At the Boston Marathon last Monday, Shalane Flanagan debuted a new jersey sporting a Bowerman Track Club logo. For what seems like forever, fans have eagerly awaited the rebranding of Jerry Schumacher's team. With 15+ athletes, numerous Olympians and national team champions, Bowerman Track Club isn't just the new team name for Schumacher's group, but is a rebrand of the Bowerman Athletic Club, a Portland-based team made up of youth runners and many of the top local elites.
Portland Track director Craig Rice recently caught up with Nike's Chris Cook, who leads the Bowerman Track Club. In our interview, Cook dives into the inclusion of Team Schumacher, rebranding of the team and much more.
Portland Track (PT): Many track fans have been waiting for Team Schumacher to be spun off as a distinct brand in the way that Alberto Salazar’s Oregon Project has successfully done. At last, they will be part of the new Bowerman Track Club. What are the forces at work that have made this change?
Chris Cook (CC): Jerry was keen to have an identity for the group. His four kids all run for the Bowerman Youth program and Shalane Flanagan coaches with us in the Fall (on the youth XC program) – so both Jerry and Shalane felt the obvious identity was that of Bowerman. Shalane in particular liked the idea of belonging to something involving the community and kids – in Shalane’s own words “Honored to represent our newly named group Bowerman Track Club – Love being a part of something bigger than myself” – So I’d say Jerry and Shalane drove the change.
PT: Bowerman AC has existed for many years as an all-ages running organization that has elite, youth and open components. Is there a new vision for Bowerman Track Club that is different from the former club?
CC: No, we will still maintain the same youth, open and masters part of the club but hope that the addition of the pros can help inspire our club runners at all levels. The whole club will share the new name and logo. The name change was simply to avoid the confusion around the phrase athletic club which is often associated in the U.S. as a gym rather than a running club.
PT: Bowerman AC sponsored emerging elite athletes that met the club’s qualifying standards. Will that program be remain in place and what is the coaching structure for qualifying athletes?
CC: Yes, our local elite program will continue. The coaching is mostly done by myself and Jon Marcus. We’ll both (Jon and I ) have 2 athletes down at Payton Jordan as well as several of Jerry’s athletes – so that will be a good example of how at domestic meets the club can operate as one – with the local elites and pros being as one team.
PT: Shalane Flanagan debuted the new uniform at the Boston Marathon this past Monday? When did the decision come about to create BTC and how long did it take to create a new logo and uniform to be ready for a proper rollout like the Marathon?
CC: We’d been talking about it all Fall – the final logo design was done early in the year and the uniform for Shalane was put together quite quickly as a one off. The official new BTC Pro kits will launch at the Prefontaine Classic.
PT: What can fans expect from the new BTC and its relationship with Team Schumacher? The Oregon Project seems to give young athletes a way to get into the sport by giving them a team to root for. Is Nike interested in creating a similar brand experience for the new BTC?
CC: Yes definitely – Elliott Heath (one of the pro athletes in Jerry’s group) has been working with me on updating the BowermanTC.com website, so in the future it will contain regular updates from the pro runners and give fans the chance to learn more about the BTC pros.