Alex Landberg, Interim Executive Director
Alex has been coaching and managing youth sports programs for 16 years, focusing on creating positive environments in which youth can feel safe and thrive. He is part of the National Training Team for We Coach and Up2Us Sports, and serves on the junior board at America SCORES Chicago. Alex ran track at California State University, Chico where he graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration and also attended the Nonprofit Management Program at Northeastern University in Boston. Alex has been with Chicago Run since 2011.
Matthew Champa, Part-Time Coach
Matthew is a USATF and RRCA certified running coach and holds MA, Ed.M degrees in Psychological Counseling from Columbia University. He is a Certified Wellness Coach with over 15 years of counseling/advising experience. He founded Strides: Wellness and Run Coaching in early 2017 to support people with their health and wellness. When he’s not coaching clients, he can be found at Nike Running Bucktown where he works as a NRC Pacer and Community Champion. Coach Matthew is an accomplished marathon/ultramarathon runner and an active member of the running community which includes coaching, pacing, event planning and product testing.
Casey Fennell, Marathon Charity Team Coordinator
Casey was born and raised in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She attended DePaul University for two years where she developed a love for running and the city of Chicago. She finished her undergraduate education at the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Urban Studies. After graduating, Casey moved back to Chicago and spent the past five years working at local nonprofit organizations, including Chicago Run and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago. She just completed her third marathon and is an RRCA certified running coach. She enjoys supporting the runners of Team Chicago Run as they train for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon while giving back to Chicago youth. Casey is currently pursuing her MSW at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She lives in Lincoln Square and enjoys running, yoga, and reading.
Ryan Greguske, L.A.C.E. Up! and Running Mates Program Manager
Ryan grew up in Germantown, WI, a suburb to the northwest of Milwaukee. After high school he went on to attend the University of Minnesota and earn a degree in Physiology. At the U of M, Ryan developed a true love for helping various Minneapolis/St. Paul communities by participating in non-profit work, volunteering, and student organizations. In addition, Ryan enjoyed coaching youth basketball and discovered that seeing kids develop their skills on and off the court is a really amazing feeling. Ryan lives in Lincoln Park and enjoys his free time by running, playing hockey and basketball, reading, and spending quality time with family and friends.
Matt Hellmich, Chicago Run Intern
Matt grew up in Orland Park, a southwest suburb of Chicago. He graduated from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with a degree in Kinesiology and is currently attending Loyola University Chicago for his Master’s in Public Health. Matt is passionate about sports and the benefits that are associated with being a part of a team. He loves running and finished the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon in the Spring of 2016. Matt lives in Palos Park and enjoys playing all sports, writing and recording music, and spending time with his family and friends.
Colleen Hentschel, Director of Finance & Operations
Colleen grew up in Michigan and attended Indiana University. She graduated with a degree in Kinesiology with minors in Business and Music and later earned her Master of Arts in Teaching. Upon graduating, Colleen interned at NBC in corporate fitness and then worked in various corporate fitness centers presenting health seminars and developing health initiatives, personal training, and instructing spinning, kickboxing, and various group exercise classes while training for and running two half marathons. After volunteering with By the Hand, an afterschool tutoring program in Cabrini Green, Colleen felt inspired to join TFA in 2009 as a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Healthy Lifestyles teacher on the south side of Chicago and has since then, co-coached Girls on Track and continued in the classroom as both a preschool and 2nd grade teacher. Colleen loves living in Chicago and exploring its many amazing restaurants, spending time with her family, and traveling the world.
Crystal Lein, Program Director
Crystal grew up near St. Louis, MO. She graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in Sport Management and an emphasis in Business Development. Crystal has spent her career working in sport related industries with a focus on using sport as a tool for youth to develop social and emotional learning skills. She joined Chicago Run as Program Director in 2017, after spending more than three years with the Chicago Fire Foundation, the charitable arm of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. With the Chicago Fire Foundation, Crystal played an intricate role in expanding programming by 150%, establishing a young professionals board, and assisting the Foundation in winning multiple grants and awards such as the Beyond Sport, Sport Team of the Year. Crystal has always been passionate about sports and has a strong belief that skills and lessons learned through sport translate into the classroom and real-life settings. Crystal is a Road Runners Club of America certified Distance Running Coach. She grew up a runner, participating in both cross country and track and field and has finished two Chicago marathons. In her free time, Crystal enjoys being active outdoors, volunteering, and exploring new local restaurants with her husband.
Kim Lutz, Grants Manager
Kim grew up in Chicago’s southern suburbs. She attended the University of Illinois where she studied political science and earned her masters degree in human services administration from the Spertus Institute in Chicago. She enjoys running, walking, yoga and cooking healthy meals. Kim lives in the Northcenter neighborhood of Chicago with her family.
Desmond Meyer, Part-Time Coach
Desmond grew up in Montgomery, IL and attended Oswego High School, where he ran cross country and track and field for 4 years. He now competes for Chicago State University's cross country and track and field teams. While running at CSU, he has also been a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, representing his institution and the Western Athletic Conference. Desmond has coached junior high cross country while being involved in other organizations. He is passionate about the sport of running and helping people reach their goals. Desmond enjoys watching sports, trying new foods, and hanging out with teammates.
James Nicklas, Program Coordinator
James grew up in Santa Rosa, California. He graduated from California Polytechnic State University with a degree in environmental engineering and a minor in Spanish. In school he found a passion for working with youth athletic organizations through the Special Olympics, coaching basketball, soccer, and golf. After graduating from his undergraduate program, he moved to Chicago as a corps member with Teacher for America. For two years he taught 7th and 8th grade science at Alain Locke Charter School in Garfield Park, while working towards his graduate degree in education. Here he developed a passion for working with Chicago youth. James grew up running with his mother and was a member of his middle and high school’s cross country and track and field teams. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, camping, and improv comedy throughout the city of Chicago.
