AS A REPORTER and writer for SI from 1986 to 1999, Merrell Noden covered an impressive range of events and athletes, from the Pan Am Games to the Little League World Series, from Mark Spitz to Rocket Ismail to Charles Dickens. But Noden, who died of cancer last week in Princeton, N.J., at 59, was most at home writing about track and field. Throughout his career he chronicled the sport's signature moments and stars with grace and insight. It didn't hurt that he could conduct interviews while running step-for-step with his world-class subjects. As a student at The Lawrenceville (N.J.) School, Noden set an Eastern high school indoor 880 record of 1:54.0 and ran a 4:11.9 mile on a distance medley relay that set a U.S. high school indoor record. He ran cross-country at Princeton and later won a decathlon title while earning a Master's at Oxford. He would continue to run and compete throughout his life, even as he went on from SI to a distinguished career writing about music, golf, academics, literature and, of course, running. He is survived by his wife, Eva, and their two children, Miranda and Sam.