Neely Spence Joins Hansons-Brooks

Neely Spence hugging her father Steve after winning the 2010 NCAA Division II cross country title. Photo: Steve Spence

She is changing coaches from her father, the former pro marathoner Steve Spence.

(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

For the first time in her life, Neely Spence will be changing coaches.

The 22 year-old NCAA D-II star for Shippensburg University will leave the care of her father Steve, the 1991 IAAF World Championships Marathon bronze medalist and Shippensburg coach, and move to Michigan to be coached by Keith and Kevin Hanson of the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project in Rochester Hills.

The move, announced last week, is a big step for Spence, who only recently signed a professional management contract with Flynn Sports Management of Grey, Tenn. Ray Flynn negotiated the deal with Hansons-Brooks for Spence.  The 15:27.72 5000m runner, who won eight NCAA D-II individual titles, will be training amongst mostly marathon runners, including Desi Davila, Melissa White and Dot McMahan. By any measure, she is the most accomplished runner ever to enter the Hansons program whose founders operate a chain of running stores which bear their name.

“I have spent the last few months visiting training groups and talking to both coaches and athletes, looking for the right professional environment that can help take my performances to the next level,” said Spence through a statement.  “The dynamic of the team and coaches, the incredible amount of support, the common goal of a long and successful career, and enthusiasm for bringing me on board are all reasons why I am so excited about joining the Hansons-Brooks ODP.”

Race Results Weekly had learned this news last week in Boston, but respected the news embargo until the official announcement. Coaches of other training groups told us privately in Boston that they were surprised by Spence’s decision since the Hansons program lacks a track pedigree, but uniformly praised the dedication and discipline the Hansons brought to their jobs, pointing out that they had placed coached both Brian Sell and Davila to Olympic team berths in 2004 and 2008. Clearly, the Hansons are pleased to have Spence in their group.

“We are extremely excited to bring an athlete the caliber of Neely Spence into the Hansons-Brooks family,” Kevin Hanson said through a news release. “We feel that she has the ability to race with the best females in the U.S. and will make an excellent teammate and training partner for our other female athletes.”

Spence, who has already changed her Facebook page to include the Hansons-Brooks logo, has been spending considerable time planning her upcoming wedding. She got engaged to Dillon Gracey on Christmas in 2011.

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