Hoka NAZ Elite Adds Quartet of NCAA Stars

August 4, 2022

Flagstaff, AZ, August 4, 2022 /OUTDOOR SPORTSWIRE/ – HOKA NAZ Elite announced today that the team has signed four new athletes to its roster: Krissy Gear from the University of Arkansas, the University of Wisconsin’s Olin Hacker, Abby Nichols from the University of Colorado and Adriaan Wildschutt of Florida State University. Collectively, the four athletes have produced 19 All American performances, including Gear’s NCAA Indoor National Championship in the distance medley relay and Hacker’s National Title over 5,000 meters at this summer’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Gear, from Fort Myers, Florida, went to Furman University before transferring to Arkansas where she flourished at the historically good distance program in Fayetteville. During her time with the Hogs she and her Arkansas teammates not only won a National Title together in the distance medley relay but also brought home a Penn Relays 4 x 1500 meter title—setting a national record in the process. Individually, Gear was second in the mile at the 2021 Indoor Championships, fifth in the 1500 at the 2021 Outdoor Championships and fourth at this summer’s Outdoor Championships at 1500 meters.

Gear said NAZ Elite was the right program for who she is as a person and as an athlete.

“NAZ Elite provides two of the biggest things I personally feel I need to be successful in the sport: a team that genuinely cares for and is excited for each other, as well as encouraging their athletes to embrace who they are off of the track,” Gear said. “I feel very blessed and am thankful beyond words for this opportunity to be joining a team that is not only passionate about connecting and working with the people within its immediate circle but also within the entire community.”

Hacker, born and raised in Madison, Wisc., stayed in town for college to run for his beloved Badgers. His loyalty paid off in the form of a senior year that included personal bests in the mile (3:56.66), the 3,000 meters (7:45.73), and the 5,000 meters (13:19.34) and culminated in a dramatic win in the latter event at the NCAA Championships. Hacker’s 54-second final lap secured his national title—a feat his father Tim accomplished for the Badgers back in 1985 when he won the National Cross Country Championship.

Hacker said his dad’s professional running career inspired his own desire to continue on in the sport.

“I feel so lucky to have achieved my improbable goal with the support of HOKA,” Hacker said. “I look forward to joining NAZ, a team engaged with the Flagstaff running community and committed to helping runners achieve goals even more improbable.”

Nichols, who like Hacker has excelled on the track, grew up in Kettering, Ohio where she was a State Champion in both track and cross country. Also like Hacker, she stayed close to home to attend Ohio State University where she became a Big 10 Champion at 5,000 meters. She saw her greatest success, however, after transferring to the University of Colorado where she won three Pac 12 titles and ran the second-fastest outdoor 5,000 meters (15:15.95) in the NCAA as a senior.

Nichols said she’s excited to get started as soon as possible.

“Everything about HOKA and NAZ Elite resonates with me, from their running goals to their core values,” Nichols said. “I’m so excited to join in on the momentum this team has already created.”

Wildschutt, who recently competed for his native South Africa at the World Track and Field Championships and the Commonwealth Games, has run 27:38.54 for 10,000 meters and 13:09.30 for the indoor 5,000 meters—a pending South African National Record. He also holds Florida State school records in the indoor 5,000 and outdoor 10,000 meters and his second-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships was the school’s highest men’s individual finish ever at that event. Before transferring to Florida State, he was a Sun Belt Conference champion for Coastal Carolina University where he was coached by South African, and former world record holder, Zola (Budd) Pieterse.

Wildschutt said falling just short of an NCAA cross country title in 2021 left him feeling like he had a lot more to give.

“Running professionally has been a dream of mine for a long time, and I’m stoked for the opportunity to show my potential across all facets of the sport in the near future, and hopefully inspire more people to chase their dreams,” Wildschutt said. “Getting some international exposure this year will prepare me to perform at a high level not only for myself but also my family, HOKA NAZ elite and finally God.”

With the addition of Gear, Hacker, Nichols and Wildschutt, the HOKA NAZ Elite roster now stands at 16 total athletes. All four rookies come in with a tremendous amount of success on the track at the NCAA level, something head coach Alan Culpepper said was a focus in the recruiting process.

“I am thrilled to be working with such a talented, accomplished and dedicated group of athletes,” Culpepper said. “Individually, they have all proven to be fierce competitors with a relentless drive while also remaining humble and hungry to continue their progression. Collectively, they each bring something special to the team and will be a wonderful compliment to the established group.”

Gear, Hacker, Nichols and Wildschutt join NCAA champion Wesley Kiptoo who joined the team in April to form the group’s 2022 recruiting class. They add depth to a roster that includes, among others: New Zealand National Champion Matt Baxter, two-time U.S. National Champion Stephanie Bruce, former American collegiate record holder at 5,000 meters Tyler Day, 27:45 10,000 meter man Alex Masai, Pan-Am Bronze Medalist Kellyn Taylor, U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon champion Aliphine Tuliamuk, and Alice Wright of Great Britain who’ll compete later this month at the European Championships.

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