By: Brian Metzler
For elite runners aiming for the Olympics, sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest differences.
That might prove to be the case for the On Athletics Club (OAC), the professional team of track runners sponsored by On and coached by Dathan Ritzenhein out of Boulder, Colorado. Formed a year ago with four women and four men in their early 20s, “Ritz” has guided the team to a good amount of success so far despite the difficult year confounded by Covid-19.
With the Olympics less than two months away (assuming they actually happen), Australian Olli Hoare and Americans Joe Klecker and Leah Falland are leading the way for OAC. Hoare is ranked No. 2 in the world in the 1,500m (3:33.19), Falland is No. 2 in the U.S. and No. 3 in the world in the 3,000m steeplechase (9:28.72) while Klecker is ranked fifth in the U.S. and 12th in the world in the 5,000m (13:06.67) and fourth in the U.S. and 12th in the world in the 10,000m (27:23.44).
Carlos Villareal (Mexico, 1500m), Alicja Konieczek (Poland, steeplechase), Alicia Monson (U.S., steeplechase), Emily Oren (U.S., 1500m/steeplechase) and Geordie Beamish (New Zealand, 1500m) have also run well this spring. The team’s four U.S. runners are heading to the June 18-27 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., while the others are awaiting qualifying trials or selections from national federations in their home countries.
While the combination of talented and hungry young runners, Ritz’s experience and coaching, and the support of On seem to be a successful mix, so, too, does a partnership with Roll Recovery. The Boulder-based manufacturer of massage and stretching tools has always supported elite athletes, but when the pandemic struck and co-founder Jeremy Nelson had to keep his small workforce at home, he re-envisioned a part of the Roll Recovery offices in the Gunbarrel neighborhood of Boulder.
Through the partnership with On, Nelson and his colleagues shifted an upstairs sales and marketing office room that housed four workspaces into the lower-level warehouse where product assembly and shipping happens. In its place, Roll Recovery created a small but functional custom-designed gym for the OAC athletes to do strength training, stretching and mobility work and to get massages.
Over the past six months, it’s become a key facility for the young team and helped it streamline its weekly training regimen, especially in a time when most private gyms and public rec centers in Boulder were closed or had very limited access.
“It’s one of those things that just happened naturally,” Nelson said. “I always think that things that are meant to be just kind of happen that way without having to do much work to make it happen. It just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Both Ritzenhein and Nelson admit that marketing partnership between On and Roll Recovery just kind of fell into place based on their friendship, mutual respect and Roll’s longtime support of elite athletes.
On’s marketing director Steve DeKoker gave Roll Recovery a budget, and with Roll’s Tracy Ann Roeser leading the design with input from both sides, the new training space came to life last August shortly after the team was announced. There are treadmills, elliptical machines, free weights, massage tables and, of course, a variety of Roll Recovery devices for the team to use. Massage therapists are scheduled as needed to be at the gym for athlete body work.
In addition to being a key training venue, the athletes, On and Roll Recovery all use it as a place to generate social media content. The relationship between the two groups also led to the creation of a two-part video series about the OAC training camp in Arizona in February. (Watch Part 1 and Part 2.)
For the OAC athletes, the gym has provided convenience, saved time and money and helped them build a real team vibe. Other training groups and pro teams have since reached out to Nelson to see if they could use the space or if the possibility of developing a similar relationship. For now, though, it’s exclusively the OAC hangout.
“It’s really provided us with the right space, in the right area and something that is really special and different than what a lot of other groups have,” Ritzenhein said. “It’s like a home base, which I think is important, but I think it’s also helped us develop a team bond and atmosphere. Normally we meet at the track or meet to start a long run, but it’s hard to develop a team vibe while you’re running. The gym at Roll Recovery has become a home base for us, a space we can call our own. The athletes might not even realize how important it is, but I know, based on my experience, that it’s been a key resource for us.”