By Joe Scalzo
The biggest footprint at this year’s Spartan Invitational won’t come from one of its runners.
Nike will use Boardman’s annual cross country meet as a “birthday party” to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its iconic running shoe, the Pegasus.
Nike will have a tent at the Sept. 14 race with the latest version of the shoe, along with awards, prizes and an interactive area for runners to enjoy. Also, all of this year’s event T-shirts will be Nike shirts.
“It’s going to be a cool, fun thing,” said Second Sole employee Mark Lipinsky, a former standout hurdler for Boardman. “They’re excited and we’re excited.”
The Spartan Invitational is one of Ohio’s biggest regular-season meets with more than 5,000 runners spread over 14 high school and middle school races. It also has 20,000 spectators over the course of the day, along with 60 registered OHSAA officials.
And because it also hosts the regional meet, it annually draws some of the best teams in northeast Ohio.
Second Sole has been involved with the meet for several years and reached out to Nike in hopes of expanding the company’s role.
“They were very excited to jump on board,” Lipinsky said. “This is something unique to Youngstown. Nike obviously sponsors other races, but what they’re going to do for the Spartan Invitational is unique and special. It’s not something you’re going to see anywhere else.”
Merrill Lynch is usually the race’s main sponsor but the organization will share that role with Nike this fall.
“We think it’s wonderful what Nike is doing,” said Merrill Lynch wealth management advisor Sid Jones, whose three children attended Boardman. “That’s a big anniversary.
“Next year Merrill Lynch will have its 100th anniversary, so maybe we’ll do something as well.”
Merrill Lynch’s contributions have helped Boardman send athletes to national competitions in cross country and indoor and outdoor track, with Spartan athltes traveling to Greensboro, N.C., Boston and New York City in recent years. Jones said Merrill Lynch’s sponsorship of the Spartan Invitational has become a point of pride in the company.
“This is publicized all over the Merrill system,” he said. “Schools are so important to the community. My youngest just finished at Boardman and we’re going to keep supporting Boardman’s school fund.”