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Former UMN student-athlete carving out path in sport apparel

Sarah Klecker, who competed in cross country and track and field at the U, has designed apparel for wheelchair racing and even running in the frozen tundra.
Image by Bit Klecker

Sarah Klecker is passionate about two things in life: running and sports apparel.

Luckily for her, those two passions go hand in hand. But throughout her time as a student and athlete, Klecker has had to find a way to balance running with her professional goals within the realm of sports product design.

“Being a [former] athlete at Minnesota and then going into performance apparel design, they kind of bounced off each other nicely,” Klecker said. “That being said, the balance of those things was not easy because apparel design was incredibly time intensive.”

Designing sports apparel

Klecker earned her undergraduate degree in apparel design at Minnesota in 2017 and then attended the University of Oregon to earn her master’s degree in sports product design. While in graduate school, Klecker worked on various sports apparel projects to help solve problems she identified within the running community.

One project was inspired by Paul Robinson, the only person to run a mile in Antarctica: Klecker designed a running shoe that would perform better in the conditions of the frozen tundra. She also worked on creating ideal running apparel for The Speed Project, an event in which teams of runners race from Los Angeles, California to Las Vegas, Nevada, experiencing drastically different temperatures throughout the race. But Klecker said one of her favorite projects to work on was designing racing apparel for women’s wheelchair racers.

“We have the same goals and start at the same start line, but physiologically and biomechanically, it’s entirely different,” Klecker said. “It was just interesting because there were a lot of unique problems to solve that weren’t being addressed by running apparel in the running community.”

Over the years, Klecker has done some remote apparel work for Target. She also just started working for The Squad, an apparel consulting firm based in Portland, Oregon. While she said Minnesota will always be home, Klecker enjoys being out in Portland, the sports apparel hub of the United States.

“Portland has been really fun because it is the center of the sport product design world, at least in the United States,” Klecker said. “You’ve got Nike headquarters, Adidas United States headquarters, Under Armour is out here, Columbia is out here and elite athletes train out here.”

A life of running

Running has naturally been a part of Klecker’s life since she was a child. She and her five other siblings were raised by two competitive runners. Her mother, Janis, is a former Olympian who competed in the 1992 marathon. Klecker was a member of the Gophers’ cross country and track and field teams from September of 2013 to May of 2018. Her sister, Bit, is currently a redshirt junior competing for the Gophers’ women’s track and field and cross country teams.

Just because her time as a student-athlete ended over three years ago does not mean running is no longer an important aspect of Klecker’s life. Since she moved out to Oregon, she joined the Bowerman Track Club Elite and competed in a marathon in early December with the hopes of qualifying for the United States Olympic Trials.

Klecker came a few minutes away from qualifying but said she will keep training and see where the next four years take her.

“It was a solid first step, and I think I could run faster the next time,” Klecker said. “I really loved the training for it.”

For now, Klecker is not quite sure where these two passions will take her, but she does know she is excited for the adventure.

“I feel like I am going to be the person who is going to be shifting around for a little bit,” Klecker said. “I do think I will end up wanting to work for a larger company. I like working with a smaller company right now because I get to wear many different hats, but I would also like to be a little more focused in my work.”

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