Before Rory Linkletter and Alice Wright signed rookie contracts with NAZ Elite, they let the team's head coach know they'd prefer to conquer a marathon sooner than later.

Ben Rosario didn't see any problems with that request.

Linkletter and Wright are looking to become marathoners for the first time this fall, taking their running careers to new distances.

“I don’t think they’ve even ran 20 miles straight in their lives without stopping, so it’s a big step," Rosario said on Tuesday.

Linkletter, a Canada native who hails from BYU and just joined the team in July, is scheduled to compete in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in late October. Meanwhile, Wright, who's from Worcestershire, England, is slated to make her marathon debut in Chicago a week before Linkletter sets out on his endeavor.

Wright's in her second year with the team and has three half marathons under her belt, finishing 19th in Houston, 14th in New York and third at San Diego for a PR in the event. She'll be joined in Chicago by veteran teammate Stephanie Bruce.

Linkletter will be the lone NAZ Elite athlete racing in Canada, and he has not been in a half marathon yet with the team.

“We could have had him in one during the buildup, but we didn’t feel like A: there was a race that really fit; and B: we just didn’t feel like we wanted to interrupt the training,” Rosario said.

Wright also doesn't have a race on her schedule until Chicago comes around.

But based on the two young runners' backgrounds and the way they are built, Rosario feels they are ready to take on 26.2 miles.

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Linkletter trained under BYU head coach Ed Eyestone, a two-time Olympic marathoner. Wright also was at a program at University of New Mexico where lots of mileage and high-end aerobic training are staples of the workload.

“I also think physiologically they are tailored for the longer stuff," Rosario said. "So when it’s kinda your bread and butter psychologically, the longer work, it comes quicker.”

Maybe more than ever in the history of the Flagstaff-based team, Rosario's got the talent and experience with which to surround Linkletter and Wright while they train. He's also got some strong results in getting runners ready for the marathon.

Scott Fauble owns the team's marathon record of 2:09:09, which he set at the Boston Marathon in April, and Kellyn Taylor, who is currently prepping for the New York City Marathon, owns the women's side top time of 2:24:28 set at the 2018 edition of Grandma’s Marathon.

NAZ Elite's Aliphine Tuliamuk came to the team wanting to improve her marathon performances, and she did so at Rotterdam, where she clocked a 2:26:50 for a third-place finish a new PR that shattered her previous best of 2:33:18.

“They are pretty much just buying in and doing what we tell them, kinda turning their minds off," Rosario said of Linkletter and Wright, "which I think is very helpful because an athlete doing his or her first marathon can overthink things.”

The veterans are aware of their roles, too.

“All these athletes who have all these really good marathon performances under their belts, they know that these athletes are having the same sorts of fears and worries when they were working on their first marathons, and they remember what that felt like. So they are simply paying it forward," Rosario said.

Rosario also knew the Olympics were on his young runners' minds when he brought them aboard, with Linkletter looking to make the Canadian team and Wright the Great Britain squad. He said his future marathoners have the pressure under control.

“I don’t think they are letting that be the driving force. It seems to me that they just really want to have a great first marathon and if an Olympic spot is a result with that, so be it," Rosario said. "But they are not putting the race on a pedestal. They are taking a very pragmatic approach -- which I appreciate.”

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


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