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When Nancy Yaeger started triathlon training with Ultramax Sports, she says she hardly knew how to swim across a pool. Now, seven years later, Yaeger has completed two Ironman triathlons — and become the new full-time manager of Columbia’s Ultramax Sports.
Although Yaeger has lived in Columbia for 17 years, it took her some time to wander into Ultramax Sports. Working first as a sales trainer and later as a real estate agent, Yaeger found neither job offered her the ability to empower others, something she desperately wanted to do.
But when a friend persuaded her to do a triathlon, Yaeger got a glimmer of what was to come. She was hooked. She signed up for an Ultramax Sports training group, which provided her with an exercise regimen and fellow trainers. She became a regular customer at the downtown location (700 E. Broadway) and visited so often she knew the employees by name.
Before long, Yaeger and the store’s owner, Amy Livesay, were running partners. While on one of their routine jogs, Livesay presented Yaeger with a unique opportunity: become the new face of Columbia’s Ultramax Sports.
“When Amy approached me, I was at the point where I wanted to start pursuing my passions,” Yaeger says.
On July 6, she stepped into her position as full-time manager.
Livesay says she and her husband, co-owner Mark Livesay, made the right decision when hiring Yaeger. Although the two of them plan to step back from the business in the next year, they feel they’ve left the company in capable hands.
“We hired people who are smarter than we are,” Livesay said in an email. “[They are people] who love this business, love what it stands for and will do a better job running it than we have.”
Livesay, who created the company as The Starting Block in 2006 before buying all services under Ultramax Sports in 2012, shares the same desire to empower shoppers as Yaeger. She says it’s been a challenge to convince customers that Ultramax Sports is not just a place for “good” runners to shop but trainees of every size, shape and ability. Yaeger says the store’s training groups, like the one she joined seven years ago, allow newbies to “graduate from couch to 5K.”
Livesay agrees the store often transforms the lives of its customers and employees. She gives several examples: a child with shin splints who, once outfitted with new shoes from Ultramax Sports, competed at the state level; a group of beginners who, upon completing their first race together, broke into tears and initiated a group hug; an Ultramax Sports employee who took Livesay aside and told her, “I love my job.”
Now, Livesay wants Yaeger to become the eyes and ears of the establishment and to take those life-changing moments into her own hands. Yaeger already has dreams and schemes; she wants more trainees signing up for running groups, more customers visiting the website — and she wants to beat the Springfield, Missouri, location in sales.
“[Livesay] wants me to be the one to make sure this store is successful in Columbia,” Yaeger says.