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NEWS: Whittaker Signs NIL Deal, Bradley Hires Andrew Carlson & Utah Extends Coach Kyle Kepler


 

Juliette Whittaker Signs NIL Deal With On

Earlier this week, Stanford's Juliette Whittaker announced via Instagram that she has signed a "Name, Image and Likeness" (NIL) deal with On. The rising sophomore's brand deal comes shortly after Roisin Willis, her teammate, signed an NIL deal with New Balance.

Whittaker has proven to be one of the most talented women in today's NCAA middle distance landscape. As a rookie, the Maryland native produced times of 2:00.05 (800), 4:12 (1500) and 4:33 (mile). That former time was run at NCAA Indoor Championships this past winter en route to a silver medal finish in the half-mile finals.


Admittedly, the 2023 outdoor track season was not as kind to Whittaker as her winter campaign was.


The rising star ended her spring season early at the West Regional Championships after (surprisingly) choosing the 1500 meters over the 800 meters. Even so, the Cardinal ace proved to be one of the most valuable youngsters in the NCAA this past year -- and she still holds a 1:59.04 (800) PR from her prep days.


With this deal, the Stanford women will likely have Whittaker staying with the team for at least the next year. And with fellow teammate Roisin Willis also set to return in 2024, the Cardinal will likely have another juggernaut DMR capable of competing for national titles and Penn Relays wheels.


They'll also have another shot at competing with LSU's Michaela Rose (assuming she returns to the NCAA) for top finishes on the national stage over 800 meters.


Rory Leonard Signs Pro Contract With Hoka

Earlier this month, Rory Leonard announced via Instagram that he would be leaving Oklahoma State and returning to the United Kingdom. Shortly after the move, Leonard announced that he has signed a pro deal with Hoka.

The now-former Cowboy, who was the 33rd place All-American at the NCAA XC Championships last fall, holds a resume that perfectly meshes with the long distance identity of Hoka's brand.


Leonard ran 28:21 for 10,000 meters this past spring at the Stanford Invite before ultimately not racing for the rest of the spring months. Prior to his departure, the rapidly-progressing distance talent from Great Britain was expected to have a key role in Oklahoma State's cross country lineup this fall as the Cowboys took aim for the national team title in November.


Andrew Carlson Hired As Bradley's Next Head Coach

Bradley University has announced that they have hired Andrew Carlson as the team's next head coach. The former Louisville distance coach will take over for the Braves' former head coach, Darren Gauson.


Ironically, Gauson left Bradley to join the University of New Mexico after Coach Joe Franklin left the Lobos to take the Director role at Louisville.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a complete coaching triangle of change.

Since joining the Louisville program in 2021, Carlson oversaw the development of Ian Kibiwot who has run 13:45 for 5000 meters and 28:27 for 10,000 meters. Prior to joining the Cardinals, Coach Andrew Carlson spent seven-and-a-half years with North Dakota State. There, he led the Bison women to the 2019 Summit League cross country title and guided the training of Erin Teschuk, a 2016 Canadian Olympian.


Carlson will now be joining a Bradley program that is expected to return top middle distance talents such as Wilma Nielsen and Tianna LoStracco. During cross country, the Bradley women finished 4th at the Midwest Regional XC Championships this past fall. It should also be noted that the men's team qualified for the NCAA XC Championships back in 2018.


Brian Maty Hired As Assistant Distance Coach at New Mexico

The University of New Mexico has hired Brian Maty as the Lobos' next assistant distance coach. Maty previously worked with the Bradley men and women before following Darren Gauson, the new head coach of New Mexico track and field, to Albuquerque.

The Loras College graduate spent two years with the Braves before making the move to the Mountain West distance running powerhouse this summer. He also worked with the professional training group, Brooks Beasts, as well as the University of Portland via internship and externship experiences.


According to one source, the University of New Mexico was looking to add a men's distance coach to their program this summer. However, the recent coaching change

has ultimately altered the staffing structure of the Lobos.


John Elders Hired As Assistant Distance Coach at Colorado State

Earlier today, Colorado State announced that they have hired John Elders as the Rams' newest assistance distance coach. The introduction of Elders comes shortly after Coach Kelly Hart was named as the men's and women's head distance coach back in May via promotion.

Elders brings with him over three decades of coaching experience, previously sitting as the head coach at Cal State Fullerton. In 2021, Elders retired, but retained emeritus status after 33 years with the program, the first to do so in CSF athletics history.


Since 2017, the Rams' newest assistant distance coach won five BIG West titles across all three seasons of competition. Elders most notably developed Samantha Huerta who ran the Titans' school record of 2:03.96 over 800 meters back in 2019. He also oversaw the development of Mike Tansley who ran the Cal State Fullerton steeplechase school record of 8:41 back in 1994.


With him, Elders will bring decades of experience which should help the transition of a still-young (but accomplished) coach in Kelly Hart to the head distance coaching role at CSU.


Utah Extends Coach Kyle Kepler's Contract Through 2028

Last week, Utah announced that they have extended the contract of head coach Kyle Kepler to a deal that will keep him with the Utes through 2028. Kepler has spent 18 years with the Utah women.

In recent years, the Lady Utes have found national-caliber cross country success as a team. The introduction of top transfers such as Emily Venters, Simone Plourde, Keelah Barger and Ariel Keklak led to the Utah women finishing 20th overall at the 2021 NCAA XC Championships and later 12th place at the 2022 NCAA XC Championships.


That latter result was the best-ever cross country national meet finish in program history.


Kepler has also been responsible for reviving the collegiate distance running career of Emily Venters, a top distance star who had experienced multiple challenges after making stops at Boise State and Colorado.


But with the Utes, Venters ended up running the NCAA #6 all-time mark over 10,000 meters this past spring. She also left the 2022-23 academic year as a four-time All-American.


Simone Plourde, meanwhile, has evolved into one of the NCAA's next great distance stars. After a promising 2022 fall campaign, the Canadian ace ran 8:53 for 3000 meters on the indoor oval and finished 4th in that event at the NCAA Indoor Championships. She also ran 15:21 for 5000 meters this past spring, won the PAC-12 title over 1500 meters and finished 7th overall in the 5k at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.


It should also be noted that Plourde just ran 4:06 (1500) in Montréal back in late June.


Kepler's ability to produce top-tier individuals as of late, as well as former standouts such as Langley Iverson, Amanda Mergaert, Grayson Murphy and Sarah Feeny, has quietly positioned him as one of the more accomplished distance coaches on the western side of the country.


However, in the fall of 2023, Coach Kyle Kepler and his staff will be tasked with the difficult task of replacing three of their top-four scorers from last year's national meet lineup.


Lindsey Grasmick Steps Down As Western Colorado Head Coach

Earlier this week, Western Colorado head coach Lindsey Grasmick announced via Instagram that she would be stepping down as the team's head coach. She also noted that she was parting ways with the coaching profession.


While Coach Jen Michel has led the Mountaineers on the distance side of their program, it's been Grasmick who has helped Western Colorado emerge as one of the more competitive Division Two track and field programs in the NCAA over the last few years. There's also understanding that Grasmick oversaw the development of Bailey Sharon in recent years, a top D2 middle distance standout.


With Coach Grasmick stepping down from her role, a new career opportunity awaits at a major RMAC powerhouse. Coach Jen Michel, who has established Western Colorado as a top-tier long distance program within Division Two, is a potential candidate to monitor for the opening.

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