Clint Santoro loved ‘Flash,’ the superhero while growing up in Connecticut. He would often don a shirt depicting the Marvel character while competing in various running events in his early teenage years.
At the end of one of his races, the public address announcer called him ‘Flash’ during the trophy ceremony. The comment drew some laughs. He had never had a nickname before but allowed ‘Flash’ to stick. To this day, the 45-year-old still refers to himself as the name of his favorite superhero – and maybe for good reason.
In many ways, he’s become a superhero in the eyes of those he coaches – a group of amateur runners ranging in age – many of which have gone on to win championships.
“I wanted to be something more than just ‘coach,’” Flash said. “So, I began to market myself as ‘Flash’ and people bought into it. I will say, it’s hard to keep that nickname up as you get older and slower, but it’s stuck.”
Flash began running at 14 years old while attending Stafford High School in Connecticut. He initially planned to play field hockey but was convinced by one of his best friends to distance run instead.
Despite his initial lack of interest in the spot, it came natural to him. He went on to run for two years at the University of Connecticut before moving to Arizona to escape what he called “awful” conditions.
“Connecticut is gloomy and depressing,” Flash said.
Flash began coaching shortly after he arrived in Arizona in 2000. Eventually, he created the Arizona Pacemakers Running Club, a co-ed group ages 5 and up competing as part of USA Track & Field. While he has coached an abundance of younger runners in the past, he has found himself gravitating more toward the older crowd.
Throughout the week he works with amateur runners that range in age to their mid-50s. Each group has their own practice sessions. Some prefer mornings while others practice in the evening to late evening hours.
Mountain Pointe High School has become the home of the Arizona Pacemakers. It’s where they conduct all of their practices and it was also where they saw stellar results in their most recent track meet – the Arizona state championship.
Nine runners from the Arizona Pacemakers won state titles in their respective age group at Mountain Pointe June 5-6. Another six placed second to receive silver medals and one was third to take bronze.
The Lady Pacemakers saw the most success at the state meet, with five of the nine runners from the entire club winning gold medals. Of the six who won silver, four were women. Flash said one of his racers has been running since she was just 6 years old. At the state meet, she ran the fastest 5k time in her career. She is currently 50.
“Age is not a limiting factor,” said Flash, who won gold in the men’s 1500- and 3000-meter races in the 45-49 age group. “They don’t make excuses. They want to show up to practice. They want to work. They know what running does for them mentally and physically and emotionally and they enjoy that feeling of accomplishment.”
Flash has spent years coaching nearly every level and age group of runners. He’s worked his way up from middle school all the way to the collegiate level. Even then, he says this group of runners – amateurs looking to still fulfill a dream of racing even as they grow older – is his favorite.
To him, it’s a rewarding experience seeing middle-aged men and women achieve new personal bests on the track. Not only do they smile when they accomplish a new feat, but Flash does, too.
“These people are setting personal bests, personal records, lifetime, not just for their age group in their life,” Flash said. “And so, for me to see them perform and smile and be like, ‘coach, I did it.’ It's better than any other age group I've ever coached.
“It's the most rewarding coaching job I've ever had.”
Arizona Pacemakers results at state
Shayna Weir – women’s (35-39) 800m
Tracy Campagnano – women’s (35-39) 1500m
Travis Aguilar – men’s (35-49) 800m
Bridget Augustine – women’s (45-49) 1500m
Mihwa Kim – women’s (45-49) 5k (personal record: 19:44)
Clint “Flash” Santoro – men’s (45-49) 1500m, 3000m
Mike Williamson – men’s (50-54) 1500m
Ken Knierim – men’s (50-54) 800m
Tracy Lee – men’s (50-54) 800m, 1500m
Leah Krautter – women’s (35-39) 1500m
Piper McWhorter – women’s (45-49) 1500m
Kelly Augustine – men’s (45-49) 1500m
Bridget Augustine – women’s (45-49) 3000m
Paula Murray – women’s (50-54) 800m, 1500m
Mark Kirkeeng – men’s (55-59) 800m, 1500m
Travis Aguilar – men’s (35) 1500m
Dana Pivin -- 7th place (5:20.48 personal record from 5:24.37)