Barriers to Sport-How a Track Event Connected a Community

This story started in 2007 when I had a crazy idea of trying to build a track at my children’s school in Beaverton.  We successfully raised money and built a 320 meter track that we coined the Holy Trinity Track and Field of Dreams.

The model was to be repeated a few years later when my friend Rich Recker who was instrumental in building a bridge within a community at a school in North Portland that was scheduled to be closed.  Rich and I dreamed up a way to elevate the school in the communities eyes by helping transform it with a world class track and turf field that would bring the interesection of the students as well as bringing world and national caliber athletes to come and train at Roosevelt HS.  The St Johns Teddy Roosevelt Athletic Complex team wanted to make this a community project that would attract athletes from Nike, Brooks, University of Portland as well as youth and high school track and cross country, soccer, football and rugby programs that have made Roosevelt Track and Field  a vibrant part of the community.

    We accomplished that goal and put in a track that had collegiate level jump runways, a steeplechase pit and a year after we dedicated the track we hosted a Portland Track Twilight Meet that delivered two sub 4 minute miles as well a steeplechase and world class javelin throw by Olympian Cyrus Hostetler.

Roosevelt HS Track dedicated in 2012

We dedicated the track in 2012 and had the opportunity for Evan Jager and Carrie Dimoff to come make the intial splash over the water jump early in the Spring. The students from Roosevelt watched the future Olympic Medalist practice and understand the event.

Evan Jager taking the first splash.

Carrie Dimoff prepping for the Trials

This story continues with the current coaching staff at Roosevelt. The facility is ready to host bigger meets and in March of 2017 they are hosting the first annual Teddy Opener hosted to by the Rider Track Club . I received a call from one of my Central Catholic Coaches that worked at the newly rebuilt school to ask where the steeplechase barriers were for the track.  I let her know that when we hosted the RoughRider Twilight Meet that we borrowed the other barriers from a local school.

This is the rest of the story……  

The Track and Field community is deeply connected and outside of the competitive environment we love seeing programs succeed. The state of Oregon and the City of Portland have some of the best that track and field has to offer and those of us that grew up with it want that to continue and inspire those that are just beginning to discover the sport.

We are so fortunate to have such high caliber track and field in Oregon with athletes living among us. There are events like the Portland Track Festival that celebrate and bring together middle school, high school, collegiate, emerging professionals and world class athletes to compete during the summer. The more events that we can have that bring the Track and Field Culture together the stronger the foundation of the sport.

The vision for developing this amazing facility at Roosevelt was to do that in a community that could use it the most.  The collaborative effort from the community, St Johns TRAC, Nike, Anderson Construction and eventually PPS made this a special place.

The facility was built but still needed some fine tuning with equipment and gear including uniforms for the Roosevelt HS team.

I was thrilled when I heard that they were putting on a meet that would bring in  a festival like atmosphere at the first Teddy Open.

I think it is great when an organization prototypes and idea and then figures out how to make it work.

The RHS team put a steeplechase event on the entry list and then realized that they did not have the other barriers.

Leveraging Resources from within the community

I received a call from an old friend who happened to be the head coach at Willamette University.  In preparation for the German and Swiss Junior National Teams using Willamette University’s track as their practice facility during the 2014 World Junior Championships, the purchased a new set of steeplechase barriers because the old ones were a bit worn out.

Knowing that some schools could potentially use older barriers I went down to check them out with one of my Central Catholic coaches that is one of the most passionate track and field people out there, Vince Cooney. Vince just so happened to have a DUMP TRUCK that we drove down and took the broken down barriers from the weeds beside the track at Willamette. 

Fast Forward 2017

I called Vince to check on the status of the broken steeplechase barriers and they were stored nicely in a barn somewhere near Portland waiting for a call like this.

I mentioned to Vince that Roosevelt was hosting a meet and did not have barriers of their own and that it would be fantastic if we could rebuild them and donate them on behalf of the Portland Track Community.


Vince happens to have connections in forestry, lumber mills and is as close to McGyver as I have known someone.

He started with a 140 year old fallen tree in the forest near Portland.

The beams have been cut by a local lumberman.

The barriers are on their way to be joined together with adjustable aluminum standards.

And by weeks end ( March 3, 2017) will be placed on the SteepleChaseBarrier marks on Roosevelt’s Track.

