Emily Oren ‘16 was the Honda Woman’s Collegiate Sports Award recipient, a nine-time national champion, 14-time All-American, and still holds Hillsdale’s steeplechase record. Now this decorated alumna is taking her talent out west, stepping into a new season of training in preparation for the 2021 Olympics.
In hopes of meeting Olympic qualifications, Oren recently signed with the On Athletics Club located in Boulder, Colorado.
“I signed with OAC and this team because my coach of two years, Dathan Ritzenhein, took the job to coach this new group,” Oren said. “I wanted to continue to be coached by him. This group is also brand new. It launched this year and I thought it would be a cool experience to help get it off the ground and be a part of building it up.”
Oren continued her outstanding track career after college when she first began working with the Gazelle Elite Racing team based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She will now be training with the OAC and promoting the On Running sportswear company.
Ritzenhein has been a coach since 2014, beginning at the University of Oregon and then as an assistant at Grand Valley State University. Now he works for the OAC with Oren.
“We are sponsored by the Swiss footwear and apparel company On Running, which is the fastest growing running shoe brand in the world,” Ritzenhein said. “They hired me as the coach at the beginning of the summer, but I have been working with some of the athletes for a little longer than that.”
Ritzenhein wanted to continue his training with Oren even as he took the new OAC position.
“When OAC hired me for this role, I really wanted her to be a member of the team so we signed her to be on the women’s roster,” Ritzenhein said.
Oren decided to continue training with Ritzenhein, even if that meant leaving Michigan.
“Boulder is a running mecca, which is one of the reasons my group is based out of there,” Oren said. “It was a really easy transition for me into the group. I knew what to expect from Ritzenhein, and I trust him completely, or else I wouldn’t have moved across the country.”
Despite Oren’s impressive career so far, running, even at the college level, wasn’t always her goal.
“I didn’t even want to run in college until I decided I wanted to run at Hillsdale,” Oren said. “I loved the coaches and the girls I had met. Hillsdale is one of the main reasons I still have a running career.”
Oren attributes all of her success to Hillsdale and the mentors she met as a student-athlete.
“While at Hillsdale I had the best coaches, teammates, and made such great friends,” she said. “They all really encouraged me to become the runner they thought I could be. I never saw my own potential as a runner, but to my coaches’ credit they certainly did.”
One of those mentors is Hillsdale head track coach Andrew Towne.
“Towne always told me I could be a good runner and kept me going,” Oren said. “I lean really heavily on my Hillsdale community and always have. Without them my running career would likely be nonexistent.”
Towne has known Oren since his first year coaching at Hillsdale in 2011.
“Em was exactly what we were looking for then and what we continue to look for now,” Towne said. “We looked for people who wanted a tremendous education first and foremost, and who also wanted to see how good they could be.”
Among all the athletes Towne has worked with, Oren was a stand-out runner that pushed the attitude of the whole team.
“Uncompromising—that is one the words I would use to describe Em,” Towne said. “She wanted to be her best and she didn’t want to accept any excuses or anything less than her best. She really set the tone for what we expected out of our program. She surpassed our expectations, and was one of our all-time greats when she was here at Hillsdale.”
Towne still keeps in touch with Oren and has been invested in her post-collegiate decisions.
“With any of our kids that have gone on to run past college, we hope that they had a really good experience while they were here, and we hope that they continue to evolve,” Towne said. “Em has been fortunate to get into a really good training group, which is something that’s really important in post-collegiate training. You need people around you not only that can push you physically, but in every way.”
Oren is keeping her uncompromising attitude as she transitions in this new journey.
“My goals remain the same as they were before joining this group, I just now feel better equipped to accomplish them,” Oren said. “My main goal is to try to make an Olympic team in the steeplechase. But I also just enjoy seeing what I can push my body to do and how fast I can go.”
Oren hopes to represent Team USA in the steeplechase, and until then she will continue to train and compete until the Trials in 2021.
“Oren has the potential to be an Olympian,” Ritzenhein said. “I think she can run so much faster, and it is a process that needs to start now. She has the skill set, so hopefully putting her in the right environment will help her get the most out of herself.”