Jose Saldaña, Up2Us Half-Time Coach
Jose was born and raised in the Little Village neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. He attended Little Village High School where he was involved with Soccer, Track and Field, and Cross Country. After high school, he attended Malcolm X college where he earned his Associate in Arts degree in Business and Economics. While at Malcolm X, he ran on the Cross Country team and made it to Nationals. Now, Jose is pursuing his Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science. His passion for exercise and sports led him to join the Chicago Run team where he hopes to encourage children to run and live a healthier lifestyle. Jose is especially thrilled to be able to give back to the community he grew up in through Chicago Run.
Keyon Sanders, Up2Us Coach
Keyon was born and raised in Chicago, he has had a passion for sports and running for as long as he could remember. He attended Marine Leadership Academy where he played both Football and Volleyball. He later attended North Park University where he also played football.
In the last six years, Keyon has worked with many Non-Profit organizations, most recently, Urban Initiatives where he was involved in coaching youth soccer in under privileged neighborhoods. Keyon enjoys running and lifting weights. He currently lives in the Austin Community, where he has resided his whole life.
Lauren Shirk, Director of Communications & Events
Lauren was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. After graduating from Ohio State University in 2010, she spent a year in London attaining her Master’s degree in Art Business. She moved to Chicago in 2012 to work at a fine art auction house. She realized her interest in non-profit work while volunteering for a community-based organization on the North West side of Chicago. Lauren participated in several high school sports and has continues to keep up an active lifestyle, running several races in Chicago and completing her first marathon in 2017. Lauren is passionate about Chicago Run's mission, and enjoys being able to combine her creative design and fundraising experience with her enthusiasm for fitness. She is also the marketing chair for the Urban Gateways Associate Board. Lauren lives in Bucktown and enjoys hiking, yoga, and traveling.
Christian Skerrett, Up2Us Coach
Christian grew up in Chicago in the Logan Square neighborhood. He attended Prosser Career Academy High School where he played football and ran track all 4 years there. He has since worked with the Chicago Park District as a Recreation Leader for the youth summer camp programs. He volunteered at his high school as a football coach and has played semi-pro football as well. His passion for athletics and encouraging youth to stay active led him to join the Chicago Run team. Christian enjoys working out, watching movies, and hanging out with friends.
Veronica Tovar, Program Coordinator
Veronica grew up in Cicero, IL where she received her Associate’s Degree in Science at Morton College. While at Morton College she was a member of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Soccer and Women’s Cross Country teams. She transferred to Chicago State University and received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. During her time at CSU she competed in the Women’s NCAA Division I Cross Country and Track & Field teams. She received All-American in Academics during her time there. Veronica has coached soccer and running in various organizations. She is passionate about working with youth, encouraging fitness and healthy lifestyle. She enjoys drinking coffee, reading, and watching movies.
Christian Ureña, Part-Time Coach
Christian was born and raised in Chicago where he attended UIC College Prep. After graduating he started school at The University of Michigan where he is currently studying Movement Science in the School of Kinesiology. He hopes to eventually get his DPT and help injured athletes get back to health. He first got involved with Chicago Run back in 4th grade when he attended C.I.C.S. Bucktown Elementary. He has remained involved with the organization and is currently on the Marathon Charity Team for his second year
David Flores, Junior Coach & LACE Up! Participant
David Flores comes from an immigrant family, who migrated to Chicago. David has been a Chicago Run participant since the organization began in 2008. David, now a Senior at Lane Tech, was a participant in both the Runners and Running Mates programs while an elementary student at CICS Bucktown. In his free time, David is very interested in visual arts & fashion design. He hopes to combat social injustices and spread peace & love through his innovative art projects. David is also very passionate about helping youth and he views coaching as a means to give back to younger runners that were in his shoes before.
Martin Garcia, Junior Coach & LACE Up! Participant
Martin lives in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. He has lived there his entire life and chose to go to Infinity Math, Science, and Technology high-school over some selective enrollment schools so he could stay close to home and contribute to his home community. Martin, now a Sophomore in High School, started with Chicago Run in 8th grade as a Running Mates participant. Being a self-starter, Martin was critical to bringing the Running Mates program to Infinity, the first high-school to be involved in that program. While Martin didn’t grow up as a runner, he now is very passionate about the sport & believes in the power of running to open many paths and opportunities in life. With his vast experience & knowledge, Martin is excited to help others accomplish their goals & inspire them as a Chicago Run Coach.
Derrick Norman, Junior Coach & LACE Up! Participant
Derrick was born and raised in the Austin community of Chicago. He hopes to become a lawyer one day, but is an athlete at heart. Derrick, now a Junior in High School, started with Chicago Run in 6th grade as a Running Mates participant and has a strong passion for helping kids. During the summer, Derrick is excited to use this passion for athletics and helping kids as a Chicago Run Coach.
Celeste Pedroza, Junior Coach & LACE Up! Participant
Celeste has been involved with the Chicago Run program for more than 5 years. Now a Sophomore at Nobel Street, Celeste began her involvement with Chicago Run at CICS Bucktown as a Running Mates participant. Running has been an important aspect in her life, as it helps her think and relieve stress. Celeste is a very social person, and enjoys dancing & listening to music in her free time. By being a Chicago Run Coach, Celeste hopes to build strong relationships with others in order to make them better runners & encourage them to push themselves and never give up.