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Oregon distance runner Cooper Teare leaves Ducks for pro career with Nike

The Ducks’ star distance runner recently signed a sponsorship contract with Nike and will not return for what would’ve been his senior season of indoor and outdoor track.

“I’ve loved every second of being a Duck,” Teare said. “It was kind of a hard decision but I’m happy I’m with the one I made.”

Teare leaves Oregon as a two-time collegiate record holder (indoor mile and distance medley relay), a two-time NCAA champion (DMR and outdoor 5,000), and three-time school record holder (5,000, mile, DMR).

All of those accomplishments came during a memorable junior season in 2021 when Teare and former teammate Cole Hocker spent six months keeping Oregon’s men’s distance program in the national spotlight as they raced together through the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials at Hayward Field.

That’s where Teare’s season ended, with a fourth-place finish in the 5,000 meters. Hocker won the 1,500 and finished sixth at the Tokyo Olympics before leaving the Ducks after one season to sign with Nike in September.

Teare said he also had an opportunity to turn pro over the summer, but wanted to run one more cross country season for Oregon as he wrapped up his business degree.

“I’ve sort of been going through the process for months now,” Teare said. “Some people thought I was going to turn pro right after the outdoor track season so it was nice to have a little bit of extra time to go through the motions and talk to the people I had to talk to.”

The cross country season opened on a positive note as Teare earned his first collegiate victory at the Bill Dellinger Invitational at Pine Ridge Golf Club in Springfield. He was also the runner-up at the Pac-12 championship meet.

But at the NCAA championships on Nov. 20, Teare’s legs gave out late in the 10,000-meter race and he crawled his way to the end before regaining his balance long enough to collapse across the finish line in 247th place — just three spots out of last.

“I left nothing in the tank and it just wasn’t my day,” said Teare, who was a cross country all-American in 2019 when he finished sixth. He didn’t compete in cross country during the delayed 2020 season.

Teare said it didn’t take long after that race to decide his collegiate days were done.

“That was a hard way to end it off but also I felt it was time to start a new chapter,” he said. “I talked to my coaches and we all got on the same page and everything fell into place and made sense. … I was considering going pro up right up until the start of cross country.

"The nice thing was (Nike) had seen enough of me and I had proven myself to the point where cross country wasn’t going to change much. They were ready to support me no matter what happened.”

His performance at the cross country championships did nothing to dim the track season he had earlier this year, which was highlighted by a collegiate record in the indoor mile at 3:50.39 and winning the outdoor title in the 5,000 when he ran 13:12.27. That is the fastest time ever by an American collegian and second all-time only to Henry Rono’s 1978 record of 13:08.4.

Teare is staying in Eugene to begin his professional career and will continue to be coached by Oregon associate head coach Ben Thomas. Hocker has a similar arrangement and Teare has been able to witness first-hand his training partner’s transition to the pros during the last few months.

“It was kind of nice having Cole as the guinea pig,” Teare said with a laugh. “It’s been kind of cool to see him go about figuring it all out and I think that will make it easier for me as well.”

As Teare wraps up his final days in the classroom, he is mapping out a path to next summer and what it will take to compete in the World Athletics Outdoor Track & Field Championship meet at Hayward Field.

“It doesn’t feel real,” Teare said. “It hasn’t really set in. It’s really hard to get a grasp of, OK, now I’m doing this as my job. I think once I’m done with school here in the next week it’s going to start to feel more real.”

(12/02/2021) Views: 1,123 ⚡AMP
by Chris Hansen
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