Partnership Between Professional Race and Elite Athletes Highlighted
One of the first posts on this blog WOODROW WILSON BRIDGE HALF MAKES MAJOR AMERICAN PLEDGE outlined race director Steve Nearman’s plan to assist the development of emerging U.S. distance runners with a $1. per entry contribution from his October 2nd Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon. Today, Nearman made good on his pledge. announcing that Team USA Arizona would be receiving a grant of $3668 from the WWB Half presented by WillPower Sport & Wellness.
In his press release announcing the grant, Nearman explained the impetus for establishing his fund, and his innovative use of the strength of the masses of new runners to help groom Olympic and World Championship distance runners. In addition, his race offered American-only prize money and a $1,300 bonus for any American qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Marathon trials next month in Houston.
In response to Nearman’s offer, Team USA Arizona sent Jordan Horn and Danny Mercado to Virginia, where the two young American runners qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathon.
“When you really analyze the sport, there are just a few Ryan Hall’s and Meb Keflezighi’s in distance running who can focus solely on running and not working other jobs to support themselves,” Nearman said. “Our sport is so hampered by this, which is a huge barrier of entry into the profession of elite distance runner. You don’t see the thousands of professional Baseball, Hockey, Basketball and Football players working second jobs to afford being a professional athlete.
“What I am trying to achieve is a partnership between race and training camp. So often, your invited top athlete(s) get injured and withdraw during the week or two before the race. In our approach, Team USA Arizona sent their healthy, race-ready professionals to our race and they both benefitted greatly. While professional teams have contracts with their players, our sport does not, except for appearance money for a very few who already have made it in our sport and have sponsors. Our partnership comes closer to the major sports model, with race directors committing money to the training camps which send them competitive athletes who then enhance their races. We totally support the efforts of Team USA Arizona and are excited and proud to have some horses in the Olympic Marathon trials race.”
“We are honored to receive this donation from Steve,” Tracy McMillan, Board President, Team USA Arizona, said. “Jordan and Danny came away from the race with Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying times, a qualifying time financial bonus that Steve also provided at his event, and a great experience at a premier race. We thank Steve and everyone at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon for their generosity and we look forward to working together in support of U.S. distance running.”
Innovative race directors like Steve Nearman, who have an eye toward re-building the sport, are in short supply these days as the activity of jogging and charity fund-raising continues expand while remaining untethered to the competitive side of the sport. We applaud Nearman for his leadership, and his ongoing committment to secure the future of American distance racing.