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NAZ Smith

Northern Arizona Elite's Scott Smith watches during a workout.

If Sid Vaughn and Alice Wright want to know what it takes to win the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon, they don't have to look too far for answers.

Their NAZ Elite teammate Scott Smith won it in 2016. He set his PR of 1:02:34 in the distance at the event that year, but hasn't returned since.

NAZ Elite has been back, but the two runners it sent in 2018 are no longer with the team. This time around Vaughn and Wright, both first-year members on the team, will join Smith in Sunday's race.

All three are trending upward heading into the race in their own way.

Smith showed he's getting back to full strength after coming back from an injury with a second-place showing at the USATF 25k Championships on Saturday, May 11, crossing the finish line in 1:15:05. For the runner-up spot, he edged out Kiya Dandena, who joined NAZ Elite in January but left after only a few months with the team.

It's the season finale for Smith, and he's getting married next week. For head coach Ben Rosario, Smith's got "nothing to lose."

"He'll probably go for broke, and I think a personal best is a real possibility," Rosario said Wednesday.

There's a real possibility that Vaughn will have the finish he and his team have been expecting him to produce since joining the roster.

The big race he had lined up, the national half marathon championship, ended up a bust as illness forced him to sit it out.

"So he's got something to prove for sure," Rosario said.

Vaughn has had success at the distance in his recent past, however, winning the 2018 edition of the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon in 1:03:35 before joining NAZ Elite. It didn't take him long to improve in the half marathon once he came aboard. He set a PR at 1:03:30 in his second race for NAZ Elite, the United Airlines New York City half.

San Diego will be Vaughn's second half marathon with NAZ Elite, while Wright is on her third with the team.

Rosario said she's now prepared for the challenges a half marathon holds.

Wright seems to have been building for this outing. She set her PR of 1:13:17 for a 19th-place finish at the Houston Half Marathon in January. Then at the NYC half, she took 14th in 1:14:25.

It's what came after NYC that's really standing out.

Wright has PRed in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races since her last half marathon. In mid-April, the rookie finished fourth in the 5000m at the Mt. SAC Relays with a personal best of 15:45.51. She followed that up early this month with a PR of 31:56.52 for 12th place in the Payton Jordan Invitational 10,000.

"I believe she'll have a big performance," Rosario said.

San Diego is the kind of challenge the NAZ Elite seeks. The course is full of sharp turns and has it's share of intimidating hills.

And NAZ Elite is not shy when it comes to racing hard in the half.

So far in 2019, NAZ Elite has won three half marathons. In February, Scott Fauble and Aliphine Tuliamuk both won the Gasparilla Half Marathon, and earlier this month, Stephanie Bruce won the USATF Half Marathon Championships with a PR time of 1:10:44.

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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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