Kellyn Taylor came away from the New York City Marathon with the fifth-fastest time ever produced by an American female in the event, taking seventh place overall while crossing the finish line as the second American woman.
“Kellyn's race, it was beautiful. It was the race of someone who could make the Olympic team, for sure," NAZ Elite head coach Ben Rosario said of his athlete.
Taylor ran a 2:26:25 in New York, and teammate Aliphine Tuliamuk came through with a time of 2:28:12 for 12th place overall on the women's side. Tuliamuk was the third American female to finish Sunday's big race, helping the team put an exclamation point on a stellar fall marathon season that followed an impressive spring.
For Rosario, it all starts with 2018, a year the team set its bar at a crazy height.
“I would say objectively, yes, 2019 was better,” Rosario said, adding that the team just continued to build off last year's performances.
The team raced seven different marathons in 2019, starting with the Walt Disney World Marathon in January when former member Nick Hilton took second in the event. In the spring, Tuliamuk set a PR of 2:26:50 for the distance when she took third at Rotterdam, and a week later teammate Scott Fauble recorded a PR of 2:09:09 at Boston for seventh place overall.
After setting a PR on a victory at a flat Grandma's Marathon in June of 2018, Taylor hasn't showed signs of slowing down. She hit her second-fastest marathon time ever at Prague in May and then had a stellar NYC outing.
October saw NAZ Elite rookie Rory Linkletter make his debut at the distance in Toronto not long after teammates Stephanie Bruce and Scott Smith hit PRs in Chicago, taking sixth and 15th overall, respectively.
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“There's tangible evidence that each person is getting better. That’s what we want to do," Rosario said.
Now for the six NAZ Elite athletes heading to the late-February Olympic Marathon Trials, the focus is on Atlanta and earning a spot on team United States.
Taylor leads the NAZ Elite women heading into 2020, as her 2:24:29 also sits as the fifth-fastest American female time on the marathon performance list as of Halloween. Tuliamuk's 2:26:50 stands as the 10th-fastest mark on that list, with Bruce two spots out.
Meanwhile, Fauble is third on the men's marathon performance list as of last Thursday. Smith isn't too far behind on the list and NAZ Elite's Sid Vaughn is also set to compete in February having qualified for the event prior to joining the team in January.
According to USATF.org, as of last Thursday 200 men have qualified for the Olympic Trials and 391 have on the women's side.
After Vaughn races a half marathon this weekend, the six marathoners will work to get their minds and bodies ready for a big segment of buildup for the Atlanta race.
Rosario said by mid-December, his marathoners will be ready to take on the thick of training together.
"I would say that the five athletes who have ran marathons over the last two years for us heading into the Trials, essentially all of the marathons have been good. Even the ones that were not home runs were pretty good -- or at least had a lot of good takeaways," Rosario said. "I think they will be supremely confident and excited to gather with all the United States runners in one place at one time when we know everyone will be at their best. Let's see where we stand. We are not afraid. In fact, just the opposite, we are really excited."