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Alice Wright

Wright

NAZ Elite added some more girl power to its roster, the team announced Wednesday.

All fresh out of successful collegiate careers at their respective universities, Erin Clark, Grayson Murphy and Alice Wright joined the Flagstaff-based team that started bringing aboard youth to its roster in late June with the addition of recent Loyola Marymount graduate Danielle Shanahan.

The seasoned female runners on the team who have been bringing in wins lately made it a good time for NAZ Elite head coach Ben Rosario to sign promising young athletes, as the rookies won't have to worry about the pressure of getting victories and strong placings right off the starting gun. The four most recent signees join veterans Stephanie Bruce, Aliphine Tuliamuk and Kellyn Taylor -- who have combined to win four standout races in the last three months -- and push the total roster size to 13 runners.

“In terms of performing for the team, the ladies that have been here are taking care of that, so we can just focus on the development side of these young athletes,” Rosario said.

Murphy, who spent the final two years of her NCAA career at the University of Utah where she collected five All-American honors in cross country, the 3000-meter steeplechase and the 5000m run, is expected be the first of the new additions to compete in an NAZ Elite jersey. She's set to run what Rosario called a "low-key" 10K in Salt Lake City, giving her a chance to compete in front of a hometown crowd on Tuesday, July 24.

Murphy, fairly new to the sport after having spent time focusing on a soccer career in college, had a sixth-place finish in the steeplechase at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and seventh-place finish at the USATF Outdoor Championships in the same event to cap off her college career.

“I can’t wait to see what this stellar group of us incoming girls can do under the leadership of the veterans,” Murphy said in a press release from the team. “I’m looking forward to running fast and crushing some miles.”

Meanwhile, Wright, a native of Worcester, England, already worked out with Bruce on Wednesday as she prepares for a chance to compete in a 10000m at the European Athletics Championships in early August.

“It’s been a long season for her, because she’s had that long NCAA season, but I think she’ll do just fine," Bruce said of Wright, who first has to be selected by the Great Britain team in order to compete at the European championships in Berlin.

Wright logged five stellar years while at the University of New Mexico. She was an NCAA runner-up twice in the 10000m and the first woman in NCAA history to become a four-time All-American in the distance. At the university, she set the school record in the 10000m and was part of two NCAA Championship team titles in cross country. She already has put in work at the international level, earning two bronze medals at the European Under-23 Championships.

While Shanahan, Murphy, and Clark are all joining the team coming off pretty good breaks, Wright is working with NAZ Elite for the big international race.

“What we are trying to do with Alice is not really reinvent the wheel, but give her what she is pretty much used to with maybe a little bit of a twist here and there," Rosario said.

The idea is to work all the young runners into the system slowly and smoothly, hoping they can grow confidence as they work out with the team in Flagstaff.

“It’s ideal for Danielle, Erin and Grayson because they are coming off a break, so we can just ingratiate them into the culture slowly with easy workouts that will build up their confidence as we go deeper into the fall,” Rosario said.

Clark made the move to train in Flagstaff with NAZ Elite after competing for five years at the University of Colorado. She collected six First-Team All-American honors in a variety of events ranging from cross country to the steeplechase to the 10000m. She finished her Colorado career with a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 10000m and ninth in the 5000m at the USATF Outdoor Championships.

“We’ve been building this thing in Flagstaff over the last four years and I think people are starting to take notice,” Bruce said in the press release. “We’ve always had a ton of interest from men because of how our guys have performed, but it’s exciting to now have four new female teammates to join HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite. I’m personally thrilled to help guide them as they transition in their pro running careers.”

Mike Hartman can be reached at 556-2255 or at mhartman@azdailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @AZDS_Hartman.

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