Tyler Day and Julia Kohnen Join HOKA NAZ Elite
The American collegiate record holder at 5,000 meters, and the tenth-place finisher at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, add depth to one of the country’s top professional running teams.
(FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.), October 5, 2020 – HOKA Northern Arizona (NAZ) Elite announced it has added Tyler Day and Julia Kohnen to its roster. Day was a six-time All American during his career at Northern Arizona University (NAU), is the American collegiate record holder at the indoor 5,000 meter distance and helped lead the Lumberjacks to three straight NCAA cross country team titles from 2016-2018. Kohnen, who did not begin running until her senior year at Southern Indiana University, has quickly become one of America’s top marathoners after winning the 2019 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and then finishing tenth place at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Day and Kohnen join a HOKA NAZ Elite roster that already features many of the top distance runners in the United States including Stephanie Bruce, Scott Fauble, Lauren Paquette, Scott Smith, Kellyn Taylor and Olympic Marathon Trials champion Aliphine Tuliamuk. The group also includes two familiar faces for Day; former teammate Matt Baxter of New Zealand and former rival Rory Linkletter of Canada.
Day said he was grateful to HOKA NAZ Elite head coach Ben Rosario and HOKA’s director of global sports marketing, Mike McManus, for the opportunity to turn professional during such unprecedented times.
“I love the environment that Flagstaff has offered me as a college athlete, and I am glad to still call Flagstaff my home for the future,” Day said. “Seeing the growth of the team from afar has been great, and I greatly respect the athletes that are part of this team. I am beyond stoked to be able to be one of them now.”
Day will focus his short-term attention on next year’s U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, where competing against seasoned pros will not be a completely new experience. As an NAU sophomore, Day finished ninth at the 2017 USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships at 10,000 meters. In 2018, he was ninth again–this time at 3,000 meters at the USATF Indoor Championships. A year later Day earned a spot on the U.S. team that competed in Lima, Peru at the Pan American Games where he was tenth over 5,000 meters. This winter Day had a breakout season that included a personal best at 3,000 meters (7:45.70) as well as his American collegiate record at 5,000 meters (13:16.95)–the latter of which saw him go toe-to-toe with Olympic Silver Medalist Paul Tanui, losing by just one second.
Rosario said Day will be a great fit for the team.
“Tyler is an athlete we have had our eyes on for a long time, ever since his sophomore year at NAU,” Rosario said. “His willingness to train hard and to go to the deep, dark places in races has always impressed me. Those traits, along with his endless positivity and team-first attitude, will make us better, and I believe we will return the favor by feeding him all the work he needs to compete with the best in the world.”
While Day took a fairly traditional route to the top of the NCAA ranks, Kohnen’s journey has been anything but. A four-year soccer player at Southern Indiana, her potential as a runner was spotted on campus by Screaming Eagles cross country and track coach Mike Hillyard. Following some convincing from Hillyard, Kohnen joined the track team briefly in December of 2013, winning her first ever official race of any kind–an indoor mile. After a semester abroad she came back in 2015 and as a fifth-year senior earned Division II All American honors in the indoor 5,000 meters as well as the outdoor 5,000 and 10,000 meters. Post-collegiately, Kohnen spent time focusing on a career in Corporate America before gradually getting more serious about her running. A 2:39:11 performance at the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon spurred Kohnen to focus on the 26.2 mile distance where she has excelled ever since. She set a huge personal best (2:31:29) in winning the Twin Cities Marathon, only to lower that mark to 2:30:43 at the Olympic Trials where she remained with the lead pack through 18 miles.
Kohnen said she is excited to begin training with HOKA NAZ Elite and see just how far her running can take her.
“I am grateful to be part of such a strong and talented team, and a supportive brand in HOKA,” Kohnen said. “I have looked up to these people that I now get to call teammates and am honored to get to train with, and have them push me, every day.”
Rosario said Kohnen’s career is just beginning.
“While most professional distance runners were focusing solely on cross country and track by their freshman or sophomore years in high school, Julia was still playing soccer and developing her overall athletic ability,” Rosario said. “The fact that after only six years of running she was able to finish tenth place at the Olympic Trials in 2:30, on that course, tells me that there is still a lot of room to improve and all of us at HOKA NAZ Elite are thrilled to be a part of that journey.”
Day and Kohnen will make their HOKA NAZ Elite debuts later this month in Rochester, Michigan. On October 21, Day will run a leg on the team’s Ekiden Relay against several other top U.S.-based clubs. A week later, on the same course, Day and Kohnen will each race a half marathon. The fields for both the Ekiden and the Half Marathon are still to be announced.