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Sep 5, 2013
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Prior to the year 1978, Nike was simply the name of the Greek goddess who personified victory, seen in statues as one with wings. Now, a simple Google search of the word "Nike" and not one link regarding the Greek goddess can be found on the first 15 pages of the search results. Instead, each result describes a different Nike, a Nike that has become the goddess of the sports business.
Since 1978, Nike has become one of the most valuable brands among sports businesses. The company is the Starbucks of sports consumerism. Just like Starbucks is located on every other street corner, a Nike "Swoosh" logo can be seen on just about every other person.
Simply walking down College Ave. here in State College, it is clear that Nike is a major sponsor of the athletic programs at Penn State. Ironically enough, the current CEO of Nike is a Penn State graduate by the name of Mark Parker.
This past summer Nike became even more blue and white when one talented student athlete and captain of the Penn State men's cross country team, Nick "Scarp" Scarpello, received the opportunity of a lifetime. Scarpello interned at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., as a track and field sports marketing intern.
"Getting to be at the heart of our sport with the company that really is the legs that this sport stands on, not only in the United States but also in the world, was just a really cool experience," said the senior Scarpello.
Thanks to Nate Althouse, who is the Varsity "S" Development Coordinator at Penn State, Scarpello was able to obtain his internship with Nike. Althouse opened the door at Penn State when he invited current student athletes to an information session. There, John Gallagher, a member of the Nike talent acquisition team, recruited athletes with strong resumes and superior grades.
"There was quite a bit to the application process, but it all worked out in the end, and I'm really glad I was able to do it," said Scarpello.
Like any internship, Scarpello articulated that he learned quite a bit. He stressed the importance of developing relationships and hinted that sports marketing is very much a "qualitative field."
"I learned this summer about the way [Nike] goes above and beyond for the elite track and field team in order to field the world's No. 1 athletics team," said Scarpello.
Speaking of developing relationships, Scarpello's internship with Nike allowed him to meet several successful men and women long distance runners this past summer.
Scarpello had the chance to meet the likes of Olympic gold-medalists Ashton Eaton and Aries Merritt, and Olympic silver-medalists Galen Rupp, Trey Hardee and Bernard Lagat. Additionally, he also met Nike runners Matt Tegenkamp and Chris Solinsky.
Noting that he did not want to leave out the females he met either, Scarpello added that he was introduced to Nike runners Kara Goucher, Jordan Hasay and Tara Erdmann.
Even with all the triumphant long distance runners that Scarpello met, he left the Nike headquarters slightly disappointed because of one special runner that he did not have the pleasure of meeting. That runner is two-time Olympic gold-medalist Mo Farah.
"I was a little bummed I didn't get to meet [Farah], but he was so busy setting the world on fire this summer," said Scarpello.
Since Scarpello had the chance to meet all these famous athletes, it is not out of the ordinary to think that he took advantage of the situation and trained a little bit with the Nike-sponsored runners. However, that was not the case. Other than an easy run together here or there, Scarpello explained that he "was not doing workouts with them."
Rather, Scarpello focused on the sports marketing aspect of the internship that involved simply getting to know the athletes.
"My number one responsibility as a Nike marketing intern was making the Nike experience for the athlete the best that it possibly could be," said Scarpello. "The athletes helped remind me why I love this sport."
But like any summer internship, the experience must come to a sudden end. Now Scarpello and the rest of his cross country team must look ahead as their season begins this Friday, Sept. 6 at the annual Dolan Duals at Lock Haven.
"Lock Haven is just a first step, but it is an important first step," said Scarpello. "Come Friday we will determine exactly who is going to be racing and who isn't."
For a senior captain who finished third overall at the Dolan Duals last season, it is quite obvious that Scarpello has set some tall goals for himself and the team this upcoming season.
"My goal is to do whatever I need to facilitate a victory for our team. Whether that means going and winning the thing or whether it means doing a workout and cheering on the guys that do race. Whatever it takes," said Scarpello. "If those five up front do the job that they are asked to do, and they run for each other, we should come out on top."
At the helm of Penn State cross country is head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan, who noted that "Scarp" as she and the rest of the team like to call him "has really stepped into the role of being a captain."
"When I think of Scarp he is one of the truest Penn Staters I've ever met," said Sullivan. "He loves this university. He loves being a student athlete at this university and representing as an ambassador for the university through sports."
It is clear that Nick Scarpello is more than just a runner who happens to be a great influence on his team and university. Scarp proved over the summer that he is capable of hurdling the goddess of victory in order to be able to "Just Do It."