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Yared Nuguse Announces He’s Joining The On Athletics Club, Recaps His Notre Dame Career

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“After coming off of cross country and finishing second the year before, we were all really amped about having a team that could really win if we got it right. Obviously, it didn’t turn out that way, especially for me. I had a terrible race at Nationals. It was still about going out there and going for that. Giving everything I had to my team is super important to me. That’s what I also like about On. They’re as team-oriented as a pro group can be. I really appreciated that and that will definitely help me in this next stage to have that team vibe but still be bought into something.”

Yared Nuguse just wrapped up his career at the University of Notre Dame, where he was an All-American and two-time NCAA champion with the 1500m outdoors and indoor DMR in 2019. He also held the NCAA record in the 1500m with a 3:34.68, which stood until it was broken this spring. He qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the 1500m after finishing third at the Olympic Trials. Unfortunately, he had to withdraw from the Games in Tokyo due to a quad injury that he sustained while in Japan. So what’s next? He’s here with the news that he has signed with On Running and joining the On Athletics Club to work under coach Dathan Ritzenhein. Hear more about the move, what went wrong this past year but why things have turned and are now going right heading into the U.S. Championships, where he will be contesting the 1500 meters.

You can now listen to our conversation on The CITIUS MAG Podcast. Catch the latest episode of the podcast on Apple Podcasts. We are also on Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify.

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How did you go about this decision to sign with On? I’m guessing you had some offers last year after making the U.S. Olympic team?

It definitely did start about a year ago because that’s when I was approached a little bit about my options and being told that I was in a really good spot, especially after the Trials, to go pro. At the time, I was pretty excited about it but I felt like I had a lot left to do at Notre Dame. Coming around to this year, I went on a lot of visits and got a taste of what the pro scene was like…I got to see what they’re about and the way they live their daily lives. I was finding a place where I could really fit in. On really had that stellar group of guys that I could blend well with that were also really talented and doing something big in Boulder. Especially, in these last few weeks, seeing how they’ve been competing makes me excited to join that group and achieve that next level in my sport.

You see how well the team is running. Olli especially is coming off that 3:47 mile in Oslo. For you, that’s exciting. What are you most excited about when it comes to working with coach Dathan Ritzenhein?

Obviously, Dathan has done a lot of things with On in a few years. OAC is very new and they’ve been going through a lot of changes, especially from where they were a few years ago to where they are now. Just seeing the results of that were exciting and formative in my choice. Seeing Olli go out there and run 3:47 was absolutely mind-blowing to me because it’s definitely something I want to achieve so seeing someone I’m already training with and doing these things is just a big boost for me to get out there and just start running…I feel like I’m definitely up there with those guys so I just want to be out there and giving it my best effort. 

How close did you come to turning pro last year?

It wasn’t really that close. It was more so, ‘I need to decide this right now if I’m going to do this or not?’ If I was, I needed to start taking visits and doing all that other stuff. If not, I’ll just chill out for a year. I knew going pro would be cool and seeing what these groups were about to finally join one but there were a lot of things I wanted to do when I came back out here. Not to say I did all of those things but it was a very fun year and I definitely appreciated my last year at Notre Dame. Everyone always says that after four years you’re like, ‘I don’t want to leave’ but after five you’re like, ‘OK. I’m ready to go.’ I definitely feel like I’m ready to go now. I did everything I wanted to do, and had all my experiences free of COVID and all of that. It’s definitely a great decision by me and I’m still pumped about going pro now.

What did you want to accomplish in this final year?

After coming off of cross country and finishing second the year before, we were all really amped about having a team that could really win if we got it right. Obviously, it didn’t turn out that way, especially for me. I had a terrible race at Nationals. It was still about going out there and going for that. Giving everything I had for my team is super important to me. That’s what I also like about On. They’re as team-oriented as a pro group can be. I really appreciated that and that will definitely help me on this next stage to have that team vibe but still be bought into something.

Part of it could’ve been the fact that you didn’t compete at the Tokyo Olympics. You pulled out due to an injury. How hard was that to get over? You’re one of the most likable guys in track and field but you also saw a fair share of criticism for that.

