Connecting American youth and today’s athletes to cultivate character and community

ITA NH Track Club In the Works

In the Arena (ITA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to leveraging the talent and wisdom of elite athletes to effect positive change in under-served youths, is pleased to announce a substantial expansion of its programming in the form of the establishment of an elite track club in New Hampshire in the fall of 2010. The team will comprise a handful of the US’s most talented post-collegiate runners, particularly those focused on the distances between 1500m and 10k, including the 3000m steeplechase. The club will be coached by 2004 Olympian, 12-time National Champion and former American record holder Tim Broe (pictured above leading the 5000m final in Athens). Tim will be mentored and assisted occasionally by ITA Board Member Jeff Johnson, who has coached athletes of all ages and abilities since 1968, including his tenure as the founding coach of the Nike Farm Team. The club, its staff, and its Board of Directors are being advised by Georgetown Hall of Fame coach, former Oregon Track Club (OTC) head coach and current NY-based elite coach Frank Gagliano. The team will be based in the Connecticut River’s Upper Valley, which encompasses the college town of Hanover, New Hampshire plus other towns in that state and Vermont; and coaches and athletes will spend winters in a warmer East Coast climate of the head coach’s choosing.

In keeping with ITA’s founding principles, the elite team members will be expected to participate in organized community events that aim to introduce local and national youths to an appreciation and understanding of the short- and long-term merits of physical fitness and healthy lifestyle choices; and in exchange, team members will receive coaching, access to training facilities, a housing allowance, a living stipend, equipment, health insurance and competition-related expenses. It’s the hope of the coaches, advisors and founders of the In the Arena New Hampshire Club (ITA NH) that the establishment of a residential elite team in the Northeast –one that is focused on doing both well and good –will broaden the range of opportunities for those talented post-collegiate athletes who are invested in making future US Olympic Teams.

Please be in touch with head coach Tim Broe at if you’re interested in being considered for the ITA NH Team; or please be in touch with Amory Rowe at if you have any non-athlete specific questions about the ITA NH Club or ITA in general.

In the Arena to Pursue Major Expansion in 2010

In the Arena (ITA) is proud of the work we’ve done since incorporating in the fall of 2006: the organization has increased its year-over-year revenues by 20% each year since its founding; and more importantly, we’ve consistently met and exceeded our self-assigned performance benchmarks as defined by the number of youths impacted by our programs. To wit, ITA enrolled over 10,000 deserving children in its programs by the time the 2008 Olympic Games commenced in Beijing, and we’re well on our way to reaching 30,000 youths by the time the torch is lit in Vancouver at the 2010 Olympic Games. We —the board, the staff, and the roster of Arena Athletes —believe we have established a model for youth development that is both meaningful and essential to the healthy maturation of —and expansion of opportunities for —today’s at-risk children.

Even so, ITA remains committed to the process of innovation that spawned the founding principles of the organization. We’re constantly asking ourselves: how do we reach more youths and in a more meaningful way? How do we expand our programs in a cost-effective manner? In short, within the context of ITA’s commitment to leveraging the power of the elite athlete as role model, we’re doggedly pursuing the answer to the all-important question: What’s the most affordable way to have the most significant impact on the greatest number of under-served youths? Well, Hallelujah, we think we have the answer.

In 2010 ITA will shift its center of operations to Lyme, New Hampshire, where we will begin the exciting —and challenging —job of creating a venue where community members young and old and from near and far can congregate and recreate, where ITA can continue the careful expansion of its programs, and where the exploration and pursuit of physical fitness in all its forms will be encouraged and rewarded. ITA looks forward to the process of working with the china tours people of Lyme and the denizens of the Upper Valley to create a facility and a set of programs that will build on the good work the organization has done to-date and that will continue to advance ITA’s carefully framed mission.

To learn more about ITA’s proposed expansion, please read and view the following: Full text of ITA NH Overview

Click for larger picture
Click for larger picture

If you’d like to support ITA’s efforts in NH and nationwide, please click here to donate. As always, please feel free to be in contact with ITA with any questions, ideas or suggestions; or you can reach the Executive Director, Amory Rowe Salem, directly at or 888.95ARENA. We welcome your input. Many thanks for your interest and support.

