Rory Linkletter is ready to add another international notch on his belt. This time, however, he'll do it as a pro.
The rookie who signed with NAZ Elite only a few weeks ago will lace up for his native country of Canada to compete in Friday's 10,000 meters at the Pan Am Games taking place in Lima, Peru, this cycle.
Getting sent into the lion's den is not a rare occurrence for an NAZ Elite rookie as of late. And the results have been solid for the new faces as they transition to the team from the college ranks to the professional and get tested early on a big stage.
After signing with the team last summer, Alice Wright's first race for NAZ Elite was at the European Athletics Championships, where the England native and University of New Mexico graduate took sixth place in the 10,000m with a time of 32:36.45. Matt Baxter, an Northern Arizona standout and New Zealand native, joined in January and ran the New Zealand National Track and Field Championship 5000m in March for a first-place finish in 14:04.44.
“It’s always good for the coach-athlete relationship if the first race is a good one," said NAZ Elite head coach Ben Rosario on Tuesday. "It almost seems like that should go without saying, but it really is important, and I think Rory's going to do very well. I have a good feeling about it."
Rosario and Linkletter already have reasons to feel good about their newly formed relationship, learning to trust one another early when the coach-athlete foundation was set even before the BYU product decided to sign with NAZ Elite.
During the negotiation process between the two, Rosario recommended that Linkletter take a full week off after he took on the World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, in late March and turn his focus immediately to the NCAA Outdoor Championships that took place in early June.
Linkletter is not the kind to take breaks, but he heeded the advice.
“You’ve had a long collegiate season, you are going to have a big fall," Rosario said of speaking with Linkletter about the time off. "You need to reset, you need to recharge mentally and physically. He took that advice, and he didn’t need to take that advice, to his credit.”
Now, Rosario believes Linkletter is at a good place for a race like Friday's 10,000 meters.
After taking the weeklong break, Linkletter put ink to paper and joined NAZ Elite. He relocated to Flagstaff and started going through workouts that would increase in intensity with each practice.
“He’s kinda in that phase of training where he’s still fresh because he’s not in the thick of yet," Rosario said. "And it’s actually a really good time to race because he’s done enough to where he’s got the fitness but he hasn’t done so much to where he’s tired.”
Linkletter also has the excitement to feed off of from being a brand-new pro. Rosario called it "positive momentum."
Linkletter is also known for his ability to close races on a seemingly full tank of gas.
The 22-year-old runner takes a PR of 28:12.42 into the race that features 12 total runners. He'll be the only Canadian in the race, which has a standing best time of 28:08.74 that was set in 2007.
“I like his chances if he’s there with a mile to go and can start to smell that finish line," Rosario said, noting that the field at the Pan Am Games 10,000m is pretty even. “He’s been very good at running the last lap or two of the 10,000 meters, so if he’s there ..."