So many, many things would have to go just right. It’s a long shot at best.
Two athletes from the same Blount County high school reaching the Olympics in the same year is at least something to think about, though.
William Blount High School product Alan Horton raced to a third-place finish in the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon on Sunday. Horton covered the 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 26 minutes and 27 seconds.
“I’m pretty pleased with the effort,” Horton said. “I thought maybe 2:24 would win. That’s what my goal was. Geoffrey got out really fast.”
Atlanta’s Geoffrey Kiprotich, a native of Kenya, won in a time of 2:23:23, with Farragut’s Andy Baska, Horton’s Runners Market training partner, finishing just over 30 seconds back at 2:23:56.
Horton wasn’t the only former William Blount runner to enjoy a big day on Sunday. Former Lady Governor Emily Chaney ran to victory in the women’s half marathon, winning in a time of 1:21:38. Now living in Asheville, N.C., Chaney ran the prestigious Boston Marathon alongside Horton only two years ago. Her ultimate goal, she said, is to meet the qualifying standard for the U.S. Olympic Trials in a year’s time.
“Now, I’m trying to work real hard and hit a trials time,” she said. “I’m done with training for triathlons for a while. I’m going to train specifically for running for a year.”
While qualifying for the U.S. trials won’t be easy, it’s doable. Chaney has to look no further than Horton for proof.
Horton met the qualifying standard for the trials at the 2006 Chicago Marathon. Only a select few marathons nationally meet U.S. Olympic committee standards for their times to be used as qualifying marks. Chaney, a 2000 William Blount graduate, said she’ll attempt the New York City Marathon later this year.
Qualifying for the trials a second time would prove a much more difficult task, Horton said. He was the eighth American to cross the line at the 2008 Boston race, finishing 25th overall. The U.S. Olympic committee has lowered the qualifying time for the trials since he met the standard in Chicago, Horton said. That alone would make qualifying a second time a daunting challenge.
The arrival of son, Riley, on March 7, along with completing course work to become a certified public accountant, may make it all but impossible, he said.
If neither Chaney nor Horton is at the start line for the next U.S. trials, Baska is a name area race fans should keep in mind.
“He was really burning it up,” Horton said.
The Knoxville race was the former University of Tennessee standout’s first attempt at the marathon. Baska, who works for Clayton Homes, had Kiprotich in his sights the last three miles. There simply wasn’t enough race left to reel him all the way in, he said.
“It went better than I could have hoped,” Baska said. “He (Kiprotich) ran with us for about a mile and a half. The guy who won the half marathon took off, and he (Kiprotich) decided to go with him.
“At least I was the first American to cross the line.”
There are few experiences like running the Boston race, which drew better than 25,000 entrants two years ago, Chaney said.
“I was 4,000 or 5,000 back (at the start line),” she said. “So it was pretty tight for the first mile.”
After the start, the race was soon a blur.
“I forgot I was running a marathon,” Chaney said. “(Spectators) just scream the whole time.”
They really work themselves into a frenzy at the Olympic Games.
“That would be awesome,” Chaney said.
Horton enjoyed a big day within the race on Sunday. The former Governor teamed with older brothers Brian, Paul and Daniel on the second-place Horton Foothills Smokers barbecue relay, the marathon relay split almost evenly in four parts. Foothills Smokers is owned by Horton’s father, Mark.
Alan ran the first 6.2 miles of the relay before continuing on. Each brother covered about the same distance in succession, the Foothills Smokers team finishing in a time of 3:01:59.
“It was exciting to see that at every point my brother would be there cheering me on because they were waiting for the relay,” Horton said.