Many of you may have heard of the USATF-NE, Rhode Island-based club NE Distance. If you haven’t, you should know that

David Goodman competing at the 2013 USATF Outdoor T&F Championship in the 3,000m Steeplechase - Photo Credit: NEDistance.org

David Goodman competing at the 2013 USATF Outdoor T&F Championship in the 3,000m Steeplechase – Photo Credit: NEDistance.org

it was started by Nich Haber in 2012. Nich is the club’s President of the Board (on a Board that includes American Record Holder Molly Huddle!), but also serves as an acting Executive Director, managing business issues, fundraising, grant writing and maintaining relationships with partners. On top of this, Nich manages travel and race entries for the athletes, helps them obtain part-time work with their after-school partners in Woonsocket and coordinates their youth program with the Woonsocket public school system.

As you can tell, Nich wears several hats and has been working hard since 2012 to get NE Distance off the ground and growing to compete at a highly competitive level. It appears that his work has paid off by looking at the club’s current roster, which includes:

  • David Goodman— The 2012 NCAA DII National Champion in the Steeplechase and a three-time USATF-NE Champion
  • Henry Sterling — NE Distance’s newest athlete, he’s a Dartmouth grad who sees his potential best in the Steeplechase, but is interested in staying a well-rounded runner by competing in the mile and 5k as well
  • Katrina Spratford —  The 8-time All American from Shippensburg, is a 10k runner that is focusing on Cross Country in the fall and may do some road races
  • Lara Crofford — A Nebraska Cornhusker, has been a strong 10k runner but is looking to move up in distance and take to the roads

We caught up with Nich on how the club has grown, what they’ve been up to. To sum it up, Nich told us that “Every year has been better than the one before it, and I know that next year will be better than this one!” His optimism and excitement is great to hear. Check out our interview with Nich below to get up to speed on the community-based distance running project.

USATF-NE: How has NE Distance grown since its founding in 2012?

NH: We started with one athlete in 2012, added another at the beginning of 2013, two more in September of 2013 and we’re looking to have eight this fall.  We’ve doubled every year!  At this rate, in a few years everyone on earth will be an NE Distance athlete!

Seriously, it’s been a challenge to start a group like this from the ground up and the athletes that have joined us truly believe in our mission of blending athlete development with community building. We expanded this year to include athletes that are not full athlete-in-resident fellows.  They are committed to train at a high level, but do not need housing from us.  We are excited as the more athletes we have in our group, the more of a critical mass we hit and the better the program is for everyone involved – the other athletes, the community and our fans who are looking for more athletes to root for.

USATF-NE: Are you actively recruiting?

NH: We have three slots open for our non-resident members.  We are looking for folks who want to live in the Woonsocket/Providence area who want to compete at a high level.

USATF-NE: We saw that your team recently signed up 145 kids for a new middle school program. This is great! Any specific plans for this new program or anything in particular you’d like to share about it?

NH: This is probably our proudest achievement and is truly a culmination of what we are trying to do with the NE Distance program.  Woonsocket middle school sports were all but eliminated in 2009 due to budget cuts.  Our athletes moved into town and started to get everyone’s notice.  We were lucky to find Performance Physical Therapy of RI who was interested in sponsoring us to restart the middle school cross country team.  As soon as we announced it, a reporter from the local paper called me up and we were literally front page news.

For the public school system, they were absolutely thrilled.  They were getting high level athletes who had already spent at least a year working with Woonsocket youth to come in and coach the kids at the middle school.  The NEDi athletes went into the schools to sign up kids and were overwhelmed; 145 kids signed up. Lara has already started weekly runs with the kids in town and everyone will be back in Woonsocket in August gearing up to kick off the team at the end of the summer.

We are seeking a sponsor to help us continue this program for the kids into the indoor and outdoor seasons, so if anyone is interested in helping our team help these young people, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

USATF-NE: Are any USATF-NE hosted races a part of NE Distance’s upcoming race schedule – and if so, which ones, and why?  

NH: Our goal is to have our athletes compete on Team USA, so the USATF-NE races are great vehicles to get us to that level.  We will definitely be at the Cross Country races this fall, especially the Boston Mayor Cup and the USATF-NE Championship. The CVS Downtown 5k is in our backyard, so we’ll be there. USATF-NE hosts some of the best indoor meets in the country, so look for us at the BU Terrier & Valentine meets as well as the USATF-NE Championships. Outdoors, we’re big fans of the NBB Twilight Meets.

And be sure to look for our middle school kids to open up their season at the Ocean State XC meet in Goddard Park in Rhode Island on Friday Sept 26.