Earlier today, NAZ Elite, a professional training group sponsored by Hoka One One, announced that they have signed Arkansas' Krissy Gear, Wisconsin's Olin Hacker, Colorado's Abby Nichols and Florida State's Adriaan Wildschutt to professional contracts.
NAZ Elite also signed Iowa State superstar Wesley Kiptoo back in April.
Earlier this year, NAZ Elite announced that two-time Olympian Alan Culpepper would take over as the team's newest head coach while former coach Ben Rosario moved into an "Executive Director" role.
And with a star-studded group of former collegiate standouts now entering this team, it is appears that the Hoka-powered training group is revamping their identity.
When looking at overall career resumes, Krissy Gear stands out in this extremely accomplished group. Known for her versatility, the cross country All-American has run times of 2:04 for 800 meters, 4:09 for 1500 meters, 4:31 in the mile, 9:08 for 3000 meters and 9:38 in the steeplechase.
Primarily a miler with great event flexibility, Gear was the runner-up in that event at the 2021 NCAA Indoor Championships and anchored Arkansas' DMR to a silver medal at that same national meet as well.
She would go on to place 5th in the 1500 meters at the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
In 2022, Gear was the 800 meter leg on the Razorbacks' DMR which won an indoor national title. She then went to the outdoor national meet and secured a 4th place All-American finish.
Then there is Olin Hacker, the Wisconsin star who had a breakout 2021-22 campaign on both the track and the grass. The Badger ace was a cross country All-American this past fall and later went on to run times of 3:56 (mile) and 7:45 (3k) during the winter months. He later placed 4th at the indoor national meet in the latter event.
On the outdoor oval, Hacker continued to thrive, running an incredible time of 13:19 for 5000 meters and eventually bringing home NCAA gold at the outdoor national meet in the same event.
Abby Nichols has been a long-time standout in the NCAA, but has truly gained momentum over the past year or two. The former Ohio State and Colorado runner placed 18th at the NCAA Winter XC Championships and then 8th at the NCAA Fall XC Championships this past year, both times as a Colorado Buffalo.
On the track, Nichols was electric. She has run times of 4:14 (1500), 15:15 (5k) and 32:27 (10k).
Nichols has won a BIG 10 outdoor 5k title back in 2019, collected a total of three PAC-12 titles while at Colorado, was the NCAA leader in the 10k during the 2022 outdoor track season, currently sits at NCAA #9 All-Time in the women's 5k and was the 6th place finisher in the 5k at the 2022 outdoor national meet.
In short, Nichols has done it all.
And then there's Adriaan Wildschutt, a former Coastal Carolina runner who eventually went on to run for Florida State. Since joining the Seminoles, the South African superstar has refined his race tactics and has built upon an already-elite level of fitness.
Wildschutt was the runner-up finisher at the NCAA Winter XC Championships and then placed 6th at the NCAA Fall XC Championships this past year. On the track, the long distance star threw down other-worldly times, including marks of 7:52 (3k), 13:09 (5k indoor) and 27:38 (10k).
At the indoor and outdoor national meets, Wildschutt has earned four All-American honors, finishing as high as 4th place on two separate occasions.
To some extent, NAZ Elite's introduction of this star-caliber quartet seemingly veers away from the traditional long distance identity that the pro group has established over the years.
Gear and Hacker traditionally don't move higher than the 3k or the 5k. Nichols, despite being a 10k specialist, has also proven to be highly effective in the 1500 meters, the 3000 meter and the 5000 meters.
Wildschutt, however, appears to already match the aerobic-centric mindset that NAZ Elite has historically embraced.
Regardless, all of these athletes have shown an ability to effectively move up in distance. And with a new coach at the helm of NAZ Elite, it will be fascinating to see how this new young core will responds to the evolution of Hoka One One's flagship pro group.