By Kyle Merber
February 2, 2022
You know the old proverb about how if you want to start an internationally competitive track club the best way to do that is to scoop up every available NCAA champion? Well On Running heeded that bit of ancient wisdom! This strategy first proved effective at last year’s Olympic Trials, and we saw it again in action this weekend at the Millrose Games. On may be the new kid on the block but it has quickly proven to be more than just a shiny new toy.
Through the first year of the On Athletic Club, the main criticism leveled against the group has been that its athletes would wear other company’s spikes. It was a bit like if Lewis Hamilton showed up at the Monaco Grand Prix driving an Aston Martin and then told us the reason he won is because at practice he drives a Mercedes. Fortunately, our sport is relatively understanding that there is a technology race going on and there’s sort of an embargo on judgment.
Well, hold your tongues no more track fans — On has spikes and they appear to work!
The first to debut the new kicks was Alicia Monson in the 3000m, and it was a battle with — who else? — her arch-frenemy, Weini Kelati. Spurred on by the engine of a 10000m runner behind her, with metronome-like precision, Monson set out with two opening kilometers of 2:51 before finding one more gear to break away and win in 8:31.62. This race was much different from her surprise victory in 2019 when while still at Wisconsin she ran 8:45.97.
Next up on the schedule was the men’s 3000m, and based on the metric of “what YouTube video I have rewatched the most over the last few days,” it has to be considered the race of the meet. After an apathetic opening 1600 of 4:09, the race started to get going with a few laps remaining as the prospect of a Cole Hocker kick spurred the field into collective action. With 150m to go and in control of the pole position, Cooper Teare drifted out ever so slightly to check his teammate, Hocker, leaving a hole just big enough for a hard-closing Geordie Beamish to squeeze by on the inside for the win in a Kiwi record time, 7:39.50.
Beamish was in 5th place at the bell and while it is notoriously difficult to get around that many guys sprinting on an indoor track, a 25.7 last lap makes magic happen. And even more amazing was his subsequent 39-second victory lap to give him an unofficial 8:18 2-mile on the day.
And the final big W of the day came from Ollie Hoare in the Wanamaker Mile. Granted he was not yet in the new spikes (most likely because he has very tiny feet), but he did warm-up in their trainers. The Australian ran with purpose from the gun latching onto the rabbit’s tail through the first 800m in 1:53.9. Things got exciting when the Olympic bronze medalist Josh Kerr took over the lead with 300m to go, but it wasn’t enough to exhaust Hoare’s last 100 — he responded and went on to win in 3:50.83.
The pair has a nice rivalry developing as they are now the two best milers training in the United States. American middle distance runners have a tendency to enjoy a more tactical affair, hell, I know I certainly did! But a little cultural diffusion should be good for everyone. Additionally, it’s #goodforthesport for some of the most transparent and entertaining off-track athletes to be going head-to-head. Hopefully, fans develop rooting interests from listening to the On Athletic Club guys ramblings on The Coffee Club, or Josh Kerr’s banter on Sit & Kick or Cooper and Cole’s adventures with New Gen T&F.
Ultimately, do fans really care more about what brand someone is wearing than what silly jokes they make with their friends? Spike models are temporary, but podcasts? Well, for better or worse, podcasts are forever.
We chatted with coach Dathan Ritzenhein, Wanamaker mile champion Olli Hoare and men’s 3,000m champion Geordie Beamish on After The Final Lap…
After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.