Coaching and Sponsor Carousel
It’s the end of March, the unofficial start to the outdoor track & field season in the United States. The World Cross Country Championships and indoor track & field are behind us. The first wave of major college invitationals are starting, most notably, the Texas Relays and Stanford Invitational.
This is a good time to note some major coaching and sponsorship changes that have taken place since the end of the 2012 track & field season. Track and field is a very cyclical sport that operates in four-year periods, known as “Olympiads.” The last Olympiad ended with the close of the 2012 London Olympics/2012 outdoor track & field season. The start of this next Olympiad, 2013 through the 2016 Rio Olympics is just getting started. As is often the case at the end of one Olympiad and the beginning of another Olympiad, there is much change.
Jenny Simpson has decided to leave her coach from 2010-2012, Juli Benson, who coached her to the 2011 World Championship gold in the 1500 meters, and return to Mark Wetmore, the man who coached her in college and to all of her current PR’s (1500-3:59.90, steeplechase-9:12.50 (American Record), 5000-15:01.70).
Lisa Uhl has also decided to leave her coach from 2010-2012, Jerry Schumacher, to return to her college coach, Corey Immels. Ulh, then Lisa Koll, set the collegiate record in the 10,000 meters (31:18.07) while a senior at Iowa State under Immels.
There was a big change with the Mammoth Track Club, with Coach Terrence Mahon moving to England tobe the United Kingdom’s distance coach. As a result, Morgan Uceny and Anna Pierce (and Mahon’s wife, Jen Rhines), have moved to the UK to continue to be coached under the watchful eyes of Mahon. Amy Hastings, on the other hand, decided to move to the east coast to be coached by Ray Treacy. Others to leave Mammoth include Scott Bauhs, Meb Keflezighi, and Angela Bizzari. The leadership of the Mammoth Track Club now lies with board president Deena Kastor and the head coach, Andrew Kastor, Deena’s husband. A new track opened in November and the High Sierra Striders merged with the Mammoth Track Club. The Mammoth Track Club was the pioneer of elite training groups. Founded in 2001 by coaches Joe Vigil and Bob Larsen, runners from Mammoth led the revitalization of American distance running, highlighted by Keflezighi and Kastor winning medals at the 2004 Athens Olympic marathon.
While the Mammoth Track Club resurrected American distance running, the current dominant team may be the group coached by Coach Schumacher in Portland. This group is currently nameless, as it has been reported that they are no longer part of the Oregon Track Club, and for the time being are an individual Nike club. At the USA Cross Country Championships, Schumacher coached athletes were dominant. In the women’s race Shalane Flanagan was first and Emily Infeld was fourth. In the men’s race, Chris Derrick was first, Matt Tegenkamp was third, and Eliot Heath was fourth. Derrick and Alan Webb are two of the most recent athletes to re-locate to Portland to be coached by Schumaker. In addition to the athletes already mentioned, Schumacher also coaches Evan Jager, Kara Goucher, Chris Solinsky, Lopez Lomong, Andrew Bumbalough, and German Fernandez.
Shoe companies and sponsorship have also been in the news. As often happens after an Olympiad, some contracts are renewed and some are not. Among the higher profile, “see you laters” were Kim Smith and Bobby Curtis being dropped by Reebok, and Lauren Fleshmen being dropped by Nike. Curtis has signed on with Brooks and joined the Hanson’s Brooks team and Smith is now sponsored by New Balance. Fleshman, who also announced that she is pregnant, signed with Oiselle, a company specializing in women’s running apparel located in Seattle, Washington.
Speaking of Washington, that is where Brooks is located. Brooks made news by committing to continue financial support to the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Program (ODP) for at least four more years. The Hansons-Broooks team is based in Michigan and coached by brothers, Kevin and Keith Hanson. Hanson’s biggest stars to date have been 2008 Olympian Brian Sell and 2012 Olympian and 2011 Boston Marathon runner-up Desi Davilla. Brooks also announced the formation of a new middle distance team to be located in Seattle. Already signed on as part of this team are two women with Seattle collegiate ties: Katie (Follett) Mackey (University of Washington) and Jessica (Pixler) Tebo (Seattle Pacific University). The two men on this new team are pace setter extraordinaire Matt Scherer and the 800 runner who was quite impressive in his striped shirt at the Olympic Trials last year, Mark “Stripes” Wieczorek.
There have probably been many more changes within the track and field world since we last saw most of the top US athletes in London at the 2012 Olympics, but these are some of the most notable changes that happened on the ride known as the coaching and sponsorship carousel.