2013: The Evolution of Professional Training Groups

Published by Scott Bush
Jan 3rd 2013, 4:34pm | 3881 views
Matt Centrowitz - Nike Oregon Project

One of the most fascinating things to follow post-Olympics is where professional athletes move, who they switch to coach them and what other athletes they team up with. This off-season has seen a fair share of moving and shaking, as athletes like

The Jerry Schumacher training group will be fascinating to observe in 2013. The team qualified six individuals to the Olympics in London, but bigger things could be in store for this group in what can be deemed a transition year for many of the athletes. For starters, how much racing will Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher do on the track? Will they stay away from the roads after the Boston Marathon for a full summer and fall of track racing or will New York or Chicago pull them back to the roads? Further, how will newcomer Emily Infeld fit in with the talented duo and can she make strong headway to begin her professional career?

On the men’s side, Chris Solinsky and Evan Jager are perhaps the two most intriguing athletes of the bunch. Solinsky is on the comeback trail. One need not forget that a mere two and a half years ago he was running 12:55 (5k) /26:59 (10k) and pushing for the title of America’s best distance runner. Can he bounce back to his former self?

Meanwhile, Jager is in many ways the posterchild of American distance running. His breakout 2012 season in the steeplechase, capped by his American record performance of 8:06.81 and a sixth place finish at the Olympics. Jager’s confidence and fitness are seemingly at an all-time high. While it’s certain he’ll take a shot or two at running a new PR in the steeplechase, it’ll be fun to see him test his talents at the 1,500m and 5,000m distances, too.

Another intriguing storyline will be the evolution of Schumacher newcomers German Fernandez and Chris Derrick. Both have shown they are capable of jumping into the top 3 best runners in the U.S. in their respective events, but the transition from collegiate running to post-collegiate running is challenging. If both can stay healthy and progress in their first full professional season, some great times could be on the horizon.

While the Schumacher training group continues to grow in size and strength, the smaller but even more dynamic Alberto Salazar training group will be exciting to follow in 2013. With the full-time edition of middle distance standout Matt Centrowitz, this group is as dynamic as they get.

The tandem of Mo Farah and Galen Rupp will look to increase their dominance on the world stage, Centrowitz should push to become not only a medal threat in the 1,500m but a gold medal threat, while Dathan Ritzenhein will look to continue his healthy progression back to becoming one of the more dominating runners no matter the distance. While this group has fewer athletes, the potential for a huge 2013 is worth getting very excited about.

Over in Colorado, Jenny Simpson is back with Mark Wetmore. Simpson has had an up and down post-collegiate career thus far, with very high highs and a couple lows. She’ll look to put herself back on top of the awards podium this summer at the World Championships in Moscow, but in which event will it be? The 1,500m has been her bread and butter for the past few seasons, but one must remember that Simpson was world class in the steeplechase, too, and heading back to Colorado gives her instant training partners in Olympians Emma Coburn and Shalaya Kipp.

In the mountains of California, Deena and Andrew Kastor look to start a new era of the Mammoth Track Club, as coach Terrence Mahon was named as the lead distance coach in the UK, moving across the Atlantic Ocean. As the Kastors look to draw new professionals to the training group, they’ll have one big selling point besides the magnificent mountains in their new state-of-the-art track. Who will join their new team remains to be seen, but with Deena’s credentials, beautiful altitude training scenery and a built-in support staff, this group is bound to grow into a powerful unit once more.

While the Mammouth Track Club redefines their role in the sport, quietly Morgan Uceny followed coach Mahon to the UK. After her heartbreaking Olympic performance, Uceny should once again bounce back from disappointment, but will she continue to show she’s the top 1,500m runner in the world? A healthy 2013 campaign with no major spills on the track is an easy goal for the Indiana native.

Meanwhile in Iowa, yes Iowa, Lisa Uhl reunites with her college coach, Corey Ihmels, as she looks to regain the form she was in during her final season as an Iowa State Cyclone. One need to remember that Uhl is only 25. Her potential over the 5,000m and 10,000m distances is rather big, while having a top-tier training partner in NCAA cross country champion Betsy Saina doesn’t hurt either.

Lastly, where will distance aces Amy Hastings and Luke Puskedra end up? The question remains unanswered, although Hastings seems to have found a good training base in Providence, Rhode Island, where she has a consistent training partner in Kim Smith. Will she remain in Providence and join Ray Treacy’s squad?

Puskedra on the other hand is a wild card. He’s a proven commodity on the roads and should still challenge for top five finishes domestically on the track. The former University of Oregon standout has shown he’s incredibly consistent. With a year or two of half-marathon and marathon specific training, he seems poised to vault into the upper echelon of American marathoning. Puskedra grew up in the altitude of Utah and thrived, so could he move to Colorado and jump in with Brad Hudson’s group or another training group? We’ll see.

Post-Olympic years are always fun to follow. The movement across the sport is exciting and creates new order and opportunity. Which athletes will adapt quickly to their new training environments? Who will get off on the right foot in this World Championship year?

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