- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2002

Miler Alan Webb is very close to signing a multiyear contract that would have to be considered astronomical for a young track and field athlete.

Webb has been offered a yearly $250,000 contract from Nike with the deal running through 2008, sources said.

Webb acknowledged yesterday from his home in Reston that Nike and other shoe companies, including Reebok and Adidas, were interested in putting their logos on his 5-foot-9, 140-pound body.

There are just a handful of track and field athletes in this country making even a guaranteed $100,000 a year, and those athletes are well-established stars like Maurice Greene and Marion Jones. No American runner as young as Webb has ever been offered anywhere near as much.

Webb dazzled American track fans last year as an 18-year-old South Lakes High School senior by chasing and breaking Jim Ryun's U.S. high school mile record of 3:53.43, set 36 years earlier. Webb's performance was the fastest mile time by an American on U.S. soil since 1998, and made him the 19th-fastest American in history.

He decided last month to break out as a pro, leaving the University of Michigan after a year of trials and tribulations and moving back to Northern Virginia.

The contract does not include any prize money or appearance fees Webb could earn racing in the United States and abroad, nor does it prohibit him from signing sponsorship agreements with other companies that do not compete with Nike, according to sources. The contract does include unspecified incentives based on his success.

Mark Bossardet, marketing director for running for Reebok, confirmed that his company is jockeying for Webb's signature. "He's got a decision to make," Bossardet said, adding that he expected it in the next couple of days.

Bossardet said Reebok is reformulating its long-term strategic plan for running, which currently has no marquee track and field athletes under sponsorship. Reebok's most celebrated athletes in the sport were decathletes Dan O'Brien and Dave Johnson, who were vying for spots on the 1992 U.S. Olympic team.

"We're at the foundation, and we are starting to build," Bossardet said.

He would not reveal the terms of Reebok's offer, but sources say the company was offering nearly as much money as Nike, looking to use the exciting Webb as its top track and field athlete.

Nike currently sponsors at least 60 track and field stars, including Marion Jones, Stacy Dragila, Tim Montgomery, Susy Favor Hamilton and Regina Jacobs.

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