Friday, February 3, 2012

Thinking of Geoff Hollister on his birthday...

RICHMOND, British Columbia--While preparing my notes to announce Saturday's Harry Jerome Indoor track meet at the Richmond Olympic Oval, I saw several tweets and Facebook posts noting that February 3rd is Geoff Hollister's (front/illustration courtesy Nike, Inc) birthday.

For those of you not old enough to know who he is, Geoff, who was a steeplechaser at the University of Oregon, was one of the original employees hired by one Phi Knight at a small business called Blue Ribbon Sports.

Through the hard work that Hollister and many others like Nelson Farris and Jeff Johnson did in talking to every Tom, Dick, and Harry about track and field from the back of a Volkswagen van, to actually answering a letter in 1976 from a 16 year old kid from South Seattle inquiring about a green and black special make up Vainqueur distance spikes in Franklin High School colors, they were the soul of the company now known as Nike.

In a press conference before Saturday's New Balance Invitational in Boston, Galen Rupp told reporters, including's Larry Eder that several Nike athletes would be wearing special uniforms to honor Geoff, who admitted in a interview a few years ago, that he was fighting cancer.

Rupp said, "we will be wearing these uniforms tomorrow, and perhaps, for some time to come, to honor Geoff. Keep him in your thoughts."

Rupp inferred from his comments in Boston that Geoff is having a tough time.

As Eder wrote in his post, "For guys like Hollister, the running biz was never about money. It was about making a better running shoe, talking track to some sweaty, mud covered kid at a little cross country race in anytown, USA, and influencing another generation to stay with it. That was Geoff Hollister and his merry pranksters, driving beat up vans across the country, showing those running shoes with the swoosh on them."

As I got involved with track and field from my days at Franklin to the UW and beyond, I knew that Geoff would find the time to say hello. During my sophomore year at the UW, I got a short note in the mail from him stating that the Husky track team would have a purple and gold version of the Vainqueur spikes.

While it might not be a big deal now with programs like NikeID in place for those who want to customize spikes with your name and school colors, it was a big deal to the guys on the Husky track team!

Geoff, if you're reading this in Sequim, please know that you have had a profound influence on my life and involvement in the sport. You've influenced me to stay in the sport for a lot longer than I ever thought I would!

Courtesy of the University of Oregon, here's a video of the team and members of the Oregon TC Elite wishing Geoff a happy birthday!

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