Flagstaff, AZ, April 15, 2022 - HOKA NAZ Elite announced today that the team has signed Wesley Kiptoo of Iowa State University. Kiptoo, the 2021 NCAA Indoor National Champion at 5,000 meters, has run 7:43.61 for 3,000 meters, 13:14.74 for 5,000 meters, and 27:37.29 for 10,000 meters. Kiptoo will thus forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility and begin his professional career tonight in Walnut, Calif. at the Mt. Sac Relays. He will compete in the Men’s Elite 5,000 meters scheduled for 9:15 p.m.
Kiptoo is a seven-time NCAA Division I All American in cross country and track and field, a seven-time Big 12 Champion, and holds Iowa State records in the indoor 3,000 and 5,000 meter runs as well as the outdoor 10,000 meters and the steeplechase. A native of Marakwet, Kenya, Kiptoo will move to Flagstaff, Ariz. to join his new HOKA NAZ Elite teammates next month, along with his wife, Maribel, and their two children–Natalia and Santos.
Kiptoo said that turning pro has been his dream since he started running.
“Getting this opportunity from HOKA NAZ Elite gives me a chance to continue my running career,” Kiptoo said. “I am so excited to become a member of the team and to be a full time professional athlete.”
Kiptoo will join a roster that includes, among others, fellow Kenyan Alex Masai, as well as Olympian Aliphine Tuliamuk, top American marathoners Stephanie Bruce and Kellyn Taylor, two-time New Zealand national champion Matt Baxter, and former American collegiate record holder, Tyler Day.
HOKA NAZ Elite Head Coach Ben Rosario said Kiptoo is just the beginning of what he calls the next phase of the program.
“When Aliphine [Tuliamuk] competed at the Olympic Games in 2021, that was sort of the culmination of the first eight years of our team,” Rosario said. “As we look toward 2024, and even 2028, signing athletes like Wesley who can compete at a world class level on the track and on the roads, is part of what we see as an expansion of our program–an expansion that goes well beyond our results on the field of play.”
In addition to Kiptoo’s signing, HOKA NAZ Elite also rebranded with new team colors, and a new logo. With shades of purple and orange that pay homage to the Flagstaff sunsets, the letters N.A.Z. arranged in the shape of a mountain–a nod to the town’s San Francisco Peaks, and a pronghorn–the animal kingdom’s fastest long distance runner, the new look will kick off a new era for the team.
The logo was created by Flagstaff-headquartered marketing agency, Mountain Mojo Group, who the team has partnered with to help support their digital storytelling efforts. Through the partnership, HOKA NAZ Elite hopes to increase its impact on the running community both locally in Flagstaff and the US, as well as globally highlighting their star-powered athletes and their amazing stories both in and outside of the sport.
Mountain Mojo founder Rand Jenkins spoke about how the two entities align.
“We are stoked to get the chance to represent the NAZ Elite family. It's funny because our team is full of runners that are already big fans of their team. It's a big part of why we all live in Flagstaff at 7000'. Our core values align really well with theirs and both of our missions involve disruption. We're pretty dang excited to join the professional sports community and discover new creative ways to share the inspiring journey of the team and its athletes.”
The new logo and the Wesley Kiptoo signing are the beginning of a weekend for the team that will conclude on Monday morning when Stephanie Bruce takes on the 126th Boston Marathon. Bruce, in her final year as a professional, will attempt to finish in the top ten–a feat that she’s already accomplished at the Chicago, London, and New York City Marathons.
About Northern Arizona Elite HOKA NAZ Elite entertains, inspires, motivates, and brings joy to runners and non-runners alike. https://www.nazelite.com/