The gender disparity in Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) is undeniable. It can be seen in participation numbers, media coverage and sponsorship support. Nicole Mericle has set out to change all of that.

As one of the top female athletes in OCR, Mericle recognized an opportunity to change the trajectory of the sport. Her passion for the project was born out of real-life experiences and seeing the challenges women face in her chosen sport.

In the past five years, Mericle says she has witnessed countless talented women sign up for races only to walk away prematurely, unrecognized, unsupported and unable to figure things out. She knows what it’s like to be that newcomer. 

“Early in my career I, too, struggled to master the many elements of OCR,” she recalls, but with time and persistence she became a three-time OCR World Champion and the 2019 Spartan World Champion. 

Now, Mericle, who counts VJ Sports Shoes, Honey Stinger, InsideTracker, Darn Tough Vermont, Sur PhytoPerformace and  Goodr as her brand partners, frequently finishes in the top 10 of the men’s field and is known as one of the most obstacle proficient athletes in the sport — male or female. Her motivation now is not to beat her competitors, but to elevate other women. 

“I hope women and girls will see my accomplishments as proof of what they can achieve,” she says.

Taking a step in that direction, in the spring of 2021 Mericle founded the OCR Dream Team, a women’s elite development team committed to identifying up-and-coming athletes and providing more opportunity for women in OCR. 

She pulled together her own sponsors, connections and looked to the most knowledgeable women she knew in coaching, mental performance and nutrition. Together with a team of female experts, the OCR Dream Team set out with the dream to change OCR. 

OCR welcomed five athletes in 2021, providing them with everything an athlete could need — a monetary stipend, regular blood biomarker testing, training and racing gear, coaching, nutrition counseling, mental performance guidance, psychological support and mentoring

The team’s success last year included: 

  • First, second and fifth placements at the North American Championships
  • Second place finish in the U.S. National Series
  • A Canadian National Series Champion
  • Second and fourth placements at the Spartan World Championships 

Its 2022 athletes include Annie Dube, Emma Cook-Clarke, Arielle Fitzgerald, Morgan Schulz, Lillie Elkin, Ashley O’Hara, Miranda Kielpinski and Hannah Holmes. 

Nicole has an admittedly ambitious  vision for women’s OCR. 

“I envision a field of women redefining what’s possible, pushing the men’s field and proving that women are just as skilled and strong as their male counterparts,” she says. “I see women competing fiercely and realizing their potential through collaboration and community.” 

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