Joanna Thompson

Joanna Thompson.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — ZAP Fitness, which operates in Blowing Rock, qualified five more athletes to the 2020 Olympics Trials at the California International Marathon on Dec. 2.

“Going in ... I wasn’t sure how fast they would run, but in the final month of training before the race, it became clear that they were all ready to pop a good one if they ran a smart race,” said Pete Rea, the elite athlete coach of ZAP Fitness. “It helped that it was a perfect day; 38 (degrees) at the start, 45 (degrees) at the end and no humidity, which is rare. The weather gods were with us.”

Josh Izewski and Joe Stilin – both running their debut marathons – finished third and fourth in 2:13.14 and 2:13:19, respectively. Andrew Colley ran in 2:15:17 and Matt McClintock ran in 2:18:03, with both also making their marathon debuts. Joanna Thompson ran 2:42:25 on the women’s side.

The performances qualified all five for the 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon. To qualify, men have to run under 2:19:00 and women have to finish under 2:45:00.

Two other athletes, Nicole Dimercurio and Johnny Crain, had already qualified for the marathon in the 2020 Olympics Trials, which will be on Feb. 29, 2020, in downtown Atlanta.

“It’s going to be four loops of downtown and midtown Atlanta,” Rea said. “Start and finish in Centennial Park.”

ZAP Fitness has been open in Blowing Rock since 2002, using the High Country’s topography to train for elite distance running.

“Our mission since (2002) is two-fold: one is to put American athletes on U.S. Teams … and of course, get athletes qualified for the Olympics tries to put them in position to make Olympic teams,” Rea said. ”The 2020 trials are rapidly approaching.”

The trials will be the fifth for ZAP Fitness. In order to qualify for the Olympics in the marathon, they have to finish in the top three in the event.

“It’s one of the toughest teams to make globally,” Rea said. “You only get one chance.”

Rea said for the women, it will be much tougher due to the state of women’s marathon running in the United States, noting Americans who won the Boston and New York marathons in 2018. The men, however, are more likely to snag a spot, Rea said.

“If you’re a ZAP athlete on the outside looking in, you’re a bit of a dark horse,” Rea said. “Four of the five have a legit chance of making it.”

Rea said each of the athletes will run one full marathon in 2019, spanning the globe in the final push for 2020.

“We have been wholeheartedly embraced by Boone and Blowing Rock,” Rea said. “We started our training center in 2002 because of the wonderful venues to train, including dirt roads, country roads ... great climate, and it’s not terribly hot or cold. The North Carolina High Country is one of the single greatest places to be a long distance runner and we appreciate everyone who gives us a high five.”

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