Stan Linton is Atlanta Boundby David Yon
On June 22, 2019, Stan Linton took a day off from his duties as a naval officer and ran the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, in a time of 2:18:43, a pace of 5:18 per mile, 7 seconds faster than he needed to qualify to run in the U.S. Olympic Trials which will be held in Atlanta on Feb. 29, 2020. Stan’s slowest mile was his first, 5:26 and his fastest was mile 7, at 5:05.
In his own words, Stan describes a near flawless performance:
“I went into the race with the goal of running sub-2:19 and qualifying. I set goal times for 6 miles, 10 miles, 16 miles, and 20 miles. If I was able to hit these checkpoints, then I would be in a great position for the last 10K. The weather, course, and field were ideal race conditions. When the race started, the first few miles felt effortless. I really had to hold back the first 10 miles. I made it to halfway in 1:09:28 and felt great. Miles 13-20 were the best miles in the race. I made it to 20 miles with plenty of time to spare, but the last 10K I felt the wheels coming off. I kept asking myself “How much longer do I have.” When we reached the city of Duluth, I started to count minutes. With 2 miles to go I was getting concerned, but once I got to mile 25, I knew I had it if I could just stay on my feet. Every minute in the last mile was a small victory. I turned onto the last straightaway, looked up at the clock, and realized that I just qualified for the Olympic Trials.”
The beginning of that bond was his decision to go out for cross country his sophomore year of high school. That is when Stan fell under the spell of Coach Paul Hoover. In 2012, Coach Hoover nominated him for the 2011 Gulf Winds Track Club – High School Male Cross Country Runner of the Year. Coach Hoover, whose nominations deserved an award for their compelling narratives, made the following point:
“One of the things, to me, that separates Stanley from other outstanding local runners has been his involvement in the Gulf Winds Track Club. He got introduced to the GWTC about a year ago and started attending local races on his own. After the first one, he came to me and said, ‘Coach, I can’t believe it, the people at the race, the GWTC people, were so nice to me. They really made me feel welcome. How do I get to be a member?’ ”
Stan did not earn a boat load of state titles like so many of Tallahassee’s great runners have done. I don’t think it was so much an issue of talent as it was that he came to the sport late. His first serious effort at running did not come until his sophomore year of high school. He wanted to improve his fitness test score for Wakulla High School’s ROTC. It included push-ups, sit-ups, and a mile and a half run. He had perfect scores in the push-up and sit-up events but struggled with the run. So, he joined Wakulla High’s cross country and track teams. It worked.
That could have been it. Linton elected to go to FSU where he committed to the ROTC program and a career in the US Navy. He wanted to walk on with Florida State’s cross country and track teams and emailed FSU coach Bob Braman with his request. Distance runners were not allowed to walk on unless they had run a 5K under 15:00 minutes, no exceptions. Stan’s best time was 16:10. But instead of giving up, he created a plan.
He used the local race circuit to push himself, determined to not just win the races, but also to break as many course records as possible. Unfailingly courteous to other runners, he extended a hand of friendship to them, congratulating them for good performances and urging them not to get discouraged.
Finally, in the spring of his sophomore year at FSU, running unattached in a 5K race during a late season home meet, Linton crossed the finish line in 15:04. After watching the effort, discipline and improvement, Braman relented, confident that a sub 15:00 minute 5K would come soon.
It was a decision the coach would never regret. In his first race as a Seminole (the Seminole Invitational) Stan ran 14:56.02, repaying the 4 second loan from his coach. Over the next several seasons Linton was one of the top runners for the Seminoles. In the 2015 cross country season, he was all-conference in the Atlantic Coast Conference, placing 19th in that meet and 14th in the NCAA South Region meet. He placed 107th at the NCAA Championship Meet. He also ran a personal-best 14:27 time for 5K and a time of 29:56.75 for the 10K at the Stanford Invitational meet.
Linton graduated from FSU in 2016 with a degree in mathematics. While he still had eligibility left in track and in cross country, it was time to move on with his Navy career. After time in Pensacola, he found himself in Des Moines, Iowa, working from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and continuing to train hard. In the spring of 2017 Linton’s phone rang. This time it was Braman looking for someone to help stabilize the FSU team, asking Linton, who had a year of eligibility left, to help.
The Navy agreed to let Linton compete for the Seminoles while he continued his duties in Des Moines. He applied for graduate school and enrolled in an online master’s program at Florida State.
Linton finished 26th at the 2017 ACC cross country meet and followed that by taking 24th place at the South Region meet earning all-region, but not qualifying for nationals. “It was a little bit difficult, working full time, flying out,” Linton said.
It is one of those things – how life comes back to us in time. Earlier this year, Stan Linton stood before a large group of runners and delivered a moving speech as his former coach Paul Hoover was inducted into the GWTC Hall of Fame. Tragically, a car driving over 100 miles an hour ended Coach Hoover’s life, hitting him and then speeding away.
A hushed crowed listened to Stan, as he told the crowd:
“The last item I remember from Coach is how he encouraged us to chase our dreams, no matter how big or small. Never listen to the person who says dreams don’t come true. Coach allowed us to achieve our goals and dreams through consistent hard work. It is my highest honor to present for induction not only my coach, but my mentor, friend, idol and 2nd father…
Yes, there is a special pride that swells through the Tallahassee running community when we watch Stanley run. It is a long way to making an Olympic and a short time to get there. But you guess it, Stan has a plan to 2024 and 2028 in case he does not make 2020. I am not betting against him.
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