994 -- Berlin, Germany (at age 34!)

World Championship Team Member
He was a member of the 1983 Helsinki, Finland; 1987 Rome; 1991 Tokyo; 1993 Stuttgart, Germany and 1995 Gothenburg, Sweden USA World Championship teams.

Coach Jim Spivey
Spivey was the head coach of men and women cross-country and track and field at the University of Chicago from 1997-2001, and had 13 all-Americans of the athletic department's 24 during that time. One individual won four NCAA Division III titles in 1999-2000. From 2001-2005, he was the head women's cross-country coach/assistant track and field coach at Vanderbilt University.

Quotable Jim
As a college coach, Spivey used a series of quotes to motivate his athletes. He would say, "Sit in the chair" to explain the importance of trusting the coach. "No deposit, no return" signified that desirable results in the championship end of the season would only come with hard work early on in the season. "The hay is in the barn" was used during the championship end of the season to remind the athletes that they'd already done all the work they could do and now was time to reap the benefits. The phrases "Reach out and slap a hand," "People in the Sears Tower would pay to run with you guys" and "It's great to be alive" were all used to motivate athletes during hard workouts. Additionally, he often used the call and response, "Hip hip?" "Hooray!" during particularly grueling workouts.

Today: ASICS and The Jim Spivey Running Club
He currently lives in Wheaton, Illinois and works for ASICS America in college team sales, and coaches the Jim Spivey Running Club. He also coaches individuals and high school groups during the off-season, and gives speeches (both coaching-related and motivational). He a Certified USATF Level 1 coach.

Something More to Chew On
Jim's signature is handing out half-sticks of gum to his runners after the workout.