The Year Ahead For Every U.S. Pro Distance Running Team
Some New Year’s resolutions for every team as they head into 2023.
With the new year upon us, it's a time of rebuilding, goal-setting, and change for all of us, and the U.S. elite distance scene is no different. From training and racing to tactics and teamwork, these teams will be making their New Year’s resolutions with the World Athletics Championships in Budapest circled on every track and field athlete’s calendar this August.
Given that one of my personal resolutions is to be more proactive, I went ahead and wrote out some suggested resolutions, just in case any club is having a difficult time coming up with any of their own!
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Bowerman Track Club
Every year BTC sees additions and departures, breakouts and retirements. What’s in store for Jerry Schumacher and Shalane Flanagan’s crew in their first full year in Eugene?
Hardware hunt: After finishing 0.17 seconds out of the medals in the 10,000m in 2022, Grant Fisher surely wants a podium spot in the distance events this August. He’s on the cusp of making it happen. With world championships set for 2023 and 2025 and the Olympics next year, he’s got plenty of opportunities, but there’s no better time to solidify himself as a podium mainstay than this year.
Mind the gap: Bowerman studs like Elise Cranny and Karissa Schweizer have dropped some seriously fast times in recent years, but the American record in the women’s 10,000m is still over a minute slower than the world record. Can the BTC women close the gap this year? That’s a pretty decent goal!
Union Athletic Club
With the departure of Craig Engels and the retirement of Alexa Efraimson, there are a few changes on the roster for NIKE’s Portland-based pro group. The team closed out 2022 by adding former Villanova standout McKenna Keegan and former Virginia star Michaela Meyer. We’ve heard there will be some new additions to come.
How will he come back? Donavan Brazier, the American record holder in the 800m and 2019 World champion in the event, is nearly unbeatable when he’s healthy. But a series of injuries have kept him sidelined in recent seasons - Is 2023 the year when he returns to form? Obviously easier said than done, but starting out with a few statement races sure wouldn’t hurt team or personal morale.
Is she here to stay on top? Sinclaire Johnson put the world on notice in 2022 when she won her first U.S. title in the 1500m and became the 8th-fastest American all-time at the event with a 3:58.85 personal best. Will she continue to rack up titles in 2023? I’m particularly excited to see how she fares against the likes of Laura Muir in the women’s Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games on Feb. 11, and I hope she’ll mix things up from the get-go.
On Athletics Club
In 2022, OAC had one of the biggest breakout years you could ask for from a small and relatively new group. Can they build on their momentum to reach new heights?
Championship creds: Olli Hoare showed flashes of true greatness in 2022 with a win at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and a 3:47 PB in the mile at the Oslo Diamond League. After a very strong 2022, he’s in the conversation now to be a medal contender but there’s some brainstorming to be done on how he can break Jakob Ingebrigtsen in a major setting. In 2023, let’s throw a few more racing strategies against the wall and see what sticks/seems to disrupt the unflappable Norwegian.
Monson & Co: Reigning U.S. XC Champ Alicia Monson was the only OAC woman to make the world championship team last year (Note: Sinta Vissa represented Italy at Worlds before joining the team). Let’s get more of her teammates to join her in Budapest. Sage Hurta-Klecker put together one of the most impressive years by going sub-two in the 800 on eight occasions and finishing the year with a 1:57.85 personal best. She even got down to 4:01.79 for the 1500m. She’s got options and that’s a good thing.
The Beasts have struggled to send multiple runners to global championships in recent years, but with some promising talent on the roster and a proven commodity at 1500m, this could be a big year.
Will Josh Kerr test longer distances? Kerr turned a few heads by making a casual 63:44 half marathon debut in San Diego in December. Known more as a 1500m specialist, might we see a shift to the 5,000m - or longer? He’s entered in the 3000m for the Millrose Games. Kyle really likes his chances there. The resolution? Make retired pro milers everywhere proud by taking down a more distance-oriented field.
Will Nia Akins keep going? Akins had a breakout 2022 season, improving her 800m PB from 2:00.24 to 1:58.78. But the women’s 800m field is stacked right now and she’ll likely need to go even faster to make the team for 2023. It’s sub-1:58 time. Why does the U.S. have to be so good?!
HOKA NAZ Elite
The team looks very different than it did a few years ago - and we’re not just talking about the orange uniforms. Will a new coach and a revamped roster lead to success at shorter distances?
Fresh legs wanted: With Steph Bruce retiring, Kellyn Taylor recently giving birth, and notable departures from the men’s team in recent years, all eyes are on recent NCAA grads like Olin Hocker, Adriaan Wildschutt, and Krissy Gear to step up. We’re hearing rumors of some upcoming additions to be announced soon. This goal is a bit more nebulous than others, but I’d love to see this new cohort take up the mantle and lead the charge for a team very much known for its culture.
How fast can Aliphine go if she stays healthy? After returning from childbirth and overcoming a series of injuries to finish top American in New York this fall in a new PB, we’re excited to see just how fast Aliphine Tuliamuk can go with a few more months of healthy training under her belt. PBing – that’s the resolution.
New Balance Boston
With Elle Purrier St. Pierre due to give birth in March, the small but talented middle-distance crew is due for a shakeup.
Running on Dunkin’: Boston native and fan-favorite Heather MacLean had a big year on the Diamond League circuit but missed the team in the 1500m - can she get back on the podium this year? (B Resolution: finally ink that long-coveted Dunkin’ deal.)
