HOKA Announces Three NIL Signings At Foot Locker Nationals

Before the start of Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego, Calif. on Saturday morning at Balboa Park, HOKA, the title sponsor for the event, announced the signing of three former champions to Name, Image and Likeness deals. 

Current collegians Natalie Cook, Kole Mathison and Karrie Baloga all signed NIL deals with HOKA, news which they made public via their social media channels on Saturday.

All three won Foot Locker championships in San Diego as high schoolers. 

Cook won in 2021 when it was called Eastbay Nationals and became the first high school girl from Texas to win the meet title, clocking 17:15 for the win. Kole Mathison and Karrie Baloga won the championship titles in 2022 when the meet was under the Champs Sports XC Nationals name, earning the wins in 14:56 and 16:49, respectively.

All three collegiate underclassmen were on Colorado's cross country roster this fall and are the first runners to sign NIL deals with HOKA. 

They're the latest track and field/cross country athletes to sign deals in what has been a marquee fall for the NIL space. Other former high school greats have inked deals with various running brands, including Lex and Leo Young with On.

"Excited to form a partnership with HOKA and support Footlocker Nationals as the South Region Coach," Cook wrote in her announcement post on Instagram. "Look forward to watching a great race and wish all the athletes the best. Hope they do better on the second hill then I did in '21."

Cook was undefeated her senior year at Flower Mound (TX) on the cross country course. She ran a personal best of 16:03 for 5K at Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships, just a week before claiming her first Eastbay title.

In the spring of 2022, she finished 12th in the mile at the HOKA Festival of Miles with a lifetime best of 4:42. At her UIL 6A State Championship meet, she clocked the second-fastest 3,200m performance in high school history with a 9:48.25. Katelyn Tuohy, who just signed a professional contract with adidas, still holds the national high school record of 9:47.88. 

A year later, Cook began her freshman year at Oklahoma State University. She was seventh overall and was the second freshman to cross the finish line at the NCAA Division I Championships where she clocked 19:46.3 for 6K. Since then, Cook transferred and is now a sophomore at the University of Colorado. 

Baloga's high school resume is impressive. After winning the NYSPHSAA State Championship and NY Federation Championship titles for Cornwall (NY) as a senior, she clocked a personal best at nationals with a 16:49 to grab the win. She later on ran at the World U20 Championships in Bathurst, Australia where she set a 6K lifetime best of 22:12 and helped Team USA capture bronze for the team finish. 

During the spring, she ran the third-fastest 2K steeplechase performance in high school history with a time of 6:21.31. 

Baloga was a member of the Colorado cross country team and she finished 82nd at this year's NCAA Championships as she helped the Buffalos finish 19th. After NCAAs, she entered the transfer portal. 

Mathison, a recent Carmel (IN) graduate, had a breakthrough season last year as a high school senior. He was fourth at Nike Cross Nationals and then a week later became the Champs Sports XC champion. After his astonishing season, he was named the Indiana Gatorade Player Of The Year and has since taken his talents to the University of Colorado.

All three athletes are in attendance at Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego this morning.

The Foot Locker Championships girls race will begin at 11:15 am CT followed by the boys championship race at noon CT.