That was really interesting. Coming into that day, I was in my head and telling myself, ‘I’m going to go out there and do it anyway because this is obviously a big accomplishment and something everyone else wants to do in their life.’ In my head, I told myself I have to do this. I had to take a step back and say, ‘No, you don’t. You really can’t run right now. There’s no point in trying to force it.’ Coming off of that mentally was one of the more challenging things I’ve had to do in my running career. I had never had a huge injury in my four years before that. Coming off of that was very tough. It made me feel like I wasn’t the super invincible person that I thought I was. It was very humbling in a lot of senses and very important for every runner to go through. You sometimes need a little bit of adversity to make running more appreciative.

(The injury) also lingered and seeped into indoor a little bit and a tad for outdoor. For cross country, we weren’t as fast. Nothing was that wrong with it then. Come the indoor season, when we were doing very fast stuff again, I wasn’t quite as strong where my injury was so it flared up again at inconvenient times. It just inhibited my training for the year. Seeing that come back felt worse because I was thought, ‘Oh my god. I’m still dealing with this.’ … That was important too because I also now know I have to do all this stuff to keep things in check and I put my body in a good space. Going through all of that this year was a big thing to truly get over my quad injury and truly make sure that I am ready to run and not get injured again when that happens. This outdoor season, I had a little flare-up in a different spot. That stopped my whole NCAA season early, which was very disappointing. I had big plans. I was so fit. Obviously, to come out and race at Portland Track Festival and do how I did was very reassuring for me. It was a big relief race where I said, ‘I can race. I don’t feel hurt. I’m going to keep doing everything I’m doing to keep it stay that way.’ Now, I’m over the cusp of it a year later. Things like that take their time. 

One thing that online commenters or message boarders don’t get is the severity of the pain from the injury. Only you can describe it to us. Why not get out there on the track and run for 100 meters or something and drop out?

In my head, there were two big forces. One was like: Runners push through everything. I can push through this and give it my best effort. The other force was like: No. Don’t be an idiot. You can not sprint at all. Even if you tried to start, you’d probably get 10 meters before being totally gapped by everyone. In my head, it didn’t really make sense for me to go out and do something that I know I would quit. For me, if I’m going to do something, I’m going to make sure I’m going to do it all the way through. If I’m unable to do that, then there’s no point. Obviously, that really breaks my heart more than anyone else who is complaining about it. I had to deal with the fact that I got all the way here and I can’t do anything about it vs. someone being like, ‘Ah, we lost a Team USA member in the 1500.’ We still did great in it anyway. You have to realize and put yourself over that insatiable urge to race sometimes. It’s not good for me mentally to go out there and quit or go out there with a quitting mindset. It’s just not good for anyone involved for me to go out there and quit immediately.

You had these big plans for the final season. It didn’t go according to plan due to injury. How did you handle the moments of doubt when trying to get back?

It was definitely very, very tough. For me, part of it was just consoling with my friends. They’re always going to be my biggest hype people. My teammates say, ‘You’re still Yared. We see these crazy workouts that you’re doing. Just because you haven’t gone out to perform those things, doesn’t mean that’s not who you are.’ Hearing that from them is a big factor in defeating the voice inside your head a lot of the time…Especially, going into Portland last week, I was like, ‘Ahhhh. I don’t really know. It’s been a long time. I was coming off of this other thing. I didn’t race NCAAs at all. I don’t know.’ To go out there and race the way I did was a big confidence booster for me, especially going into USAs now. For me, a big part of it is my teammates being a big part of it to get through those moments of doubt.

You run 3:34 to win the Portland Track Festival. How are you feeling now? 

I have been feeling great. A lot of these injuries were right after the race. Just coming off the line, I was like, ‘I’m good? I’m good.’ Ah yes! Finally. These last few weeks have been smooth sailing so far. It’s just been a nice feeling for once. I hope to keep that up beyond USAs because that would be phenomenal for me.

Is that why you had that finish line celebration?

It started with panic because I never crossed the tape before. I’m coming down the stretch feeling on top of the world. Then, I see this tape and I’m like, ‘Oh? What am I going to do? I’ve never done this before.’ I’m thinking that I should raise my hands up. In my head, I envisioned a “Woo!” and it turned into a “Woah!” A little more than I wanted but emotions are high and I’m racing super well so I’ll let that slide for myself. I was really ecstatic with how that race played out and everything that happened in a field like that. It made me feel like I’m truly back. Didn’t feel like I left but now I can really say that and be proud of it. Coming off that race was a big relief moment. I can take a deep breath and we’re onto the next one. We’re happy with where we’re at.


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