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Alice Wright

Wright

When Alice Wright won the Wine 10K in early March, her head coach knew he had something special on the roster.

The Alabama race wasn't a huge, prestigious event, such as a national championship in New York.

And it wasn't even a great day for Wright, who had to grind her way to the win, the first of her professional running career. That's exactly why her coach was impressed with the victory.

“She just willed herself to that win, and I often thought that if you can perform well when you are not on your game, that’s a true champion," said NAZ Elite head coach Ben Rosario of Wright. "Because then you take that same willpower and you apply it to a day like hopefully Saturday, when everything is going well and that’s when you get something really special.”

Wright on Saturday is set to compete in the European Cup 10,000-meter race, the Night of the 10K PBs. It's a race true to its name, an event where runners go to compete hard, set new PRs and go after qualifying times.

“This race is a big deal over in the UK," Rosario said, noting the event's vibrant atmosphere that includes a beer tent, spectators cheering alongside the outdoor track during the runs and music that roars in the background.

If Wright produces another PR, it will be her fourth straight outing doing so.

She set a big PR about a month ago at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon at 1:11:38 while taking third place. Her current best at the 10,000m came at Payton Jordan at 31:56.52 in May, and she clocked her 5000m PR at the Mt. SAC Relays at 15:45.51 in April.

Those were all registered during her impressive rookie year, which just came to end in June.

“She’s on a roll, and I want it to keep going," Rosario said.

A goal is to meet the world championship standard time of 31:50 while at the Night of the 10K PBs. Rosario's confident Wright can get there, saying she's more fit than she was when she set her PR at the distance in May.

The 10,000m has been Wright's bread and butter. In fact, the Worcestershire, England, native is ranked No. 1 in the UK at the distance.

That ranking came with plenty of pressure, as did her her first year of professional running after a standout collegiate career.

“When you have someone come in with the credentials she brought from college, it’s a little bit nerve-wracking because I think the athlete feels pressure and the team feels pressure to get her to the next level, and the fact that she’s responding so well to our training, our environment here and is producing faster times, it gets rid of that nervousness and now we can just work," Rosario said. "Now we know she’s in the right place and so now it becomes a little easier, and now we can just get out there and work -- and that’s what we want to do Saturday.”

On a tear, Wright can also record a sixth top-10 finish so far in 2019. The consistent strong finishes is what has become the expectation.

“When you are ranked No. 1 in a country like that, you are really world-class and you should be competing at a level that high," Rosario said.

She's also been responding well to the high level of training the team does.

“Over the course of one year now, she’s gotten better and better at understanding this is why she’s here. She might get her rear end kicked in at a workout from time to time, but that’s why she’s here, to get better and learn from them. But she puts it to them, too, occasionally," Rosario said. "I think that for her, it’s a good thing she’s around these accomplished athletes.”

A major focus for the team is always the marathon, and Wright is lined up to try out her first, possibly in the fall. A goal for Wright is to compete in the marathon at the 2020 Olympics for the UK. She’s good enough to make the world's biggest stage it in the 10,0000m, so she really has two chances at making the Olympics.

Considering the tear she's on, she could make the big stride from winning a small race in Alabama to making noise on the world stage.

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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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