Head Coach / Executive Director
Ben has been just about everything in the running industry; elite athlete, special events director for a big city marathon, running store owner, marketing director, elite athlete coordinator and of course…coach. His number one passion though, has always been the competitive side of the sport and he brings a healthy obsession for success to his role as coach/executive director of Northern Arizona Elite.
AS A COACH
Ben has coached everyone from third graders, to beginning adult runners to World Championship performers. His motivational skills and training knowledge have translated to success at every level. His work with the Big River Racing Team in Saint Louis produced three different Olympic Trials qualifiers; Shannon Leinert (800), Julie Lossos (Marathon) and Adam MacDowell (Marathon). He also led Canadian Stephanie Hood to top-11 finishes at the Boston (2:44:44) and Chicago (2:35:09) Marathons in 2008 as well as the Canadian Cross Country Title.
In his six+ years with Northern Arizona Elite, Ben’s athletes have won U.S. National Titles in cross country and on the roads at 10k, the half marathon, and the 25k, and a New Zealand National Title on the track. The team has been represented at the World Cross Country Championships in 2017 and 2019, the World Half Marathon Championships in 2014 and 2016 and at the World Track and Field Championships in 2015. His athletes have also competed at the European Athletics Championships, the Great Edinburgh International XC Meet, the NACAC Cross County Championships, the NACAC Track Championships, the Pan American Cup Cross Country Meet and the Pan American Games. In 2016, the team produced two sixth-place finishes at the Olympic Trials Marathon and two fourth-place finishes in the 10,000 meters at the Olympic Track and Field Trials. At the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, four HOKA NAZ Elite athletes posted top 20 finishes, including three in the top eight in the women’s race led by Aliphine Tuliamuk–the Trials Champion. At World Marathon Majors, HOKA NAZ Elite athletes have recorded 10 top-10 finishes including a sixth at Boston in 2018, Chicago in 2019, and New York in 2021 as well as a seventh at New York City in 2018 and Boston in 2019. Other top marathon finishes include a win at the Grandma’s Marathon in 2018 and runner-up finishes at the USATF Marathon Championships in 2015 and 2018.
AS AN ATHLETE
Ben was a Division II All American at Truman State University, before landing a spot on the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project team in 2003. There he became the youngest qualifier for the 2004 Olympic Trials Marathon where he finished 37th. He returned to his hometown of Saint Louis in the summer of 2005 and that fall finished second at the U.S. Marathon Championships at the Twin Cities Marathon. He ended his career with personal bests of 4:03 in the mile and 2:18 in the marathon.
Jenna joined the HOKA NAZ Elite coaching staff in January of 2021 after a long and successful career in the NCAA. She served as an assistant at Appalachian State University for two years from 2006-2008, spending her summers interning at ZAP Fitness (now ZAP Endurance) under head coach Pete Rea. She then moved back to Tempe, Ariz. and took on graduate assistant coach duties at her alma mater, helping guide the Sun Devils to a 14th-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. From there, she worked for a year with coach Scott Simmons at Queens University in Charlotte, NC at the Division II level before taking the head women’s cross country coach position at High Point University. At High Point, she led the women to their first ever Big South Conference title in 2011 and was twice named Big South coach of the year. She took on the assistant coach role at the University of Louisville in 2016, beginning a four-and-a-half year run where she worked with multiple NCAA All Americans including 2017 National steeplechase champion Edwin Kibichiy, and 2018 10,000 meter runner-up Dorcas Wasike.
AS AN ATHLETE
Jenna ran collegiately at Arizona State University where she ran cross country and track with the likes of 2017 World Championship Bronze Medalist Amy Cragg and 2018 Boston Marathon Champion Des Linden.
Assistant Coach / Pacer
Ben joined the team as an athlete in January of 2014, still in the middle of a career that had already seen him represent the United States on three World Championship teams (track, cross country, and the half marathon). As a member of HOKA NAZ Elite in 2014, Ben won five Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons, a feat that garnered him attention throughout the running world, crossing over into the masses. He would go on to to represent the U.S. at another World Half Marathon Championship (2016) and qualified for, and competed in, an astounding 17 straight USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships from 2003 through 2019.
AS A COACH
Ben added the role of assistant coach to his duties at the beginning of 2018, though he continued to compete as an athlete as well. His coaching role has grown and now much of his running centers around pacing duties for various HOKA NAZ Elite athletes.
In his three+ years as a coach, the team has produced many of its best performances of all time, including four top-20 finishes at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, led by the Women of NAZ who finished first, sixth and eighth. The women have also won four individual U.S. National Titles and three different athletes have run under 2:30 for the marathon. The men have garnered three different top ten performances at the Boston and New York City Marathons. The team has represented the United States at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country Challenge and the World Cross Country Championships and our international athletes have won a New Zealand national title and notched sixth place finishes at the European Championships and the Pan American Games.
Ben also works with runners of all ages and abilities, along with his wife, through their coaching service, Running with the Bruces.
Ben ran collegiately at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in his home state of California. There he was a two-time NCAA All American in the steeplechase with a personal best of 8:33.70. His 13:40.9 best at 5,000 meters remains a school record.
Director of Operations
Jen has been a part of Northern Arizona Elite since its inception, co-founding the Team with her husband Ben in January of 2014. Jen was born and raised in Harrisonville, MO before attending Truman State University where she earned a degree in business. Upon graduation she moved to Portland, Oregon where she worked in retail as well as restaurant management, eventually settling in as the apparel buyer at specialty running store, Fit Right Northwest. Jen moved back to the midwest in 2006 and was part of the team that launched Big River Running Company. At Big River, Jen once again served as an apparel buyer, worked the retail floor, helped manage events, directed the St. Louis Blazers youth team, and much more.
WITH HOKA NAZ ELITE
Jen put her business degree to work, writing the Northern Arizona Elite business plan in the fall of 2013 and serving as the team’s de facto Director of Operations from 2014 through 2020, a title she now officially holds. Jen manages the team’s finances, books travel for its athletes and coaches, works with athlete management companies on individual athlete contracts, serves as a liaison between NAZ Elite’s sponsors and its athletes, and is a member of the HOKA NAZ Elite Board of Directors.
Sports Scientist / Physiologist
Jennifer grew up in Wexford, in the south east of Ireland. She completed a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Limerick. Following her undergraduate studies Jennifer pursued a PhD in Exercise Physiology (University of Limerick, 2020). Her PhD research focused on bone health in female distance runners, evaluating the effect of habitual exercise and diet on bone metabolism. During her studies Jennifer also volunteer coached several sports, including youth track and field, and delivered a range of workshops to athletes and coaches. In September 2021 Jennifer moved to Flagstaff with the intent of pursuing an applied sport science role, with particular interest in providing physiology support.
WITH HOKA NAZ ELITE
With NAZ Jennifer works with athletes on strategies to optimize training responses and performance. This includes monitoring training and environment responses, and developing strategies for travel, environment (heat and altitude) and warm-up protocols.
Ray has been a part of Northern Arizona Elite since November 2020. He is originally from Tucson, Arizona and moved to Flagstaff in August of 2018 to attend Northern Arizona University. Ray’s fascination with running and human performance led to him pursue a degree in Health Science – Fitness Wellness & Nutrition. He competed for the NAU Track and Field club team and was the coach and President of NAU’s Running club. He is now training for the marathon.
WITH HOKA NAZ ELITE
Ray helps facilitate workouts, training, and drill sessions for the athletes. He also recently began assisting with pacing duties. He works in collaboration with the rest of the coaching staff to help the athletes reach their full potential.