Elite college athletes and sponsored trail runners enjoy the benefit of a well-established support system. But what about rising elite athletes competing at high levels without the benefit of the NCAA or brand sponsorships? Enter The Trail Team (TTT).
The organization, founded by four-time USATF national champion Andy Wacker, aims to bring much-needed mentorship, financial support, and development opportunities to the subset of elite trail running athletes out there pounding the dirt on their own.
And the application period for the first group of athletes opens today, January 6.
“When I came out of college, I kind of did everything wrong and made a lot of mistakes,” Wacker told iRunFar. “Since then, I’ve been trying to help people here and there. I’ve been thinking of [something similar to TTT] for a couple of years. A couple of months ago, I was like, This is the time. I’m the person, no one is doing it, and it needs to be done. So I just started it.”
The initiative will support rising athletes who are “ready to compete at the highest levels in the U.S. and internationally,” per TTT’s website. The primary support method is mentorship from a cadre of established elite trail runners: Wacker, Allie McLaughlin, Adam Peterman, and Grayson Murphy. TTT will also host three training camps in 2023 in Utah, Colorado, and California, as well as provide financial support.
And while the program will start out with six athletes focused on sub-ultramarathon distances, TTT hopes to expand to cover more runners and distances in the future.
“We want to do more things to help the community,” Wacker said. “We want to put on events and races that match our goals. We want to help more than just six athletes. We potentially would grow to accommodate ultrarunning.”
Applicants must be 20 to 30 years old and will be able to retain their own coaches and race schedules if desired, though there is a list of potential goal races. Team members will be free to pursue sponsorships and can live and train anywhere in the U.S. And for anyone who doesn’t get selected, TTT plans to form a community group that will offer curated content like recommended coaches, sample schedules and training plans, discount codes, giveaways, and more.
“I’m so excited because my goals were to connect people. There are so many young talented athletes, and somehow [people aren’t connecting]. I just want [TTT] to be a nexus, a place where people can connect,” Wacker shared.
Applications open on January 6, 2023, and remain open until February 5. And the best part? It’s free to apply.