Home Stretch-Roosevelt HS 2013

Olympian Evan Jager @ Roosevelt HS with the Michael Bergmann

Old School and New Approach USC Inspires

I had the fortune to study at a variety of schools during my college years. I studied and ran at University of Arizona for a couple of years and then went to Europe to study at University or Portland’s Salzburg program. That experience opened my eyes up to the world we lived in and I wanted to see more of it. I was lucky enough to get into the School of International Relations at USC in the Fall of my Senior year. I had studied liberal arts in Europe but the USC experience provided me exposure to Africa, Asia and the complexities in the world where we lived. While at USC I had the chance to study in China as one of the first US Universities to spend any significant time in the Peoples Republic of China. We created an opportunity out of what many viewed as a challeninge summer program. This opportunity allowed me to see early on the vision that USC had in pushing the edges with programs that are leading the way.

I have four kids and have been to more college orientations and tours that I can count. My youngest son is a very good student and was being considered at many of the top schools in the country. It was a great opportunity for my wife and I to see what each school had to offer. Brown, Harvard, Princeton,Georgetown, Villanova, U Chicago, Northwestern, Gonzaga, Stanford, Santa Clara, Claremont and USC. This was a great list. I was secretly and quietly watching the process and what would be the best fit for my son. There are many great schools out there but I saw some special things happening at USC. My career at Nike and activities outside showed me that my ability to discern things from a variety of viewpoints through a critical thinking approach was what I saw now as a great advantage in todays rapid fire world. At the orientation at USC I listened to head of the Dornsife school explain why they had 141 different majors and how one could customize and create a multidisciplinary major if that is something that would create a passion for learning. There is the Harmon Institute for Polymathic Studies where students learn about different subjects by experts in those subjects for the sake of learning. These are amazing opportunities and something that I see as a future in how we teach and learn. One of my favorite professors at USC had returned after a decade at the Kennedy School and I had the opportunity to reconnect with him as my son was looking at his options.

Dr Steve Lamy loved hearing what I had been doing for the previous 30 years as I parlayed an International Relations degree into an exciting career at one of the most innovative companies in the world, Nike. He invited me to come speak to a group of students at USC. I had the opportunity in November and have taken that presentation, connected with several of the students and we are exploring how we can leverage the IncubatorU approach in a University that has silos of excellence. Within the walls of these institutions there is an amazing amount of creativity and innovation happens by intersecting and leveraging the experience and knowledge between the different schools. I am working with students from the School of International Relations, Business School, Entrepreneurship programs, School of Social work and Communication to help accelerate some of the ideas and companies that are incubating from within USC and with other schools that have similar challenges.

There is the same opportunity at several other schools in the Northwest to leverage the potential amongst these students  and schools by intersecting with companies and investors to deliver fearless innovation together. I am inspired by the motivation of these universities to lead in a way that challenges the students, breaks down some of the barriers to learn and to make innovation a common and attainable practice.

Interdependence- start by connecting the dots


Interdependence describes relationships in which members of the group are mutually dependent on the others…

How do your promote interdependence within a group but creating a safe environment to reduce the fear in people that have every right and reason to contribute?

I always to try to figure out how to work within a group and see what motivates each person and more importantly what causes people to shut down. There are hundreds for great ideas that do not get heard for every one that does get heard. How do you bring all of those to the surface and let the best naturally float to the top?

How do you feel when you sit in a new group listening to ideas come out from people that are incredibly confident in what they are saying but in your mind you have some thoughts or ideas that you would love to contribute but just don’t think that the time is right to speak up.

I would regret not speaking up after the fact.  I should have contributed but there is fear that underlies that ability to respond. What drives that fear?

It is important to assess where the fear is coming from:

Environmental factors? Is it safe to be heard? Will there be something associated with my participation and be misrepresented to someone else?

Success? What if my idea is great and I have to back it up and people expect me to do it again and again?

Accountability? Is this something that I signed up for? Will I have to deliver?

Failure? What if my idea falls short? Is this something I want to risk being associated with?

Throughout my 30+ years at Nike and coaching athletes in the sport of track and field and cross country I would look for indicators that someone was not fully contributing to the level that they could. I love to pull ideas or performances or a passion to do something out of people by helping them understand that we are all interdependent on each other. The key to that interdependency is the smallest connection point in a story, experience or relationship.

The more we prove  that our ideas are interdependent of each other to build success as well as experience failure. It is so important to have both but knowing that by connecting the dots of ideas, issues, concepts that are similar ( interdependent) and to create a mindset to succeed and build upon that success but also not to fear falling short. I would rather have one of my athletes try something and fall short but discover something about themselves in the process.

The interdependence of my life at Nike, @incubatorU  and as @coachbergiecc are connected by recognizing those dots and having the courage to intersect and see where it will take you.

Fear stifles creativity. Look for the connections. Make them interdependent on each other and push ahead to see where it takes you. The worst that can happen is that you try it again and you have learned from your initial attempt and put another dot out there to connect.