Members of the Spartan Running Club at the Nike Michael Johnson track, with 2016 Olympic 1500-meter Gold Medalist Matthew Centrowitz, 2012 Olympic 10,000-meter Silver Medalist Galen Rupp, and famed Coach Alberto Salazar.

What would it be like to travel to the heart of track country and get to compete and meet some of the top athletes in the world? Well, members of the Spartan Running Club did just that.

Paul Carrozza, track and cross-country coach at St. Stephen’s School in Austin, helped organize a trip to the Portland Distance Festival last week, and runners from Lasa/LBJ, Austin High and Lockhart High went along for the ride. Ready-to-Run owner Scott Hippensteel joined in for the fun…

“We went on a training trip last year after running the Golden West Invite and then set the goal of coming back this year to race,” said Carrozza.

In addition to competing at the Portland Distance Festival, the team was treated to a visit to nearby Nike Headquarters. There they headed for the Nike Michael Johnson track, where they hung out with 2016 Olympic 1500-meter Gold Medalist Matthew Centrowitz, 2012 Olympic 10,000-meter Silver Medalist Galen Rupp, and famed Coach Alberto Salazar, who you might recall is a New York and Boston Marathon champ.

“It was a great learning experience competing against the top level guys and amazing to watch the pros race,” said Spartan Running Club’s Crayton Corrozza.

The visit proved enlightening in a number of ways.  Carrozza’s friend Tobie Hatfield of Abilene Christian University heads up innovation at Nike and shared some future concepts he was excited about.

“Most impressive was their focus on Flyease—the new curved heel zipper technology that allows folks to wear normal shoes with ease of access and closure,” said Carrozza.  “Amazing focus for them. “We then toured the Nike campus, saw the Pre Center, and walked over to the Michael Johnson Track and talked to Alberto Salazar, Galen Rupp and Matt Centrowitz.  Alberto remembered us from his visits to Austin and was so gracious and took the time to take pictures and talk to the boys along with Rupp and Centrowitz. The campus is state of the art.”

And though Carrozza has been coaching a long time, he still found room for inspiration during the visit.

“To see Alberto in his element with his athletes and seeing how happy and relaxed he was, helped me realize I am so lucky to be doing the same thing,” said Carrozza. “I am also so proud of how much work our kids have put in and how competitive they are in a completely new ‘track market’ against Oregon kids—the distance runners’ Mecca.  I love training in Austin and then racing in cool climates.  I believe it’s as good as altitude training. I also was reminded that there are no short cuts to hard work and consistency, and our kids are there.”

The trip capped off a terrific spring season for St. Stephen’s.

“We backed up our 2017 SPC Championship with Runner Up,” added Carrozza.  “We also are Number One in Texas in the Brooks PR competition.  We rewrote the majority of the school and personal records.  Crayton Carrozza set the All-Time Southwest Preparatory Conference (SPC) Records in the 800 (1:52.47); 1600 (4:16.52); and 3200 (9:15.92).”

Portland Distance Festival, Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR • June 10

Spartan Running Club Results

  • 400- Shaunak Divine 50.60
  • 800- Crayton Carrozza 1:51.02
  • Mile- Travis Dowd 4:23.58
  • Mile- Luke Hippensteel 4:30.33
  • Mile- Cameron Kleiman 4:31.59
  • Mile- Yaseen Abdalla 4:33.55
  • Mile- Philip Chang 4:36.53
  • Mile- Jayan Nitzsche 4:45.77
  • Mile- Julian Baeza 4:48.0

Upcoming races: Saturday, June 23, Brady’s Bridge Super Family Fund Run 5K at 8:00 a.m. at Old Settlers Park Lakeview Pavilion, 3300 E Palm Valley Blvd., Round Rock. Saturday, June 23, Thumpin’ 5k Run at 7:30 a.m., 2953 North Magnolia Ave., Luling.