Local coaches react to Hart alumnus becoming first athlete with cerebal palsy to sign with Nike

Hart alumnus Justin Gallegos is the first athlete with cerebal palsy to sign a professional contract with Nike. File photo
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A quiet piano piece starts. A young man wearing a red sweatband, and a green uniform with a giant yellow O is seen running.
His name is Justin Gallegos.

After finishing his run, Gallegos is surrounded by teammates, coaches and friends. He begins to cry and, eventually, falls into the arms of John Douglass, Nike’s Insights director, as seen on a video shared on social media.

Gallegos, an Oregon University cross-country runner and Hart High School alumnus, began crying due to his historic signing this past week. He became the first athlete with cerebral palsy to sign a professional contract with Nike.

“It was a great four years from start to finish,” said Larry David, who was Gallegos’ cross-country coach at Hart. “He impressed everyone with his work ethic and goals. He was the most influential runner and there was no stopping him as he was a great asset to not only the team, but the whole community.

“The support he got was tremendous and to be able to follow-up a high school career and compete at a club team or any level and have his story exposed is just amazing.”

On Saturday, World Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, Gallegos was competing in a race when he was presented with the deal by Douglass.

“Growing up with a disability, the thought of becoming a professional athlete is… like the thought of climbing Mt. Everest,” Gallegos wrote in an Instagram post after signing with Nike. “Hundreds of miles, blood, sweat and tears has lead me here along with a few permanent scars.”

Cerebral palsy is a disorder that hampers movement, muscle tone and posture that is caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, making physical activity more difficult.

Gallegos used a walker growing up and did physical therapy to help his form, according to Running Magazine.

Once in high school, Gallegos started to run competitively, garnering attention from the sports apparel giant Nike.

He helped the company create the FlyEase, a shoe for runners with disabilities, according to an article from Sports Illustrated. Gallegos came up with a design with a zippered heel to make it easier to slip the shoe on and off.

“I had the honor of seeing Justin run throughout his high school career,” said West Ranch cross-country coach Sara Soltani. “I have to be honest, I cried every time I saw him race. It was breathtaking. Every single person in the crowd was cheering for him.

“He really brought the community together to see someone like him persevere and now that he signed with Nike, I’m getting emotional again because that’s what the sport is about — passion.”

After learning about the contract, and with tears flowing down his face, Gallegos spoke with loved ones on a smartphone.

“Were you surprised? We love you. Good things happen, right?” a woman’s voice sounds off from the phone.

Gallegos nods. The moment clearly meant a lot to him.

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