Team Buckeye Assistant Director Looks Ahead to Pelotonia with Inspiration, Excitement

Zach McCune and Karl Koon

As his first Pelotonia ride draws closer, Zach McCune is having a tough time keeping his excitement level from bubbling over … a common condition for first-time (and even for veteran) Pelotonia riders.

It’s an emotional and life-changing day (or days).

“People have told me all about how people will be lining the route and I’m so excited to see all the signs and all the people impacted by the research being done here,” said McCune, the new assistant director of Team Buckeye, the official Pelotonia peloton (or team) of The Ohio State University.

“Everyone I’ve met has this phenomenal connection to the cause and I’m so motivated and inspired by all of them,” he continued. “The commitment the members of Team Buckeye have set to meet and exceed their fundraising goals, the training rides I’ve been on, seeing all the Team Buckeye bike jerseys from past rides, all the passion is amazing.”

Technically, this is McCune’s second Pelotonia.

The 2015 Ohio State graduate signed up to ride in the 2016 Pelotonia and met his fundraising goal. But then, about a month before the ride, he took a job with the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. He was assigned to work, organize and register voters in Colorado and was unable to get back to Columbus for Pelotonia.

He returned to Columbus and Ohio State in December and works with Karl Koon, the Director of Rider Recruitment for Team Buckeye/Pelotonia. “I’m excited to learn from Karl, he’s so enthusiastic,” McCune said.

Enthusiastic? This may actually be an understatement, as anyone who has met Koon will tell you. Fortunately, McCune is also enthusiastic when it comes to Pelotonia and Team Buckeye.

Funding cancer research is personal for McCune, and his first Pelotonia will be a family affair. His mom, Shelley, was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer in 2012. She was initially treated near their home in Wilmington, but had some complications with her medications. “We contacted The James and they connected her with a specialist,” Zach McCune said. “She started coming here and still comes here every six months for her follow-up appointments.”

Shelley McCune will be a volunteer at Pelotonia and her husband and Zach’s father, Nevin, is a virtual rider. Shelley McCune’s volunteer post will be in Gambier, which is where her son will finish his ride. Nevin McCune will also be in Gambier to watch his son finish.

Funding research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) is what Pelotonia is all about, and the total is now more than $138 million. McCune is quickly learning about the world-class research funded by Pelotonia.

“I’ve been to a few lunch-and-learns and met some of the researchers,” he said. “I’ve learned about how precision medicine is shaping cancer research and treatment and the role Pelotonia and Ohio State have in the global cancer community.” For example, he said he’s been inspired by the work of the Pelotonia-funded Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative (OCCPI) that screened colorectal patients across Ohio for Lynch syndrome, a cancer-causing genetic mutation.

“That program just shows how every dollar raised by Pelotonia is impacting people here and all over Ohio,” McCune said. “It’s helping so many people fight cancer.”

Fundraising is nothing new for McCune. As an undergraduate, he was director of student engagement for Buckeyethon, which is the annual and massive student-fundraising event that raises money for Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

And now, he’s fundraising full time.

“On any given day, I can be making a recruitment presentation, meeting with established pelotons and helping them set goals, working with the Pelotonia staff to help communicate the message,” McCune said, adding he works with students and staff across campus. “I knew Ohio State was big, but I didn’t realize just how big.”

McCune’s 25th birthday is the week after Pelotonia and, instead of presents, he’s asking family and friends to instead make a donation to Pelotonia.

His first Pelotonia ride will also be McCune’s longest-ever ride, as he takes on the hilly 55-mile route from New Albany to Gambier.

“It will be physically challenging,” he said, “but I’m excited to be around so many people who are so energetic and committed.”

For more information on Team Buckeye, visit