Andy Bayer is officially a Nike-sponsored athlete. The 2008 Leo graduate and NCAA champion for Indiana University has signed a contract with the shoemaker and will begin his professional running career next month after moving to Portland, Ore.
Bayer, a 12-time NCAA all-America runner, in cross-country, indoor and outdoor track, is marrying 2008 Carroll graduate Chelsea Blanchard on Oct. 12.
Blanchard also ran for the Hoosiers. After the wedding, the Bayers will move to Oregon where Andy will train with other elite middle-distance runners.
The move to professional running wasn't even a dream for Bayer when he walked on to the Indiana University cross-country team in the fall of 2008.
Although he had won the IHSAA championship in the 3,200-meter run and had earned all-state honors in cross-country, it was a leap into the unknown.
“Just going from Leo to IU was a big jump for me,” Bayer said. “(At that point) I just wanted to prove that I belonged on the team with all those great runners. Then, when I made all-American, it was a surprise. I felt like I had to prove that I belonged with that group.”
Now, Bayer feels he has to prove he belongs among the sport's best. Bayer will be training with Nike coach Jerry Schumacher's group and focusing on the 1,500 meters, mile and 5,000 meters. His training partners will include the best in the sport: Lopez Lomong, Chris Solinsky, Evan Jager, Chris Derrick and Andrew Bumbalough.
Even so, it wasn't an easy decision to leave his college coach, Ron Helmer.
“Nike made me a good offer,” Bayer said, noting that terms could not be disclosed. “Any time you have Nike behind you, it's tremendous. The resources and opportunities are incredible. I had the choice of staying in Bloomington, but it's hard to turn down the chance to train with these guys. Now I just want to work on getting to the next level.”
The “next level” is, among other things, the 2016 Olympics. Bayer certainly has a shot at it, too. He's made the U.S. junior team and spent the summer in Europe racing on the professional circuit. Along the way he has rewritten the IU record books, setting all-time marks in the 1,500 (3:34), mile (3:52), 3,000 (7:43) and among the all-time bests in the 5,000 (13:32).