Fries with that? Berian goes from fast-food counter to Rio


By Pat Graham

AP Sports Writer

EUGENE, Ore. — McDonald’s and Nike are in Boris Berian’s rearview mirror.

His next supersized challenge: The Olympics.

Berian earned his spot for Rio by finishing second behind New Madison, Ohio-native Clayton Murphy in the 800 meters at the U.S. Track and Field Trials on Monday.

First, second or third — it didn’t matter, he just wanted to make the Olympic team. He couldn’t have imagined of this type of moment when he was serving fries and cooking burgers two years ago.

And he especially couldn’t have imagined this two weeks ago, when he was embroiled in a lawsuit with Nike over what gear he was wearing. He thought the lawsuit might prevent him from competing at trials. A day before they started, though, Nike dropped the lawsuit and a weight was lifted off Berian, who was wearing fresh-out-of-the-box New Balance spikes.

“All this came so fast,” the 23-year-old said. “It’s just amazing right now. I have no words. Just so excited.”

Berian jumped out to the lead about halfway through the race, but was caught at the end by Murphy, who won in a time of 1 minute, 44.76 seconds, with Charles Jock placing third.

“(Murphy) came out of nowhere,” Berian said.

In many ways, though, so did Berian.

A promising runner out of Widefield High School in Colorado Springs, Colo., Berian went to Adams State in Alamosa, Colo., where he won indoor and outdoor national titles as a freshman. But he struggled with his eligibility due to grades.

Eventually, he dropped out and tried to strike out on his own in the spring of 2014. He crashed on a friend’s couch and found a job at McDonald’s to subsidize his training.

Each day he would ride his bike or walk the nearly three miles to work the early shift, so that he would have time to train in the evening — for a moment just like this.

“It’s been a stressful four days, but it’s all worth it,” said Berian, who trains with the Big Bear Track Club in California.

Still, there were anxious days before the trials, when Berian wasn’t sure if he would be allowed to compete given the status of a lawsuit.

At a meet in May in Southern California, Berian was sued by Nike for breach of contract. Signed during a breakout 2015 season, his endorsement deal went through Dec. 31, 2015, but gave the company the right to match any other offers. Nike argued that it matched an offer presented by New Balance, which Berian preferred.

A judge was scheduled to issue a ruling before Nike dropped the suit.

“It was annoying,” Berian said of the litigation. “I just focused on training, kept positive. That’s what I did. Kept all that legal stuff as far away as possible.”

Now, he’ll have a date against world-record holder David Rudisha of Kenya and the rest of the international field. Qualifying for the 800 starts Aug. 12.

“I’m just so proud right now,” Berian said.

By Pat Graham

AP Sports Writer

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