Does the men’s team keep growing? The men’s roster on NBB grew 100% last year - from 1 athlete to 2. Now it’s Drew Piazza and Christian Noble. Do they keep adding new men to the mix in 2023? A three-man squad by the end of 2023 would be a win, as far as this resolution is concerned.
Under coach Joan Hunter, the training group has seen a resurgence in performance and morale. Can the team add domestic success to its international cred?
Healthy Hunter: When founding member Drew Hunter is healthy, he’s one of the top U.S. runners in the game. Can he put together a string of training to finally make a team?
Teammates for Tori: The women’s team is a little lonely with Tori Gerlach its only member. Let’s get her a training partner or two.
Led by proven veterans like Emma Coburn and Cory McGee, the Boulder-based mostly-women’s group punched above its weight at a range of distances in 2022.
Breakout time: Runners like Dani Jones, Gabbi Jennings, Katie Rainsberger, and Maddie Alm have had solid NCAA, pro, and road-racing careers and might be due for some breakouts. Will 2023 be their year? I’d like to see at least one of them in team-making contention with a lap or two to go at USAs.
Fauble cashing checks: Now that he’s signed with Nike, will Scott Fauble take his marathon times to the next level in 2023? Fauble tends to march to the beat of his own drummer. It would be great to see him break with US marathoning convention and head over for a fast European marathon in pursuit of a sub-2:08.
The 10k and marathon-focused group typically excels on the roads but has struggled to make a major impact on the track. Will 2023 be a year of change?
Panning to Worlds? Zach Panning took a big jump from his first marathon to his second, running 2:15 in Chicago 2021 and 2:09:28 in Chicago 2022. He’s now one of only five Americans with the World standard (although the window remains open through May). Can he make marathon No. 3 (or No. 4) be in Budapest?
Track studs wanted: The group sent Natosha Rogers to Worlds in the 10,000m last year. Will Hansons-Brooks athletes making teams on the track be a recurring trend?
Under Armour Mission Runs
While technically three distinct groups, the Under Armour pro ranks coalesced under the “Mission Run” branding in 2022. Can they turn the flashy rebrand into flashy results?
Is the second time lucky? Sharon Lokedi had about as good a marathon debut as anyone could dream of with her victory at the 2022 NYC Marathon. She has to be hoping for her second 26.2 outing to be just as – if not more – impressive.
About dang time! Weini Kelati has racked up quite the collection of U.S. titles on the roads but has yet to make a global championship team on the track. Here’s hoping 2023 will be her year.
The North Carolina-based crew helmed by Amy and Alistair Cragg is only a year old but has picked up some intriguing prospects.
Half marathon hype: Pat Tiernan and Fiona O’Keeffe ignited a lot of marathon speculation after dropping seriously fast halves in Houston last year. Tiernan debuted in Chicago last fall but O’Keeffe has yet to tackle the full distance. When she does, it’ll be a race to watch. For Tiernan, the goal has to be to build on that momentum and for O’Keeffe, the name of the game is competing and finishing wanting more out of the next attempt at the distance.
Will the rookies rock? In November, the team announced four newly-signed members from the NCAA Class of 2022. Who will pop off in their first year as a professional? A relatively unknown recent pro needs to shock American distance running fandom into having to google them and pretending they’ve been fans all along.
Taylor Made Elite
In October, BYU women’s coach Diljeet Taylor announced that she was beginning a small professional training group consisting of recent BYU runners-turned-pros. It’s a small outfit for now but will it grow?
A new steeple queen? Courtney Wayment had a huge year that included an NCAA title, her first global team, and knocking 14(!) seconds off her steeplechase PB. Can she keep trimming off time and challenge Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs for top dog in the event? Making another team would be great – breaking up the all-but-assured Frerichs/Coburn 1-2 punch would be even better.
Cougar-heavy roster: The group currently consists of BYU alumni only. Will they expand their ranks to include recent pros from other programs in 2023? (If you’re a fast graduating senior in the NCAA reading this right now, technically this can be your resolution as well.)
Oregon Track Club
NIKE officially cut ties with the group at the end of 2022, and the professional future of the group is in limbo. But Ben Thomas, Cole Hocker, and a merry band of Oregonians have taken on the challenge of building from the rubble.
How fares the rebrand? The new OTC debuted at the 2022 U.S. Club XC National meet, where Hocker won the individual title. Can they keep the momentum going into the new year? Let’s get a few more Hocker national titles this year, and as an added bonus, toss in a couple of his training partners into a US final.
Women wanted: As of now, no women have been announced as members of the new team. That’s a seemingly easy fix.
The scrappy unsponsored group of mostly former NJ-NY Track Club athletes generally flies under the radar, but can they really announce their presence on the pro scene in a major way this season?
Will Holtamania continue? Eric Holt had big years in 2021 and 2022 and picked up a lot of fans along the way. The 2023 to-do list surely includes picking up a shoe contract and a podium spot in the 1500m.
COVID comeback: Steeplechaser Isaac Updike was well-positioned to build on his breakout 2021 this spring, but two ill-timed bouts of COVID-19 derailed his season. With more training and antibodies in his system, he’s gotta be confident that 2023 be the year he makes his first global team.
Did I miss anyone? Email me and let me know. If you’ve got comments or thoughts, feel free to share them with me.
Thanks for reading! Catch the latest episode of The CITIUS MAG Podcast where we break down some of the top news stories in the first week of 2023 and share what we’re most optimistic for in the year ahead.
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🙏 Chris Chavez (@ChrisChavez)
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How about Roots running as they have one of if not the fastest marathon Men's team in the country?