The NorCal Distance Project Has Disbanded

NorCal Distance Project founder and head coach Drew Wartenburg announced on social media yesterday that the group, in its current form, has ended: "Heavy hearted that this chapter of the NorCal Distance Project has come to an end, but ready to move forward with renewed perspective!"

Wartenburg, who founded the group in the spring of 2014 after working for six years as director of track/XC at UC Davis, posted a similar message on Instagram: "Back to basics, but heavy hearted that this chapter of the NorCal Distance Project has come to a close. I'm ready to move on with renewed perspective to what awaits. Good fortune to the athletes that have been part of this team's accomplishments."

He is married to team member Kim Conley, who represented Team USA in the 5K at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, and will likely continue to guide her running.

The announcement was made public the same day that Leah O'Connor, a two-time NCAA champion for Michigan State, posted on social media that she is departing the Sacramento, California-based group to return home.

O'Connor has struggled with injury since graduating in 2015, though she did clock 9:18.85 in the 3K steeplechase last year, the fifth-fastest time in American history. 

Kate Grace announced in August that she is leaving the group to move to Portland, though she has not specified if she is joining one of the Nike-sponsored groups headquartered there. Grace is the only member of NorCal to make Team USA for the past two years in a row; she made the Olympic final in the 800m last year in Rio and advanced to the 1500m semi-finals at the IAAF World Championships in London this summer.

Another member of the group, 800m specialist Lauren Wallace, announced her retirement from professional running in June of this year.

According to the NorCal website, the only remaining athletes are Conley and Lianne Farber, a UNC alum. Fellow Tarheel Brie Felnagle was associated with the group earlier this year.

​Kate Grace gets emotional while talking about her NorCal teammates after qualifying to represent Team USA in the 1500m at the 2017 IAAF World Championships:

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The recent announcements of program cuts to men's cross country at Akron and men's track at Central Michigan have resurfaced a feeling of uncertainty for the future of NCAA cross country and track. Here is a breakdown of where our sport currently stands within the NCAA system.

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