In the Arena Welcomes Fall 2008 Class of Athletes

The family of Arena Athletes has grown significantly with the naming of the Fall 2008 Class. In the Arena’s three newest additions –Caitlin Compton, Brian Gregg, and Torin Koos –are all Cross-country skiers who bring civic-mindedness, talent, dedication and seasoned international experience to ITA’s ranks.

Caitlin is a 2004 graduate of Northern Michigan University where she developed a passion for environmental design. Caitlin will be working with Youthline Programs in Minnesota, in addition to racing under the tutelage of Bryan Fish at the Central Cross-Country Ski Association (CXC), headquartered in Hayward, WI. Youthline introduces at-risk youths to the 28 parks in the Twin Cities area, the place Caitlin now calls home. She hopes to integrate her knowledge of urban planning and love of outdoor activities in becoming a positive role model for Youthline participants. On the competitive front, Caitlin returns to cross-country skiing for 2008-2009 following a season spent on the Biathlon World Cup circuit. But with the 2010 online games looming on the horizon, Caitlin has decided to return her focus to cross-country skiing. Following top finishes at last season’s National Championships, she is well positioned to establish herself as a premiere US cross-country skier.

Brian Gregg is a teammate of Caitlin on the Central Cross-Country Team, where he enters his second year as a member of the CXC Elite team. Since finishing his undergraduate career at University of Alaska Anchorage, where he studied Business Administration Management, Brian has had successful results on the US Super Tour circuit. These top results landed him a start at the World Cup in Cranmore (Alberta, CAN) in February 2008. Brian has developed a project on the Lac Courte Oreilles Native American Reservation in Hayward, WI where he aims to introduce a cross-country ski component to the after-school program at the LCO Boys and Girls Club. Brian hopes to encourage under-served youth to discover and foster a love and appreciation of an active lifestyle.

Brian Gregg Sprinting
Brian Gregg Sprinting

Torin Koos is a familiar face on the World Cup ski circuit. He earned his first of two Olympic births in 2002 on the trails at Soldier Hollow, UT –the state of his alma mater, the University of Utah. While an undergraduate, Torin focused his studies on mass communication and post-athletic career he aspires to become a journalist, a dream he keeps alive by reporting on his training and travels with the US Ski Team. Torin has amassed a wealth of accolades that represent his specialization in sprint and relay races. These accomplishments include winning the European Cup Sprint Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany in 2006 and posting a 3rd-place finish in the World Cup sprint in Otepaa, Estonia in 2007. For his community work, Torin will return to his elementary school in Leavenworth, WA, where he will work in tandem with his fifth-grade teacher and long-time mentor, Greg Peck, to reintroduce the Have-A-Healthy-Heart program to the Cascade School district. This program provides structure for the development of active lifestyles in youth. When on the road for competitions, Torin is hoping to use these experiences as a launching point for geography lessons in the classroom.

The addition of these three new members to the Arena Roster increases the depth and breadth of our programs and expands our impact to two additional cities, while also moving ITA steadily toward its goal of impacting positively the lives of 10,000 young Americans by the end of 2008. ITA now supports seven cross-country skiers –and fifteen athletes total –across the United States. This is a talented group that is sure to have a profound impact on the international arena, as we quickly approach the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

Brian Gregg Sprinting

Please join us in extending a warm welcome to ITA’s new athletes!

In the Arena Passes the 5,000th Child Mark

As we write elsewhere on this site, In the Arena is populated largely by athletes and sports enthusiasts, so it should come as no surprise that we like to “keep score.” To that end, we’re thrilled to announce that the organization recently passed an important benchmark: In the Arena has now worked with over 5,000 American youths. Mentors like Laura Valaas, pictured here sharing the secrets of cross-country skiing with a class of fifth graders at Sand Lake Elementary School, have extended their reach into thirteen different cities in ten states. A recent poll of our Arena Athletes revealed that since incorporating in November 2006, In the Arena has enrolled 5,172 children in our programs. Further, over 50% of those youths are minorities, defined as Latino/Hispanic (32%), African American (13%), Native American (4%), Asian (1%) or Indian (1%). This progress puts us in good stead with respect to our organizational goal to work with 10,000 children by the onset of the Olympics this August. Onwards and upwards.

