Magness Moves On, by Jon Gugala, note by Larry Eder

In an exclusive story for Runblogrun, Jon Gugala writes about Steve Magness, who was an assistant coach for the Nike Oregon Project, under Alberto Salazar. Magness tells Gugala about what he learnt from Alberto and the opportunities afforded.

I first saw Steve Magness as a fast high schooler, running the mile at the Nike Pre meet a decade ago. He has come a long way...

Alberto Salazar has spoken in the past about his goal of showing how good American distance runners can be on the global athletics world. Now, besides athletes, we see a coach whom Alberto Salazar afforded a new opportunity. Fascinating reading.

Areson_Jackie-Oxy12.JPGJackie Areson, 2012 Oxy High Performance Meet,
Photo by

By Jon Gugala

Paris, France
July 7, 2012

"You know, it was just one of those timing things," Steve Magness laughs. "I went through the latter half of this Olympic cycle. I got to experience worlds [world championships] and then what it's like going into the [U.S. Olympic team] trials. I felt like it was a good time to venture on and go."

If you don't know, Magness, 27, was hired on as the assistant coach of the Nike Oregon Project in January 2011. His boss was Alberto Salazar. His stable of athletes included Kara Goucher, Galen Rupp, Mo Farah, and Dathan Ritzenhein.

But Magness was aware that while his time with the NOP was a good opportunity, it was not a destination. So with the conclusion of the current Olympic cycle, he has chosen to forge his own path for the next. As of July 6, Magness has moved on.

What that means, exactly, has yet to be determined.

Shortly after the Oxy High Performance Meet, Magness and Salazar sat down. With his two-year contract coming to an end, "We both mutually decided hey, this is the way we want to go," Magness says. "He's been supportive, and I'm thankful of my time here."

But if you think that Magness has been a glorified water bottle holder, you don't know Jackie Areson.

Areson, the 2011 NCAA Indoor 5,000-meters champion, was scouted by the Oregon Project, and on her joining, she soon fell under the exclusive care of Magness. In the last year, Magness has coached her through a breakout season, including a 2012 IAAF World Indoors final appearance (3,000-meters, 11th) and a 15:14.31 best in the 5,000-meters.

Areson announced on July 6 via Twitter that she has left the NOP, and Magness confirms that he will remain her coach, along with Tommy Schmitz, a Saucony athlete with a 3:39.90 1,500-meters best.
"I think the biggest thing I take away [from my time with Salazar] is what's possible," Magness says. "To actually see the work these guys put in day in, day out, and see the workouts and the races that come about, it makes you really believe and really acknowledge how far we can come in American distance running.

"That's the one thing that Alberto and the Oregon Project has done, is show that, hey, it's possible. You can definitely close those gaps on the Kenyans."

Magness is currently in discussions with other post-collegiate groups, with the possibility of merging his athletes in. But where his real desire lies is in building something of his own, with a location yet to be determined.

"In an ideal world, I think everyone wants [to build something]," Magness says. "I think the one thing that is the most important in these groups is that it's viable and sustainable. You see random groups of athletes come and go all the time, but it's those ones that stick around for years that do the most damage."

As for location, Portland has been great, but Magness says he's open for relocation depending on opportunity. And as for his past benefactor, Nike, Magness says that while they've been supportive, he'll be moving on there, too.
"I definitely think I'm young and still have some things to learn, but I've been very fortunate in the fact that I've seen elite athletes and I've seen elite coaching in a variety of events all throughout my upbringing," Magness says. "It's exciting. Yeah, I'm young, but it's time to take that next step."

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