Vikings enjoy being in Nike heaven |

Vikings enjoy being in Nike heaven

Steve Yingling

PORTLAND, Ore. – Somewhere distance-running legend Steve Prefontaine and Nike shoe creator Bill Bowerman were smiling on Saturday morning.

If the late track and field pioneers could have seen the lavish event Nike created for the U.S.’s top 40 prep cross country teams maybe the event would have helped them forget their nasty fight against athlete exploitation in their country in the 1970s.

Athletes jetted in from all corners of the U.S. on Nike’s dime on Thursday and by the time they left on Sunday, the teenagers felt like Michael Jordan.

“I’ll remember being treated like an elite athlete, like we were professionals because of everything Nike gave us,” said STHS’s Kelsey McClurg. “I definitely will work twice as hard to get back here and I hope the rest will, too.”

Before they had a chance to run off their jet lag on Thursday, the Vikings were fitted with two pairs of new running shoes, including Nike’s latest creation that won’t hit the market until February.

Their Nike booty also contained personalized uniforms, warm-ups, pullovers, keychains and packs.

“I didn’t think we’d get this kind of treatment my entire life,” said STHS freshman Jordan Dalton.

Nike also paid for the athletes’ hotel accommodations and food during their four-day stay in Portland.

“Nike did it right and these girls will look back on this with a lot of pride,” said STHS assistant coach Nancy Dalton.

Now that they know how generous Nike can be, the Vikings are determined to get back for a second handout next fall.

“When we start training at the beginning of June (2005) with no breaks we’re going to be like ‘Remember that day at Nike?’ This is what we’re working for,” said STHS’s Lacey Payne.

South Tahoe will return seven of its top eight runners next fall.

When Prefontaine became a big name in cross country and track and field in the early 1970s, he crusaded for better training assistance and living conditions for American athletes. Prefontaine received strong support from Bowerman, his coach at Oregon, when he went public with his complaints.

Girls get two starts

Although it wasn’t intentional, Nike also gave the athletes something they hadn’t seen before at the beginning of a race – a false start.

The girls race was restarted after a quick firing of the starters’ gun caught some girls unprepared to begin the 5K race.

“I had no idea the gun was going off,” McClurg said. “We were all talking and then we were all running and it was like, ‘Oh no.’ ”

The restart didn’t draw any complaints and the next firing of the gun set runners toward their national destiny.

Illinois team takes boys’ title

Sean McNamara of Kroy Cross Country in Elmhurt, Ill., won the boys’ race in 15 minutes, 43.9 seconds. McNamara’s team also captured the team title by 35 points over Sotan Cross Country of Manlius, N.Y.

Support Local Journalism

Your support means a better informed community. Donate today.