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Valley / Ventura County Sports

Covert's Shoes Will Meet Their Maker

Track and field: Antelope Valley coach will turn vintage sneakers over to Nike at Mt. SAC Relays.

April 17, 1999|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WALNUT — For Lauren Fleshman of Canyon High, Oliver Jackson of Royal and Porchea Carroll of Rio Mesa, the Mt. San Antonio College Relays today are another chance to test themselves against some of the top performers in the state.

For Coach Mark Covert of Antelope Valley College, the prestigious track and field meet will be the setting in which he will hand over a pair of worn and tattered 27-year-old running shoes to Geoff Hollister of Nike.

The shoes, which Covert wore while finishing seventh in the marathon in the 1972 U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., are the first Nikes to cross a finish line in a race.

They will be part of a 16-foot-high by 40-foot-wide display in a Nike store in Eugene that is scheduled to open May 22.

The display will include the work bench and tools that Bill Bowerman, former Oregon track and field coach, used in creating some of the first Nikes. Also on display will be Nikes worn by Steve Prefontaine and Prefontaine's letterman's jacket from Marshfield High in Coos Bay, Ore.

Covert's shoes aren't much to look at.

The white nylon uppers of the shoes have turned various shades of brown, many of the raised nubs on the waffle soles are worn or falling off and the insoles appear to offer about as much support as a pair of slippers.

They're quite valuable, however, in the crazy world of sports memorabilia.

Covert said a woman in the Seattle area offered him $10,000 for the shoes five years ago and a group in Utah said they would pay him $25,000-$30,000 two years ago.

Covert turned down both offers, partly because he thought he could get more money for the shoes and partly because he wore them in one of the most noteworthy races of his career.

"I'd have to be offered a ridiculous amount to give them up at this point," said Covert, who will maintain ownership of the shoes when they're on display. "I don't know what that amount is, but if someone offered me $100,000 for them, I'd have to seriously consider that."

While Covert will hand his shoes over to Hollister on Sunday, senior Fleshman, junior Jackson and sophomore Carroll will try to continue strong seasons in the high school competition today.

Fleshman, who ran the girls' 3,200 meters at the Arcadia Invitational last Saturday in 10:21.36, the fastest time in the nation this year, will attempt to defend her title in the 800 and run on Canyon's 6,400 relay team.

Jackson, who leaped a nation-leading 24-3 1/2 in the boys' long jump at Arcadia, will compete in that event and run on Royal's 1,600 relay team.

Carroll, defending Southern Section Division II champion in the girls' 100 and 200, will compete in those events, the long jump and run on the Spartans' 400 relay team.

Sophomore Anita Siraki of Hoover will compete in the girls' 800 and run in the 3,200 relay.

Senior Becky Rauth of Harvard-Westlake will compete in the 100 high hurdles, 300 lows and long jump and probably run on one of the Wolverine's relay teams.

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