As a group of middle- and high-school students wearily trudged off the track at Tates Creek High School earlier this week, their workouts done, another contingent headed on to the oval.
The latter group of five clearly was older and stronger than the runners who had just finished.
One, former University of Kentucky all-American Jose Acevedo, ran in the 200-meter dash at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games.
Now, he is in training here with Venezuelan countrymen Alberto Aguilar, Omar Longart, Freddy Mezones and Arturo Ramirez.
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Under the supervision of Venezuelan coach Cesar Martinez and UK sprints coach Erin Tucker, all five athletes are aiming for next year's London Olympics. Acevedo, Aguilar, Longart and Mezones could make up Venezuela's 4-by-400-meter relay squad.
How the Olympic hopefuls came to train in Lexington began in 2003 when another Venezuelan 400-meter runner, Luis Luna, contacted Tucker.
"He sent an email out to easily 35, 40 coaches," Tucker said, "and I responded within five minutes."
Pretty much just like that Tucker landed a 2004 Olympic runner for UK.
Luna later recommended Acevedo, the Venezuelans making up half of UK's 3:02.9 4-by-400 relay.
When Acevedo qualified for the Beijing Olympics, Tucker went along as a "guest coach" for Venezuela. More assignments followed, including last summer's Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships in the Dominican Republic.
That's when a Venezuelan track federation official asked Tucker about the possibility of sending some runners to train in Lexington.
Acevedo, married and living in Lexington, was a key component. Of the athletes and coaches, he is the only one who is fluent in both Spanish and English. Plus, he has Olympic experience and knows the lay of the land.
"I've been here for a long time (nearly six years). I know how to work around Lexington," Acevedo said. "But I also have the experience, running the 4-by-4 with the UK relay team. We finished third in the nation.
"With my experience and their talent ... I'm pretty sure we're going to make it to the World Championships and the Olympic Games."
Aguilar, Longart, Mezones and Ramirez arrived in Lexington in March, in time to see snow for the first time.
Their first competition came Sunday in the Jesse Owens Invitational at Ohio State.
Acevedo, Aguilar, Longart and Mezones combined to win the 4-by-400 relay in 3:05.36. Longart also took second in the open 400 (47.53), with Aguilar fifth (47.90). Ramirez placed fifth in the 200 (20.78)
Next up is the Penn Relays (April 30), followed by the South American Championships (June 3-5 in Argentina), Central American and Caribbean Championships (July 15-17 in Mexico), World Championships (Aug. 27-Sept. 4 in South Korea) and Pan American Games (Oct. 23-30 in Mexico).
"Our goal this year is to hit 3:03," Martinez said. "That would be the national record in the 4-by-4 for us, and that will give us a good chance to qualify for the Olympic Games next year in London. ... If we make it there, it's going to be an amazing result for Venezuela and all of us."
Only the top 16 relay teams in the world will qualify.
In addition to training on the track five days a week, the Venezuelans lift weights three days a week at UK.
"They all work hard," Tucker said. "They're similar to Luis Luna. Luis Luna was 'go hard, go hard, go hard!' Jose was more of a finesse runner, 'if I don't have to go hard, I won't; my talent is there.'
"Not to take anything away from him, but he and Luis helped each other because Luis got the animal out of him and he calmed the animal down in Luis. With these guys, there's one guy (Ramirez) that kind of has a Jose Acevedo finesse in him, but the rest of the guys have that Luis Luna animal and they just work great together."
Acevedo, 25, has personal bests of 20.58 for 200 and 46.17. The Caracas native is patiently working himself into shape after taking off for more than a year.
"I'm just trying to put that in a positive way," he said, "so that that year actually gave my body some rest."
Aguilar, 26, is from western Venezuela, near the Colombian border. He has run 46.47 for 400.
Longart, 19, is from El Tigre in the eastern part of the country. He has a personal best of 46.09 and thinks he can lower that by about a second this season.
"I have seen a lot of improvement," he said. "A really important factor here is the fact that everything is organized. All the staff that has helped us at the weight room. The track. The coaches."
Mezones, 23, is from Caracas.
"I ran 45 twice last year and I felt comfortable with it," said Mezones, who stands 6-foot-4 and has a personal best of 45.93. "I want to break 45 this year. At least 44.99 — that would be an amazing time for me."
Ramirez, who turned 20 on Tuesday, is from central Venezuela and favors 200 meters.
"I feel more relaxed during the (200). The 100 meters is too short," he said. "I am working on trying to improve my 400 time, which will help me improve my strength in the 200."
His personal bests are 10.46 and 20.78.
Between workouts, Acevedo has chaperoned shopping trips and introduced his countrymen to corn hole and American football. Everyone's favorite non-track activity thus far, though, has been horse races at Keeneland. Success at the betting windows no doubt enhanced the fun.
"Arturo is the lucky one," Acevedo said, noting that Ramirez correctly picked Brilliant Speed to win the Blue Grass Stakes. "He is good."
Acevedo also would like to take his buddies to Cincinnati for a Reds game.
The bigger goal, though, is to make themselves ready for prime time competition.
"I'm just excited that they're here," Tucker said. "I'm looking forward to getting these guys qualified for the World Championships and the Olympics, and doing their country proud."