Team USA Arizona, an emerging elite distance runner training camp in Flagstaff, received the first annual grant from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon presented by WillPower Sport & Wellness today.
The 13.1-mile race from Mount Vernon, Va., to National Harbor, Md., earlier this year pledged $1 per entry at the Oct. 2, race toward a training camp dedicated to grooming Olympic and World Championship distance runners. In addition, race organizers 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.
Team USA Arizona sent two aspiring elite American distance runners – Jordan Horn and Danny Mercado – of the four who qualified for the Olympic trials at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half 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,” Event Director Steve 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.”
As well, Nearman donated $3,668 to the 12-member Team USA Arizona on behalf of his 3,668 registrants to continue to groom competitive American distance professionals.
"We are honored to receive this donation from Steve,” Tracy McMillan, Board President, Team USA Arizona, said. “When he announced his commitment to U.S. distance running of $1 per race entry from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon, we ourselves committed to sending athletes to his race to support his dedication to the sport and the growth of athletes like Jordan Horn and Danny Mercado.
“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."