As the Olympics come to a close, I am reminded of better days. It was 1979 and word began to spread of our little business that was capable of doing some pretty cool stuff. One day through a contact I had in Illinois, I got a visit from an outgoing, smiling, and good looking young man named Craig Virgin. I knew his name as being one of the best long distance runners the St. Louis region had ever produced. He had been the State Champion in Illinois high school in every distance from a mile on up. He blew away every field he ran against in cross country and reached one of the pinnacles of his career in 1978 as he became the world champion and world record holder at 10,000 meters. He was the premier American runner heading into the 1980 Olympics.
He pulled up to the curb on Lackland Road and came in to meet Helene and I. His smile was infectious and he was a confident young man. We became friends instantly and he walked me out to the car where he had 500 T-Shirts stuffed into the trunk. These were shirts from Germany, printed with the Adidas logo on the front. Craig had already gained worldwide recognition and he picked up Adidas as an official sponsor. This was at the dawn of star athletes becoming part of a shoe company’s stable of stars. Craig already had a game plan and over the next 20 years I became his official screen printer.
Craig started a company called Front Runner. He had a logo designed and came to me to print his logo on the back of these very cool, never really seen before Adidas T-Shirts. Wow, what a fun and exciting client to land. Even more so, Helene and Craig and I became fast friends and remain so to this day. Craig was at the top of the world and was the favorite to become the Olympic Champion in the 1980 Olympics being held in Moscow the next summer. Unfortunately, Craig never got into the Olympics and my shirts never made the Olympics. Some things never change. Politics got in the way and the USA boycotted the Moscow Olympics.
However, Craig went on to a stellar running career and his company Front Runner began to put together some of the largest participatory events in the country, and little Sports Energizers was the official printer for those race T-shirts. The events included the San Francisco Bay to Breakers Race (12,000 shirts) , The Peachtree Race in Atlanta ( 18,000 shirts) and the Crescent City Classic in New Orleans. Craig won all of those races and our little company,Sports Energizers went in 4 years to having one little home made one color screen printing press to a fully automatic 4 color press that could print 300-400 shirts per hour.
Thanks Craig you pushed yourself to greatness and some of that rubbed off on me as I pushed for the next 30 years to make our business a success!