Laura Valaas

Arena Athletes Thrive at Olympic Team Selection Races

Two Arena Athletes contested Olympic Trials races this past weekend: Sarah Groff in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Zoila Gomez here in Boston, Massachusetts. Both had phenomenal races and cemented their respective statuses as Olympic contenders and athletes whose names belong among their sports’ elite.
Sarah’s race had just 11 women in it, such are the bizarre conditions of USA Triathlon’s selection process. As the second of three selection races, only the winner guaranteed herself a spot on the Olympic Team. After a 1500m swim in which a single woman bravely went off the front in a solo effort, four women —Sarah among them —formed a pack on the bike and put in a bit more time on the women chasing behind. This meant that as the women swapped their cycling shoes for running shoes and jumped onto the 10k run course, it would be the next 35-37 minutes that would decide who among the four would grab the coveted second spot on the US Olympic Triathlon Team. As it turned out, Julie Ertel, member of the 2000 Olympic water polo team, had a bit more in reserve then the others and clinched the win with her speedy 10k. Another competitor and Sarah finished 30 and 39 seconds back, respectively, meaning that the third and final selection race in June will be a head-to-head battle between the two. Huge congratulations to Sarah for a gutsy and tactical race and we’ll be sure to cheer her on again in June.

Zoila and 153 other women ran on Sunday morning here in Boston under what appeared to be near-perfect marathon conditions for the US Olympic Trials. For extensive verbal and video recaps of the race from the perspectives of Zoila visit Zoila’s blog and Founder Amory Rowe's blog. But suffice it to say that Zoila’s performance was astounding. The long and the short of it is that Zoila finished fourth and is the alternate for the US Olympic Marathon team, which means that if any of the top-three women get sick or injured, or decide to compete in another event (and one has already declared she’ll attempt the 10k in June), then Zoila will represent the US at the Games in Beijing. To pique your interest and incent you to read the above blogs, keep in mind that in order to nab that coveted fourth spot, Zoila (pictured at left chasing a competitor mid-race) had to produce a finishing kick at the end of her 26.2-mile odyssey. Her margin of victory over 5th place: one second.


It is with no small amount of respect and awe that In the Arena congratulates both of these Arena Athletes on their weekend performances and, more broadly-speaking, on their work to translate into the civic arena the lessons learned they’ve learned in the competitive arena.

In the Arena Approved for Flip Video Nonprofit Program

In the Arena is thrilled to report that we have recently been accepted into the Flip Video Spotlight Program for Nonprofits. The Flip Ultra camcorders are remarkably user-friendly and —happily —they’re also now in the hands of every one of our athletes. Adding a video component to ITA’s chronicling is an idea we’ve often discussed and we believe it will significantly enhance the organization’s ability to connect with all its constituents: youths, community members, athletes, site visitors, etc.. If you’d like to take a look at the Flip camera, visit: And be sure to check out the ways in which the Arena Athletes are already putting their cameras to good use by posting community and training video to their blogs: Kate Whitcomb’s blog, Laura Valaas’ blog and Zoila Gomez’ blog.

Stand Up for the Jets!

