The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Dale Story Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

January 9, 2014


Dale Franklin Story was born in Los Angeles in 1942. An active child growing up in Orange, California, Story contracted polio at the age of 11, a condition which temporarily paralyzed him from the neck down. Though bedridden for seven months, Story recovered completely and resumed indulging his two consuming passions in life - running and the wilderness. As a track athlete, Story was a prodigious talent and during his senior year at Orange High School he broke the national high school record for the one-mile run, finishing in 4:11. His successes continued at Santa Ana (California) Junior College, where he set a world junior record in the two-mile and won state championships in that event and in cross country.

Story transferred to Oregon State College in 1961, enticed by an athletic scholarship and by the school's program in Fisheries and Wildlife. That Fall he won the NCAA cross country championship, besting a field that included six future Olympians. Story's four OSC teammates also finished high enough in the standings to capture the national team title for Oregon State, the first in school history. The win attracted widespread media attention, primarily because Story won the race - which took place in Michigan in thirty-degree weather - while running barefoot. As a teenager, Story had adopted the practice of running without shoes and he commonly trained and competed barefoot in both cross country and track events.

Story's first track season at OSC was also a triumph; he completed the campaign ranked second nationally in the two-mile and contributed to OSC's two-mile and four-mile relay teams, ranked first and second respectively. With time, however, his primary interest increasingly became the outdoors - his summers were spent exploring the Canadian wilderness and, during the school year, most of his free hours were devoted to fishing on the Willamette River. As Story's attentions shifted, his athletic performances suffered and he was never again able to consistently compete at the same level. Nevertheless, Story completed his Oregon State eligibility having set school records at every track distance longer than one mile. At one point, he also held thirteen course or meet records in cross country. His personal bests as a collegiate runner were 4:03.4 in the one-mile (1962), 13:37.5 in the three-mile (1961) and 14:04.5 in the 5,000 meters (1963). With his 1961 teammates, Story was inducted into the OSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.

Story completed his coursework in Wildlife Management in 1965 and stayed at Oregon State for two more years to obtain his teaching certificate. In 1967 he was hired by Wallowa High School, located in remote northeast Oregon, to teach biology and coach track. Over a twenty-nine year high school coaching career, Story's teams won seven state championships in track and two in cross country. Living adjacent to the Wallowa Mountains has also suited Story's passion for the outdoors - an accomplished bow hunter, Story commonly hikes without shoes.