Gold Miner

Vin Lananna keeps returning to the starting line.

Hired as Oberlin College's director of athletics last year after winning five NCAA titles in 11 years at Stanford University, Lananna grooms Olympic-caliber runners, sending five athletes to previous Games.

This year, the 51-year-old president and co-founder of the Nike Farm Team, a runner's training camp at Stanford, has a trackful of middle- and long-distance hopefuls for the Olympics in Athens, Greece.

And though the late-July track-and-field trials had yet to take place at press time, Lananna is bound to remember this year's Games no matter how many of his runners vie for Olympic gold. He was selected as one of seven coaches to lead Team USA's track-and-field contingent in Athens.

He will coordinate the male cunners in the middle-distance category, which includes the 800-meter, 1,500-meter and steeplechase (a 3,000-meter race with hurdles) events. The games open Aug. 13 with track-and-field events starting Aug. 20.

Among Lananna's protégés with Olympic aspirations — all Nike Farm Team members — are Michael Stember, 25, and Nicole Teter, 28, in the 800-meter races. Potential qualifiers for the 1,500-meter races include Jason Lunn, 27; Brant Robison, 25; Stember; aAd Teter. For the steeplechase, Tom Chorney, 24, is a good bet.

"The Olympics have a tricky preparation period," Lananna says. "It's almost a spiritual experience because gou must have everything going, you must be so synchronized. It puts the premium on training throughout the four years."

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