Track Coach Takes honor in stride
Adidas names shoe for man raised in Western Springs
By Amy Sayre
He cannot jump as high as Michael Jordan or throw a football like Michael Vick, but Norm Witek has one thing in common with those athletes - a shoe named in his honor.
Adidas is naming a running shoe for the former Western Springs resident set to hit the shelves in June. There are two catches though - it will only be available in Europe and sold as a women's shoe.
Former Western Springs resident Norm Witek holds a shoe named after him that Adidas in Germany will release. Witek, a track coach at Brevard College in North Carolina, said he is delighted that the women's running shoe will bear his name with it makes its debute in June.
Nonetheless, the honor caught 59-year-old witek off guard. "I still don't believe this is really happening," he said. "This is one of the largest manufacturers of shoes in the world naming a shoe after just one person. It is a tremendous honor that I feel they would select me."
The shoe's development began about a year ago, and the Witeks were notified shortly after.
Barry Witek, Norm's son who works for Adidas Germany, had been asked if the campany could use the family's name for an update of the Brevard women's running shoe. Barry, not wanting to give the OK without his father, called Norm. Norm, uncertain the decision should be left in his hands, called his father, William, a Western Springs resident. "He said that would be great - go for it," Norm Witek said.
Witek's name was considered after a trip by Adidas executives to the North Carolina college where he coached track. The trip at Brevard College during a two-week running camp begun by Witek left an impression on the executives. They developed the Brevard running shoe released in the United States in 1999 as a result.
Years later, Marianne Schmidt-Gothan, product manager for track & field, running and walking at Adidas in Germany, wanted to update the shoe.
Adidas has been connected to Norm ad the Brevard Distance Runners Camp for quite a while now," he said. "We attended the camp a few times and always got very valuable and helpful feedback from Norm and his athletes. Naming the shoe after him is a way for us to say thank you for all his help and support."
Witek has had some great achievements with Brevard's running program since he began there in 1967. He boasts four straight National Junior College Cross Country Championships beginning in 1982, three National Junior College Coach of the Year in Cross Country titles, 116 All Americans in track and cross country and three national cross country individual championships.
Witek, a 1963 graduate of Lyons Township High School, held the record in the 800-meter race there for years. More than 40 years later, he still finds enjoyment in the sport.
"I get a real high in going into the forest and running a four- or five-mile run. I just come out re-energized," he said.
As for the honor, he is taking it in stride. Winning a national championship had been his goal. After achieving that more than 20 years ago, Witek did not expect much more - especially not his own shoe.
"Not in my whole world would I ever dream of this being a reality," he said. "It's just one of those things that just happens. You take it for what it's worth and enjoy it."