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Mike Smith and Sean Anthony

Michael Smith, director of cross country and track and field, and Sean Anthony, founder and CEO of HYPO2 in Flagstaff, pose for a photo in this 2011 file photo.

It’s a typical evening inside the Wall Aquatic Center at Northern Arizona University. Emerging from the pool, the Japanese Olympic gold medalist bows in gratitude to the water. The Flagstaff kids waiting for a swim club workout casually observe her ritual; another of the world’s top athletes, come from the other side of the globe to use their local pool.

It’s wordless scenes like this that make Flagstaff -- one of the world’s premier training locations for endurance athletes -- such a special place to live. And when I see new teams in town for altitude training, I know they’re likely here because of one person: Sean Anthony.

Since his company HYPO2 began operation 10 years ago this October, they’ve brought more than 6,000 athletes from over 40 different countries to Flagstaff, filling our tracks, pools, hotels and restaurants as they utilize our altitude, climate and facilities to train for the highest level of sport.

I first met Sean when he was associate director of NAU’s Center for High Altitude Training, a U.S. Olympic Training Site for long-distance running. When he founded HYPO2, Sean invited me to help by taking care of visiting teams. In those early days, we’d meet in coffee shops; then I’d be sent out to handle a list of tasks. I had the time of my life, learning about the preparation of elite athletes and the relationships they rely on to succeed.

Their altitude stints were meticulously designed. The fine margins of error involved in executing a camp were directly related to the reason the world’s best athletes came here to train -- to seek that final inch, millisecond or percent that makes the difference. They didn’t come here to guess or get close -- an altitude training camp with athletes of this level had to be perfect.

Equally as precise are the myriad requirements and requests that arrive with elite athletes, coaches and sports scientists. There’s no one more battle-tested than HYPO2 at taking a team of athletes that has a highly specific plan and a logistical jigsaw puzzle of travel and facility access and making all the pieces fit.

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And that’s just one training camp. In the months leading up to a world championship or Olympic Games, HYPO2 manages dozens of camps.

It’s telling that the only Japanese I speak, left over from my years there, is “mondai nai,” which means “no problem.” A successful training camp was one in which athletes only worried about training, and coaches only worried about coaching. HYPO2 handled the rest.

But the crux of HYPO2’s success is what athletes and coaches from all over the world know, and why they return. It’s what I know, taught by Sean as his first employee, working out of coffee shops 10 years ago. Everything HYPO2 does is about relationships. When athletes come from across the world to a little mountain town, they have to know they’ll be taken care of. HYPO2 and its vast network of community partners don’t let them down. It’s why they come, and why they’ll keep coming back.

As HYPO2 celebrates 10 years, let’s toast Sean Anthony and his team for all they do for the athletes who train here, and for what their unique work adds to our community. Thank you, HYPO2!

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Michael Smith is the director of track and field and cross country at Northern Arizona University.

Do you have a column, tip or idea for High Country Running? Run it over to coordinating editor Julie Hammonds at runner@juliehammonds.com, or tweet her @highcountry_run.

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