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The Heartland TC will be more than a pro running team

The Heartland TC’s first three members, L–R: Gemma Finch, Allie Wilson, and Emma Grace Hurley (Courtesy photo)

After winning the 800m at the USATF Indoor Championships on February 17, Allie Wilson cried tears of happiness during her post-race interview. She felt like she finally performed her best when it mattered most. Until that point, she often excelled in small meets with lower stakes, but at championships events she would fall just shy of her goals.

She was also emotional because she had taken a chance by leaving the Atlanta Track Club, giving up her sponsorship contract, and following her coaches to Indianapolis in November. Her performance was validation of her decision.

Last June, the Atlanta Track Club announced that they were parting ways with Amy and Andrew Begley, who had been coaching the club for more than eight years. Andrew says the split was due to philosophical differences and their departure was a mutual decision. 

The Begleys explored a number of options, but Amy ultimately decided to take a non-coaching role as associate director of long distance running programs at USA Track & Field, which is based in Indianapolis. And Andrew got to work on his new venture, one piece of which is a new women’s pro running team—the Heartland Track Club.

The team currently has three athletes: Wilson, Emma Grace Hurley and Great Britain’s Gemma Finch, who were all previously with the Atlanta Track Club. And Bianca Martin, who has coached with the Begleys and been coached by them, left behind what she was doing in Portland, Oregon, to help Andrew with all aspects of the project.

So when Wilson broke the tape and won her first national title, it was a big moment for all of the Heartland Track Club. At the race in Albuquerque, Wilson’s coaches were in tears. Back in Indiana, Hurley was watching on TV, screaming, until she realized her neighbors might be annoyed. When Wilson began to cry, Hurley cried too. And Finch was in downtown Indianapolis for the NBA All-Star weekend, jumping up and down.

A different model

The Heartland TC will be much more than just a professional running team. It will have a nonprofit branch, Track is for Every Body, with Amy as the CEO, and the mission of promoting women in track & field. There will also be a for-profit branch, the Heartland Training Club, which will offer coaching and community building for recreational runners.

The foundation will have a mentorship component, with each of the members of the pro team adopting a girls’ middle school or high school cross country team and serving as a resource for the athletes. The Begleys are passionate about keeping more girls in sports, as so many of them drop out in their teens. In exchange for their mentoring, the Olympic development athletes will receive grants for travel and physio, to help support their running careers.

The nonprofit will also put on group runs in Indianapolis and, eventually, in the locations the athletes travel to for meets as well. And once the organization is funded, they’ll start an internship for female coaches. Each year, they will award a two-year internship, so they’ll always have one new intern and one returning one. Andrew’s goal is to give female coaches the opportunity to get meaningful experience so that after two years, they’re ready to coach anywhere.

Eventually he’d like to do such a good job of mentoring female coaches that some of them can take over his current role. “Over time, I want to teach other people to do the coaching, and I can focus on raising more money to help more pro athletes,” he said. 

Martin is one of the women who could take the reins down the road. She’s working toward becoming a certified mental performance consultant, with the goal of having her own consulting practice. Andrew says Martin deserves as much or more credit for Wilson winning the U.S. title than he does. “Allie physically has been able to do this for a while,” he said. “But she’s never had the confidence to do it, and that’s where Bianca shines.”

The for-profit side of the business, the Heartland Training Club, will include a subscription-based service for women that will offer training programs and expertise from the pros, the coaches, and Amy. Age-group standout Sonja Friend-Uhl will help Andrew and Martin write the training. The club will target races all over the country, where members can meet up.

Amy’s job with USATF keeps her busy, but she plans to be involved with the Heartland TC wherever she can, including continuing to mentor the pro distance-focused athletes. Andrew and Martin will handle the day-to-day responsibilities, but when they’re in Glasgow for the World Athletics Indoor Championships, Amy will run practice. Martin’s salary will be funded through her work with the foundation and the training club, while Andrew’s will come solely from his work with the training club. “I think it would be disingenuous for a male coach to take money from a not-for-profit designed to help women,” he said.

The organization’s website,, just launched, and runners will be able to sign up for the training club soon.

Preparing for change

The Atlanta Track Club’s leadership told the athletes about the impending coaching change early in the 2023 track season, which created some stress. “I feel like as much as you want to be able to compartmentalize and focus on the tasks at hand, it was just very difficult to navigate knowing what was to come,” Wilson said.

