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Kruse, Nieto, Onitsuka, Renfrow Elected to Hall of Fame

Team dealer Ron Kruse, fitness innovator Augie Nieto, athletic footwear manufacturer Kihachiro Onitsuka and specialty fitness retailer Randy Renfrow have been elected to the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame.

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For Immediate Release
October 2007

MOUNT PROSPECT, IL (October 31, 2007) – The Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame Committee announced today that it has elected four new members of the Hall of Fame, who will be inducted next May.

Ron Kruse, Hayden’s Athletic; Augie Nieto, Life Fitness and Octane Fitness; the late Kihachiro Onitsuka, Asics Corp.; and the late Randy Renfrow, Fitness Resource, will be honored in ceremonies Tuesday evening, May 6, during the 44th Annual NSGA Management Conference & 10th Annual Team Dealer Summit. The Conference & Summit will be held May 4-7, 2008, at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs in Phoenix, Ariz.

Since 1956, the sporting goods industry has honored its pioneers, innovators and leaders, and the election of the Class of 2007 brings the total number of Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Famers to 138. The Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame induction ceremony is co-sponsored by Messe München GmbH (ISPO); Mizuno USA; New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc.; and W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc.

“This year’s inductees are special because of their many varied and noteworthy accomplishments in the sporting goods industry,” said NSGA Hall of Fame Committee Chairman Randy Ruch, CEO of Schuylkill Valley Sports, Pottstown, Pa. “Election to the Hall of Fame is the highest honor one can receive in the sporting goods industry, and these inductees meet the high standards to which all Hall of Famers are held.”

Ron Kruse
Hayden’s Athletic, Montgomery, Ill.
Ron Kruse began his career as a team dealer as the third employee hired at Hayden and Sweasy Sporting Goods in Aurora, Ill., in 1959. During the ’60s, Ron was involved in every aspect of the business, including retail, road sales, purchasing, billing and personnel.

In 1972, he became a stockholder in Hayden’s and was named general manager in 1974. Ron helped grow the business from $300,000 in the mid-1960s to more than $10 million in sales today.

Ron was a founding member of the Team Athletic Goods (TAG) buying group in the late 1970s and is currently an ownership partner. He served on the NSGA Board of Directors for eight years, including a two-year term as Chairman. He is the current Past-Chairman of the Association.

Ron and his wife Carole have three children, including son David, who is active in the business. Ron has been involved in many civic activities, including Boy Scouts of America, his local high school boosters club, and the Aurora Sunrise Rotary Club. He served on the advisory board of a local bank and is active in school fund-raising activities.

Augie Nieto
Life Fitness
Octane Fitness, Andover, Minn.
Augustine L. Nieto II is one of the most successful innovators in the history of the U.S. fitness industry. In 1977, at the age of 19, Nieto bought the marketing rights to the Lifecycle exercise bike.

In 1980, he co-founded Lifecycle, Inc., and over the next 20 years, the company, now called Life Fitness, Inc., repeatedly multiplied in size under his leadership and grew to be the largest commercial manufacturer of fitness equipment in the world.

Nieto currently serves as chairman of Octane Fitness, an Andover, Minn.-based designer and distributor of premium elliptical cross-trainers in the high-end, consumer specialty fitness equipment market.

He also is an operating advisor of North Castle Partners, a leading private equity investor headquartered in Greenwich, Conn., that focuses on consumer businesses that address healthy living and aging trends, and he is on the boards of several companies, including Grand Expeditions, Boca Raton, Fla., and Quest Software, Irvine, Calif.

An active member of the Young Presidents Organization, Nieto is a 1995 recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in Illinois.

He earned a degree in economics with an emphasis in financial accounting from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. He resides in southern California with his wife and four children.

More recently, he has devoted much of his time and effort raising funds for research to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, with which he was diagnosed in February 2005.

Kihachiro Onitsuka
Asics Corporation, Kobe, Japan
Kihachiro Onitsuka was born on May 29, 1918, in Tottori Prefecture in western Japan. Concerned at the sight of the nation’s youth after World War II, he made it his mission to inspire young people and chose the world of sports as a means to fulfill his goal.

In 1949, he started Onitsuka Co. Ltd., the first sports shoe company in Japan. Using many creative ideas, he released innovative and groundbreaking products. In 1977, ASICS Corporation was formed through a merger of Onitsuka Co. Ltd, G.T.O. Co., an equipment manufacturer, and Jelenk Co., a sports apparel manufacturer. Onitsuka became the president and aimed to diversify the business to be more competitive on the global sporting goods market.

The name Asics comes from the Latin phrase, “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano” – a sound mind in a sound body.

In 1992, he became chairman of ASICS Corporation, a position he held until his death. Today ASICS is the fifth largest sports goods manufacturer, making products not only for Olympic Gold medal winners, but also ordinary people who participate in sports as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Over the years, Onitsuka also held a number of public offices. He was president of the Japan Basketball Association and was the lifetime honorary president of the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry. He received the Order of the Sacred Treasure (1988), Medal with Blue Ribbon (1974), and Medal with Dark Blue Ribbon (1978, 1983). In 2001, he received the Olympic Order.

Onitsuka also wrote a number of books, including “My Personal History” (1992), and “All You Need To Do After Falling Down Is To Stand Up Again” (2000).

Randy Renfrow
Fitness Resource, Fairfax, Va.
August 9, 2002 saw an unconventional end to a life that affected the course of the specialty fitness industry. Randall Paul (Randy) Renfrow, a driven but quiet voice in the fitness industry died in a home accident, ironic for a man who lived much of his life on the edge as a national champion motorcycle racer.

Randy brought a unique vision for a retailer to an industry in its infancy, helping many manufacturers develop, build and refine their products to be successful in the marketplace.

His straightforward demeanor, combined with his grassroots knowledge of the fitness industry, his native engineering ability, and genuine affection for people enabled him to develop lasting relationships in the industry. His competitive nature, honed on the racing circuit, was also present in his dealings in the fitness industry and commanded respect and admiration from those who worked with him.

Randy took over the Fitness Resource division of his parent company in 1986 while still competing as a racer and winning three national championships during the ’80s. Under Randy’s guidance, Fitness Resource grew from a single store to 21 stores covering markets from Maryland to Georgia.

Randy focused on what made the specialty side of the fitness industry different and shaped the company to focus on those elements critical for success. He always took the customer’s point of view in giving advice to manufacturers on product issues.

He understood the need for improved quality control and respectable margins for dealers and fought long and hard for those issues to the benefit of the industry as a whole.

About NSGA:
NSGA, which has served the sporting goods industry since 1929, organizes and hosts the annual NSGA Management Conference & Team Dealer Summit, the sporting goods industry’s premier educational and networking event (Next: May 4-7, 2008 at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs in Phoenix, Ariz.).

For more information on NSGA member services, visit the Association home page (; call Rhonda Onuszko at NSGA, (847) 296-6742, Ext. 131; e-mail:; or fax (847) 391-9827.