Before Nick Hauger kicked his way to West Coast Conference and West Regional cross country titles for the University of Portland, the Shadle Park graduate wasn’t sure where he’d rank among NCAA Division I runners.
Competing in the distance-running rich Greater Spokane League skewed Hauger’s perception of his ability.
Hauger, who placed sixth at State 3A cross country meet as a senior in 2014, regularly faced a bevy of stars who went on to big schools, including Mt. Spokane’s John Dressel (Colorado); North Central’s Tanner Anderson (Washington), Kai Wilmont (Wisconsin) and Justin Janke (Washington State); Lewis and Clark’s Sumner Goodwin (Gonzaga) and Mead’s Andrew Gardner (Washington).
It ultimately pushed Hauger, who went on to earn All-WCC distinction four years at Portland, including All-American honors in 2017 and 2018.
“It was easy to be overshadowed in the GSL, but, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Hauger said. “I was chasing after them and it pushed me to be better.”
After finishing 40th at NCAA national cross country last fall to wrap up his college career, Hauger aims to turn a few more heads as a professional.
Hauger recently signed a contract with Hoka One One Northern Arizona Elite, an assembly of some of the finest distance runners in the world.
Based in Flagstaff, Arizona, Northern Arizona Elite provides gear, coaching and living amenities, and pays its athletes’ way to competition, Hauger said. Runners earn most of their living from placing in major, big-money races around the globe.
Flagstaff – home of NCAA Division I cross country power Northern Arizona, which has won the last three men’s national championships – gives runners high-altitude training at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level.
Hauger, who studied biology and psychology at Portland, reports to his club in two weeks.
“I gave myself a shot at the next level, and we’ll see where it takes me,” he said. “As a runner, you have the opportunity to always be improving.”
His former teammate, ex-Portland running star Scott Fauble, has been competing on the professional team. They will live together in Arizona.
Northern Arizona Elite is littered with athletes with 2020 Olympic aspirations, including Max Baxter of New Zealand, who posted his country’s second-best 10,000-meter time in 2018.
The club also signed former BYU standout Rory Linkletter, Hauger’s WCC rival and fellow All-American.
“No matter the sport, finding out exactly what your culture is, and who is going to thrive in it, is a challenge,” Northern Arizona Elite coach Ben Rosario said.
“With Nick and Rory we have two young athletes who are full of energy, eager to work hard and excited about the opportunity to contribute to, and benefit from, a team environment.”
Hauger is aiming for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. If that plan fizzles, he hopes to try his hand at physical therapy.
He hopes to be competing in his professional races early this fall.
“I’m proud to represent Spokane at the next level,” Hauger said.
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