Boston is a track town, no doubt about it, especially when the track is indoors and the meet is the annual classic Boston Indoor Games, host to six World Records, nine American Records and 17 other national records in its 13-year history. Yet at this winter’s installment in front of a capacity crowd at West Roxbury’s Reggie Lewis Center, one event in particular elicited the most energetic response from the fans: the 4 x 200m Coed Youth Relay. Six teams took the track, but by the third leg the Cambridge Jets had a commanding lead. This set up the Jets anchor, Davonte Burnett —three years younger, 30 pounds lighter and 20 inches shorter than any other competitor —to bring home the win. Handling a baton that was nearly the length of his femur and displaying the most perfect form witnessed on the track that evening, Burnett held off the fast-charging anchors of the other teams and secured the victory for his club. The fans, thrilled by the site of such a talented —and courageous —young runner, stood in unison to cheer him ‘round the oval. The Jets reprised their winning ways at the 4 x 200m Youth Relay held during the USATF Indoor Nationals on the same track two weeks later, again with Burnett anchoring the team. Our hats are off to Head Jets Coach Curtis Jackman, who founded the team 21 years ago, Arena Athlete Matt Chisam, who has been working with the Jets this winter, and the twice-victorious Cambridge Jets Youth 4 x 200m Relay Team. Thanks for bringing us to our feet!

the Jets

Nicole De Yong

In the Arena Expands Roster

In the Arena is pleased to announce the addition of another talented athlete to the ranks. Cross-country skier Nicole De Yong of Ketchum, Idaho, is the twelfth athlete to be appointed to the Roster. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Alaska, Anchorage and a superbly talented skier, Nicole will be working at the newly-opened Wood River YMCA assisting with their after-school programs. To visit Nicole’s profile on In the Arena’s site, which includes links to her personal website and her blog, visit:



Running or Skiing, Arena Athletes Get Kids Moving

Arena Programs take place all over the country, in locales as disparate as Anchorage, Alaska and East Peoria, Illinois. Happily, each Arena Program is as unique as the athlete implementing it, with host venues ranging from elementary school classrooms to YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs to high school gymnasiums. What all Arena Programs have in common, however, is the mandate to leverage the power of sport to instill in today’s youth an appreciation for the virtues that athletic excellence presupposes: tenacity, discipline, and an overarching if not unending desire for self-improvement. Witness Arena Athletes Zoila Gomez and Kate Whitcomb in action with youths in Zuni, New Mexico and Ketchum, Idaho, respectively.

Zoila Gomez

Whether running or skiing, studying Science or English as a Second Language, Arena Program participants are the happy recipients of the full freight of these athletes’ unique and varied skill sets.

Kate Whitcomb

Arena Athletes Log Busy Weekend of Competitions

While individual athletic success isn’t the chief metric by which In the Arena gauges the value of the athletes on our Roster, it is the feature that allows these athletes to magnetize the attention of today’s youngest generation. To that end, In the Arena is pleased to report that in a single ten-day period, Arena Athletes skied, threw, vaulted and ran themselves into contention for their sports’ respective Olympic Teams. Most notably, milers Sara Hall and Gabriel Jennings competed in the USATF Indoor Nationals; javelin thrower Mike Hazle took second at the Australian Olympic Trials (with the third farthest throw of the year); decathlete Matt Chisam set a pole vault PR at the New England Track and Field Championships; cross-country skiers Nicole De Yong, Kate Whitcomb and Zack Simons raced the American Birkebeiner, the single largest cross-country ski race in the US; and cross-country skier Laura Valaas continued her three-month European World Cup Tour with stops in Estonia, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland and Norway. Congratulations to all these athletes for their ongoing pursuit of excellence and the uplifting work they do with the youths in their communities.

In the Arena Announces Fall 2007 Class of Athletes

In the Arena is excited to announce the Fall 2007 Class of Arena Athletes. Chosen from a pool of superbly qualified applicants, this class is both geographically and athletically diverse, and most importantly, supremely committed to the organization’s mission of leveraging sport to effect positive change at the youth level. The four class members are: Matt Chisam, a decathlete based in Boston, MA, who will be working with the Cambridge Jets Youth Track Club; Karl Erickson, a shot and discus thrower who lives and trains in Minneapolis and will be working with the after-school programs at the South Minneapolis Boys and Girls Club; Sarah Groff, a triathlete who makes her home in Boulder, CO and will be traveling south to work at the more urban Boys and Girls Clubs of Denver; and Laura Valaas, a cross-country skier who is serving as a teacher’s aide and tutor at Sand Lake Elementary School in Anchorage, AK. To learn more about these athletes or any other Arena Athletes and their projects, visit the “Athletes” section of the site or view the Project Map to see where In the Arena has programs up and running.