Hurley, too, has run better now that her training situation has been clarified. She produced another big moment for the Heartland TC when she finished second at the USATF Cross Country Championships on January 20 and qualified to represent the U.S. at next month’s World Cross Country Championships. “I don’t know that we’re [significantly] more capable than we were last year,” she said. “But I feel like now we get to really explore what we were capable of but were too stressed to uncover last summer and last fall.”

Wilson considered staying in Atlanta and had a few conversations with the new coach, Tom Nohilly. But her trust was in Andrew. “It just felt so wrong to not leave with him. I felt like I would be throwing away all the work we had done over the past four years. Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know, but I wasn’t willing to do that. He plans things so meticulously and so far out that I feel that everything we’ve done is setting me up for this season, this year.”

Even though she wasn’t receiving a lot of support through her Atlanta Track Club contract, it was tough for Hurley to leave Atlanta. Her family lives there, as do many of her childhood and college friends. But she believed in her coaches and ultimately, she didn’t feel like she had much of a choice, partially because she’s hoping to focus on longer distances. “It just wasn’t going to be something that was going to be sustainable for much more than the next couple of years, most likely, with what my goals are,” she said.

Finch felt the Heartland TC would provide the best environment for her to develop her running talent. And her contract with the Atlanta Track Club was ending, so it was a good time for her to make a move.

Wilson admits that she initially wasn’t thrilled when she learned that, of all of the places they could have gone, her new team would be based in Indiana. She had never been, and she wasn’t expecting much. Finch picked out housing for the two to share, and Wilson moved to Indianapolis sight unseen. “I’m very stubborn and I was like, ‘Coach, I’m going to move with you, but I’m not visiting. I don’t want to be there more than I need to,’” she said. “But the funniest part was I got here and I literally love it. It’s such a nice little city, and it has such good running.” 

Hurley was more enthusiastic about Indianapolis. She spent the first half of her childhood living in St. Louis and still has some family there, so the Midwest was familiar to her. She now lives right along one of the city’s main running paths, and she sees people out training at all hours of the day. She’s been impressed by how runnable the city is. “I’m excited to do [everything the Heartland TC is planning] here because I feel like so many people are really invested in running,” she said.

Funding the dream

Wilson originally hoped she’d have a new sponsor contract in place by the new year, but when that didn’t happen, she and her agent, Ray Flynn, decided to wait and see if her indoor season opened up any new opportunities. It was a good call. Wilson won the 800m at the Millrose Games, and six days later, she won her first U.S. title. She expects she’ll be signing a new contract soon.

In the meantime, Wilson picked up a little bit of nannying work, to help pay the bills. Hurley works 25–30 hours per week at an office job. “I’ve always been someone who needed to kind of spin multiple plates to do my best,” she said. The company is based in Georgia, but she was able to keep her position and go fully remote. Like Wilson, Finch has been doing some babysitting to help pay the bills. She will also do some additional paid work for the Heartland TC.

Martin works as the creative director for Runner2Runner, and she’s a CycleBar instructor as well, but she’s looking forward to having another income stream. And Amy is helping support Andrew, for now. There were a lot of leaps of faith,” he said. “We joked that for a while there, Emma Grace, with her part-time job, was making more than the rest of us combined.”

Andrew initially talked to some shoe companies about sponsoring the Heartland TC, but he didn’t want to have a business model that would fall apart if the sponsor pulled out. And based on what he’s seen, both through Amy’s career and his own work, he believes that having the athletes line up their own contracts gives them more bargaining power. 

He doesn’t want the Heartland Track Club to get too big. He envisions taking a maximum of 10–12 women. And as of now, he doesn’t plan to recruit; he wants to focus his attention on the athletes he already has. He says the shoe companies and agents know Heartland is a place they can steer high-level athletes who are in search of a team. And having had much of his success with developmental athletes, who aren’t ready to earn their own contracts yet, he wants to make sure that there’s always room on the team for a couple of up-and-comers. 

“I hope it’s one of the teams that everyone’s wanting to join down the road, because Andrew really knows what he’s doing,” Wilson said. “And I think it’s really cool that he wants to help out in the community and have an impact beyond what we’re doing on the track. I’m looking forward to [the time when] all these things come together.”