Long-distance running team sets sights on next Olympics

Coach Jake Mazone and his running team are always racing, whether it’s carpooling around town, practicing at local parks or competing in long-distance runs.

Their fast-paced lifestyle allows them to focus on one common goal: the 2016 Olympics.

“The goal is to win all the races in Nevada and blossom into the region of Southern California and Arizona,” Mazone said. “The trials for the Olympics are in Eugene, Ore., in May 2016. If we don’t make it in 2016, then we’ll continue to race hard and go for the 2020 Olympics.”

For about six months, Mazone has been training five young men in long-distance running: Nicholas Rudolph, 19; Mucyuranyana “Freddy” Amon, 18; Basabose Bahati, 21; Carlos Cerda, 18, and Frankie Martinez, 18. The team runs about 7 to 10 miles a day.

“Our average (running) week is between 55 and 65 miles,” Mazone said. “We plan on building that up to about 80 miles a week in the next four months.”

Mazone formed the team after he realized there wasn’t a lot of post-collegiate training available for runners. He reached out to participants through social media and running organizations.

“Usually a man or a women physically matures in distance running about the time they are finishing college, around age 24,” Mazone said. “Without any training available after college, most stop their athletic careers.”

Using his own money, Mazone purchased the young men running equipment, meals and entry fees for races. Because men typically don’t receive college scholarships for running, he started a nonprofit organization called Vegas Running Connection to gain sponsor support and offer tax-deductible receipts for donations.

“I have a couple extra pennies in my life right now, so I decided to do this as a philanthropic gesture for the athletes,” Mazone said. “I’m doing it for the thrill of seeing these guys make it all the way.”

Ultimately, Mazone would like to receive enough donations to build and run an Olympic training track on Mount Charleston.

Originally from Congo, Spring Valley resident Amon was inspired to run for Clark High School in his sophomore year by his cousin, Bahati. He said he’s currently the top runner at his school.

“(Bahati) was No. 1, and I was No. 2,” Amon said. “When he graduated, I became No. 1. I just want to get to the Olympics. That’s what I’m training for.”

Henderson resident Rudolph took about six months off from running after high school. On Facebook he met Mazone, who encouraged him to join the team.

“I always loved competition,” Rudolph said. “So when (Mazone) got ahold of me and said I had a chance to race people again, I jumped at the opportunity.”

Though changing his eating and sleeping habits has been tough, Rudolph said he’s taking the sport more seriously.

“It’s interesting to me because it isn’t based on (my) natural ability,” Rudolph said. “It’s more of how much am I willing to hurt as opposed to the person next to me. It’s more of a determination thing than a natural ability thing.”

The team recently competed in the Thin Mint Sprint 5K, Chefs For Kids 5K and the Resolution Run 5K. According to Mazone, it placed in the top five in all races.

“Most of them can run a 5K in an average time of 16:30 minutes,” Mazone said. “My goal is to get them in the 14-minute range within the next two years.”

Mazone said he is focusing on training his current runners but will accept additional members.

“We pride ourselves on handling more pain than anyone we know,” Mazone said. “Anyone who thinks they’re tough and can keep up with us is welcome to try.”

For more information or to donate, visit vegasrunning-connect.8k.com or mail a check payable to Vegas Running Connection to P.O. Box 231651, Las Vegas, NV 89105.

Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter at Caitlyn Belcher at cbelcher@viewnews.com or 702-383-0403.

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