Arena Athlete Sara Hall Taps Entrepreneurial Instinct

While all of the athletes on the Roster are committed to pursuing excellence in a panoply of arenas, few have exhibited the entrepreneurial instinct that has characterized the community work of Sara Hall this fall. Living and training in Mammoth Lakes, CA, Sara (pictured on the right with husband and recent Olympic Trials marathon winner Ryan Hall) Sara & Ryan Hall recognized that the tutoring programs in the public schools were both expensive and at inconvenient times and locations for the less affluent students, whose commutes to and from school are regulated by bussing systems. In an effort to provide equal access to quality and bilingual tutoring, Sara set up a free and convenient tutoring program at the Mammoth Lakes Public Library. There she deploys her bilingual skills and her passion for civic engagement for the betterment of Mammoth public school students. In her blog Sara writes, “One of the incentives I want to have for the students that come to tutoring is a chart, where they can get a stamp for every day they come and complete their homework with a good attitude and to the best of their ability. The chart is going to resemble the Olympic stadium in Beijing! I am looking forward to, amidst the tutoring, sharing with them about my running, and how it has taught me about hard work and setting goals in a way that they can relate it to working hard in the classroom. Hopefully, a child at a time, I can begin to make a difference up here in Mammoth!” We give gratitude to Sara for her meaningful and innovative work and well wishes to her and the students fortunate to be enrolled in her program.

Two Arena Athlete-Coached Teams Impress in Regional Competitions

This fall both Tim Broe and Gabriel Jennings, Olympic runners in the Athens and Sydney Games respectively, have spent copious amounts of time training this country’s next generation of Olympic aspirants. Tim has been coaching the boys’ cross country team at his alma mater, East Peoria Community High School, in East Peoria, IL while Gabe has been working with the cross country teams at perennial powerhouse Eugene South High School in Eugene, OR. Both groups seem to have benefited mightily from Arena Athlete involvement as Tim’s EPCHS boys’ team won their regional competition (with 16 of 16 athletes running personal best times), a feat that hasn’t happened since 1980 and Gabe’s South team executed an unprecedented set of victories at its district meet, capturing nine of nine possible titles (the Varsity and JV boys’ and girls’ team and individual wins along with the co-ed title). Congratulations to Tim, Gabe and the impressive athletes in each of their programs.

Ever Wondered How to Throw a Javelin?

The javelin throw has a long history of use for hunting and in warfare, but thankfully today’s javelin throwers work primarily in the athletic arena. Included in the modern Olympics since 1908, the javelin is one of the more dynamic and powerful of the field events. To see how to do it right, and to get a glimpse into the preparations one must undergo to launch a spear over 80 meters, check out any of the following videos of Arena Athlete Mike Hazle plying his trade (warning to readers: don’t try this at home):

Mike Hazle’s Olympic A Standard throw in Huelva, Spain:
“Beijing Bound,” a short documentary on Mike Hazle’s road to the Olympics:
A recent NBC San Diego piece on Mike Hazle titled, “Athlete Takes Aim at Olympics”:

Dates Set for Inaugural In the Arena Advance

Mark your calendars: September 14-28, 2008 are the dates when In the Arena will hit the road for its first-ever cross-country event: the In the Arena Advance. Arena Athletes, Staff, Board Members and Supporters will wind their way across the country , from East Coast to West, beginning and ending each day’s travel at local schools, community centers, YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs, where the participants will interact with area youth. Did we mention that we’ll be locomoting? Yes, all Advance participants will be responsible for running their shares of the journey’s total distance, over 3,000 miles in two weeks. If you’re interested in bringing the Advance to your town, want to volunteer to help with Advance logistics or simply want to support the event, drop us a line at:

Arena Athlete Mike Hazle Throws Olympic A Standard and Makes Indelible Impression on Texas Youth

