Ontourage: How the OAC is changing Running
By: Kyle Markley
(editors note: This article was written pre-Olympics)
Last year On Running, the Swiss based running company, made a splash in the running world by creating their own professional team. The team would be comprised of runners from across the globe with the goal of becoming a world class professional running team. This new group would be called the On Athletic Club.
But before there can be a team, there needs to be a coach. The search was on to find the person that would lead this team from nothing to the podium. Eventually, the coaching search led to one recently retired runner turned coach: Dathan Ritzenhein. Coach Ritz had spent the previous six years transitioning from professional runner to coach. Toward the end of his running career, Dathan took up coaching the Gazelle Elite Racing Team based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. After sharpening his coaching chops with Gazelle Elite, Dathan made the big leap to become the coach of the OAC. This decision moved Dathan back to the home of his alma mater and one of the premier hubs for distance running in the United States: Boulder, Colorado.
(Photo: University of Colorado Athletics)
When On was deciding on who to sign as its first OAC runner, they were looking for someone to build a team around; a person who defined what the team would be all about. They didn't have to look any further than right down the road at the University of Colorado.
(Photo: On Running)
Joe Klecker was finishing up his senior year before Covid abruptly ended his chances of winning a national title. However, he was able to build a strong running resume as a nine time All-American and two-time runner-up finisher at NCAA National Championships. Joe had a bright future in running and would soon be a perfect fit for this new team.
With Joe on board, On and Dathan made an unorthodox decision for the rest of the team. They would create a team of recent college graduates, essentially a draft class of future talent. While many established teams will sign recent college graduates, it was unheard of to create a team largely comprised of runenrs with little to no professional running experience. In doing so, the focus would be on developing the runners rather than sign big names in the sport that have already established themselves on the pro circuit.
After putting in overtime recruiting potential athletes, Dathan assembled his Avengers. Alongside Joe were recent graduates Alicia Monson, Carlos Villarreal, Oliver “Olli” Hoare, and George “Geordie” Beamish. Rounding out the team were two women that Dathan had coached at Gazelle Elite, Leah Falland & Emily Oren. Finally, Polish runner and already On sponsored athlete Alicja Konieczek brought solid experience having already competed on the world stage in 2019.
(Photo: On Running)
Together, this team packs a punch with its combined 23 collegiate National Championships amongst the athletes. Soon after officially announcing OAC, the team quickly made a splash with Joe, Olli, and Carlos going after the Colorado state mile record with Olli taking the win and the record in 3:56, and Joe clocking a 3:58. But, this was only a glimpse of the team’s versatility with range from the 800m all the way to the 10k. Over the course of the past year, OAC athletes have dominated races across the globe. With the trials now behind us the OAC will be sending Alicja, Alicia, Joe, and Olli to Tokyo.
Along with the trials, the other big news was the signing of the 2nd inaugural class of OAC athletes. Fresh out of college and both recent national champions are women Sage Hurta and Carmela Cardama Baez. The last signee is joining the team from Team Boss: Morgan McDonald.
In just two years, the OAC has gone from a vision to having Olympic medal hopefuls. In so many ways, OAC is the running equivalent of the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The Knights made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first year as a professional hockey team. So OAC if you are looking for a mascot, just saying a Knight would look pretty cool.
With the success the team is having, imagine what they can do in five or ten years. This team is the real deal for On and running.
Drop in the comments who your favorite OAC athlete is!