In The Beginning
Back in 2012, obstacle racing was dying for legitimacy and mainstream buy-in. One of the ways Spartan CEO Joe DeSena thought he could help make this happen was by putting together a “Pro Team”. The Spartan Pro Team was made to showcase that there were serious athletes who traveled to compete in this new thing nearly every weekend. It was also to further Joe’s “OCR in the Olympics” agenda. That this wasn’t just Jack and Jane from the office blowing off steam and being weekend warriors in the mud.
Amelia Boone, Isaiah Vidal, and, of course Hobie Call were some of the first to be asked to join.
Around this time, a smaller race series called Superhero Scramble gave an opportunity for “OCR Team Racing”. The fastest times from 3-4 teammates would win your team prize money. This gave Spartan Race a reason to send it’s racers elsewhere besides just Spartan Races. Superhero Scramble, of course put up their own team, and the idea of “Race Series Pro Teams” was well on it’s way.
As new race series players came onto the OCR scene, they decided they HAD to have a pro team as part of their rollout. First Atlas Race (see pic below), and then BattleFrog Series, made several announcements about how great their races would be AND who they snagged as top pro team members. (Side note: Superhero, Atlas, and BattleFrog are all gone now, with Superhero and Atlas both closing with debts to athletes who won prize money).
Adding Sponsors and More Members
When Spartan announced their sponsorship with Reebok in 2013, the pro team concept took additional shape as these athletes could also pimp shoes and gear for this new title sponsor. As Spartan added additional sponsors, it became a win-win-win for race company, sponsor, and athlete.
In subsequent years, Spartan consistently added members to it’s pro team. Many questioned to what end, as the law of diminishing returns made it seemed redundant to some. At one point in 2015 there were upwards of 30 members. How is it exciting when the 15 pro men snag 15 of the top 20 spots available? If anyone who gets near a Spartan podium ends up on the pro team, how is it news when “Spartan Pro Wins!”? *Check out the end of this article, where we list all the members from the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Pro Team members.
No details of any Spartan Pro Team contract has ever been made public, but the “unofficial” word has been their have been different “tiers” of athletes. For example, Matt Novakovich and Faye Stenning were both rumored to be on the “A Team” in past years. This means flights, accommodations and race entries were covered, plus additional sponsor money for making the podium, etc. The majority of the other pro team members were at a “lower tier”. So, hypothetically, just the race entry is covered, as long as the athlete can get themselves to the race on their own dime. Many, when asked, were happy to accept this lower tier, as it gave them exposure to help them grow their personal brand and land additional sponsors. Obstacle racers as a whole (including most of you reading this article), have learned to be savvy with travel expenses by carpooling and couch crashing. So the net-net was viewed as positive.
The New Deal
This year, Spartan Race Director of Sport Initiatives Joe Di, informed us of the specific plans for the 2018 Pro Team. This new pro team is a very exclusive group, as the only men are Robert Killian and Ryan Kent. While Rea Kolbl, Nicole Mericle, and Alyssa Hawley are the only women.
Joe Di also announced something called “The Select Athlete Program”. He told us “The Select Athlete Program is a group of 30 plus athletes beneath our premier squad that deserve some recognition, and with performance, our support.”
Here is what members of that team were offered:
- Three (3) customized 2018 Podium shirts.
- A 2018 dedicated Spartan Race Bib number.
- Ten (10) customized JUNK brand headbands.
- A Spartan Race Mini-Kit, containing a collection of Spartan Race apparel and gear.
- Five (5) free Race registration codes (if you have a Season Pass – you can use them for friends and family!)
- Cash Bonuses of up to $500 per event for Podium finishes.
- Free parking pass and bag check at all Events you register for.
- Access to “Athlete Tent” at National Series Events.
- Upgraded Social media support to drive your personal brand.
- Potential Sponsorship inclusions, seedings, or deals throughout the year.
Members of the “Select Athlete Team” include some former Spartan Pro Team members Veejay Jones, Kevin Donoghue, Glen Racz and Cassidy Watton. In addition, there are some newer names not yet attached to Spartan like Kirk DeWindt, Leigh Wasteney, and Rachel Paquette.
Some athletes were offered “Select Team” contracts and declined. We reached out to a few for comment.
Brakken Kraker told us :
It’s been a wonderful ride representing Spartan. After five years of doing so it will be strange not wearing their logo this year. I’m nothing but grateful for all the opportunities I’ve received, but it was time to branch out and start the next chapter of my OCR experience.
Ryan Woods said:
I’m really happy for the guys on the Pro Team and the Select Team. I really hope one day I will be considered for a position on the pro team as I see it as an honor. I don’t fell there was any advantages for me to be on the Select Team at this time.
Joe Di went on to tell us that the Select Athlete team “…will increase in presence across this year. We may even have a twist or two for you down the line”.
We’ll list all members that we have been made aware of to date below, but here are some things to look for.
Canadians: Austin Azar, Rachel Paquette, and Jesse Bruce are all on the new “Select Team”. (Canadians Ryan Atkins, Lindsay Webster, and Allison Tai are 3/5 of the 2018 Tough Mudder Pro Team)
Previous Spartan Pros Not Returning: Amelia Boone, Matt Novakovich, Rose Wetzel, and Faye Stenning.
History of the Spartan Pro Team 2015 – Present
2015 Pro Team
Amelia Boone, Kate Cramer, April Luu, Rose Wetzel, Deanna Blegg, Orla Walsh, Rebecca Clifford, Alex Chikorita Roudayna, Jenny Tobin, Jackie Rust, Karlee Whipple, TyAnn Clark, Tiffanie Novakovich, KK Paul
Cody Moat, Isaiah Vidal, John Yatsko, Hunter McIntyre ,Ryan Kent, Brakken Kraker, Chad Trammell, Glenn Racz, Matt Novakovich, McCauley Kraker, Kevin Donoghue, Matt Novakovich
2016 Pro Team
Returning: Amelia Boone, Rebecca Clifford, Kate Cramer, April Dee, Alyssa Hawley, Alex “Chikorita” Roudanya, Jackie Rust, Orla Walsh. New: Faye Stenning, Cassidy Watton Gone: Jenny Tobin, Karlee Whipple, Tyann Clark, Tiffanie Novakovich, KK Paul, Deanna Blegg
Returning: Ryan Kent, Kevin Donoghue, Brakken Kraker, Cody Moat, Matt “Bear” Novakovich, Glenn Racz, Chad Trammell, Isaiah Vidal. New: Ian Deyerle, Robert Killian Gone: John Yatsko
2017 Pro Team
Returning: Amelia Boone, Faye Stenning, Alyssa Hawley, Rebecca Clifford, Cassidy Watton, Orla Walsh, Kate Cramer New: Rea Kolbl, Nicole Mericle, Heather Gollnick. Gone: Alex “Chikorita” Roudanya,
Returning: Ryan Kent, Robert Killian, Bear, Brakken, Kevin Donoghue, Isaiah Vidal, Glenn Racz New: Angel Quintero, Veejay Jones, Ben Greenfield, Special – Retirement Year Contract: Hobie Call Gone: Cody Moat, Chad Trammell, Ian Deyerle
2018 Spartan Pro Team Members
Returning men and women: Robert Killian, Ryan Kent, Rea Kolbl, Nicole Mericle, Alyssa Hawley
Previous Pro Team Member