Mike Hazle Arena Athlete Mike Hazle will be the first one to tell you that the road to the top is rarely without its setbacks. Two weeks before this year’s USATF National Championships, Mike was on crutches recovering from knee surgery. Yet when the day of his event, the javelin, arrived, he was prepared to compete, and to compete superlatively. Mike placed second at Nationals, earning him a spot on the US PanAm Team scheduled to compete in Brazil, where he reprised his winning form and won a silver medal. Later in the summer, Mike traveled to Europe for a series of late-season meets and on September 15 in Huelva, Spain he threw a best-ever 81.99m, the Olympic A Standard. With that throw, Mike fulfilled every one of his pre-season goals and put himself in excellent position to secure a spot on the 2008 US Olympic Team.

Those of us at In the Arena were not the only ones to take notice, though. Word of Mike’s success spread quickly in his hometown of Temple, Texas thanks to a YouTube video of his personal record-setting throw: One of the citizens who took special notice of Mike’s success was a two-and-a-half-year old boy named Cade, whose mother is a co-worker of Mike’s mother. Cade’s Mom showed him the video of Mike’s throw and he responded, “Play it again.” When she did, he bent over and kissed the monitor. The next morning they went out together to empty the garbage. As his mom carried the bags to the curb, Cade reached down and picked up a stick, ran with it, threw it like a javelin, and, according to his Mom, very carefully avoided crossing a line on the concrete. His Mom was amazed; we were pleased to hear another uplifting account of the ability of sport to inspire the younger generations.

Arena Athlete Zoila Gomez Competes in World Championships Marathon

On a hot and muggy morning in Osaka, Japan on September 2nd, Arena Athlete Zoila Gomez did something she’s never done before: donned a Team USA uniform. One of 15 children, Zoila, a Mexican-born, naturalized-American citizen, has been knocking on the door of the upper echelon of elite running since her graduation from Adams State College in 2004. With her strong showings at the 2006 and 2007 USA Marathon Championships, Zoila finally earned the honor of representing her country.

Zoila, pictured here with two young Japanese fans, was 35th in her first World Championships with a time of 2:44:49. In addition to training and competing with the goal of making the 2008 US Olympic Team, Zoila teaches English as a Second Language to high school and college-age individuals in Alamosa, CO and makes numerous public-speaking appearances at schools in the States and in her native Mexico.


Arena Athletes’ Community Engagement Grows Beyond Original Projects

Arena Athletes Mike Hazle and Sara Hall recently extended their community work beyond the original parameters of their proposed projects when they teamed up with Sara’s husband, Ryan, and a group of other aspiring Olympians, and participated in the Brady Children’s Hospital’s “Relay of Champions” in San Diego. Featured in the photo, from left to right, are: Arena Athlete Mike Hazle, Ryan Hall, Arena Athlete Sara Hall and Beck Breisch. The athletes spent the day with the children, met and chatted with their families, signed autographs and ultimately accompanied many of the patients on a short relay run. The previous weekend, Sara and Ryan Hall traveled to Mexico to visit with the children living at the Rancho de Sus Ninos Orphanage in Baja California. There, they spent time in the orphanage, spoke to the children about life as professional athletes and conducted a short running clinic. Given the orphanage’s proximity to Sara and Ryan’s training base, they plan to return to stage a mini-Olympics for the orphans later in the year.

Mike Hazle, Ryan Hall,  Sara Hall and Beck Breisch

Zoila Gomez Named To Us World Championship Marathon Team

Zoila Gomez Zoila Gomez, seen in the photo addressing a high school audience about the lessons embedded in pursuing a career as a professional runner, has recently been named to US World Championship Marathon Team due to compete in Osaka, Japan this fall. Zoila made the team on the strength of her third-place finish at the 2006 US Marathon National Championships and her strong finish at the 2007 Boston Marathon, which also served as the 2007 US Marathon National Championships. This will be Zoila’s first US World Championship Team and her first time donning a USA uniform, a well-deserved honor.

Site designed by Alden Marketing Group Inc.
© copyright 2007 In the Arena, Inc.   |   Privacy Policy