NAZ Elite added a standout in the 5,000-meter distance to its roster.
Lauren Paquette, an Olympic hopeful in the 5000m who holds a personal best 15:14.45 at the distance, signed with the Flagstaff-based team and it was announced officially on Tuesday. A Baylor product, she qualified for the 2016 Olympics Trials in the 5000m.
“She’s really good at that distance,” NAZ Elite head coach Ben Rosario said Tuesday.
While at Baylor, Paquette focused heavily on middle-distance running, competing mostly at the 800m and 1500m. She started racing longer distances in 2016, switching up her approach to the sport, and had immediate success to build on as she won the 2016 Mt. Sac 5000m.
During her college days, she was also an All-American in cross country and the 3000m to go along with other major achievements, such as winning the Big 12 Championships in the indoor distance medley relay and the outdoor 800m.
“I think she’s a good fit for us because obviously we have these marathoners who are established and can certainly make the marathon team, but we want to be good on the track as well," Rosario said. "This summer we want to make that team and we think she has a shot.”
She was fourth at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships with a time of 15:36.83, and she flirted with a PR in 2019 in running a 15:14.64.
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Paquette's PR in the 5000m is faster than any other NAZ Elite member.
“Joining this team is extra special for me because as an athlete who has trained solo for the majority of her professional career, I have come to respect and appreciate the power of the team and am so grateful and relieved to have teammates to share the road with,” Paquette said in a press release from the team on Tuesday. “My goals for 2020 are to better myself as an athlete physically and mentally, to learn more and ask more questions, and to make the most of this amazing opportunity I have been given. I would also love to return home from Eugene this June carrying an American flag.”
Paquette, 33, spent time in Knoxville, Tennessee, according to Rosario, after graduating from Baylor, working on building a career as a middle-distance runner. But she started racing longer distances and found success while being coached by her husband, Max, as the two lived in Memphis.
She and her husband decided to find a group for her to run with, and chose NAZ Elite and Flagstaff as the next base.
Rosario said Paquette will go through a "gradual buildup" as she starts to transition in with the team. She's a great fit, Rosario added, for a team that has a runner like Danielle Shanahan.
“She and Dani, if all goes well, will essentially have the exact same schedule training- and racing-wise beginning in about March," Rosario said.
Paquette just has to acclimate to the altitude, first.