Anne-Marie Blaney feels no pressure to run in front of hometown crowd.


Anne-Marie Blaney feels no pressure to run in front of hometown crowd.

By Dominique Smith

When more than 170 women wind through the streets of Orlando on their journey to the Olympics next month, Anne-Marie Blaney will be in familiar territory. The University of Central Florida graduate and Ocala, Florida native will be running one of the biggest races of her life on streets she’s run and driven many times before.

The 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Marathon which will be held in Orlando on Saturday, February 3 are not just a homecoming for Blaney. They are a return to the place where she almost left the sport of distance running and where she learned to love it again.

A standout at Belleview High School, Blaney was a three-time Ocala Star Banner Girls’ Cross Country athlete of the year and a three-time district champion with a top placement of third at the state cross country meet. But prior to her senior year, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to keep running. She said she wasn’t having fun. That was until her coach asked a question that changed how she approached the sport. “‘Do you want to keep running for you?’” Coach Sharlyne Rivera asked.

“I started running for myself, and I feel like my trajectory ever since 12 years ago has pretty much gone up,” Blaney recalls. 

With her high school career winding down, Blaney considered going to the University of Florida where he father, Mike, was an All-American. But she ultimately settled on the University of Central Florida, the alma mater of Rivera, her life-changing high school coach. 

At UCF, Blaney broke eight school records. On the track, she holds three indoor records (mile, 3k, 5k) and two outdoor records (5k, 10k). In Cross Country, she holds school records in the 5k and in the 6k. 

Now a professional runner for the Hanson-Brooks Olympic Distance Project, Blaney qualified for her second consecutive Olympic Marathon trials by running a personal best of 2:31:32 at the 2023 Boston Marathon. With just weeks to go until the trials, her and her teammates are in Orlando acclimating to the climate and spending time on the course. It allows Blaney to show off her hometown. Still, she is not letting that put any added pressure on her to perform.

“Being this close to everybody, I think my fanbase is a little bit bigger,” said Blaney who did not finish the 2020 Trials. “I think that it’s the same amount of pressure for any marathon, because of the opportunity there to PR. I’m kind of treating it as any other marathon.” 

Blaney said that she’s gained confidence headed into the Trials because she feels that she’s ready for any situation that she might encounter. Her coach, Kevin Hanson said that’s one of her strengths that could make her a contender in the race for Paris 2024.

“In a marathon, it’s a long way. You have to think on your feet and not panic about things that weren't in the pre-race plan of how you thought things were going to go,” said Hanson who has coached two athletes, Des Linden and Brian Sell, to the Olympic Marathon Team.  “I think she might be the best person on our team at that.”

Looking back at the crossroads she faced 12 years ago, Blaney laughed at how everything has come full circle, and how her decision to continue in the sport led to her competing in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Marathon in front of her home crowd.

“I’m glad that I made that decision to stick with it,” she said. “I don’t think I’d trade any of this for any other job.”


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