Everything You Need to Know about the Americans in the 2011 New York City Marathon
by Jon Gugala
The U.S. Olympic team trials for the marathon are looming, but January 14, 2012 hasn't scared away some of the most promising young marathoners to make their debuts in New York City. Also present is a cast of veteran racers eager to reestablish themselves as we head toward Houston. Here's the pantheon before they attempt to ascend Olympus on Sunday:
2009 New York City Marathon champ and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi was conspicuously absent from the Wednesday American press conference.
Keflezighi, who turned 36 in May, has had a year swirled with controversy. Debate raged as to why the former third-place finisher at Boston (2006) didn't compete in a spring marathon. He comes into New York with a pair of recent half marathon wins (Rock 'n Roll San Diego and San Jose, 1:02:50 and 1:02:17, respectively), but they were solo efforts without real competition. He'll face a cast of 2:03-2: 05 marathon PRs in the field on Sunday (and a 58:46 half marathon debutante in Matthew Kisorio). (None the less, here is Meb's record in New York: 2010: 6th, 2:11:38; 2009: 1st, 2:09:15; 2006: 20th, 2:22:02; 2005: 3rd, 2:09:56; 2004: 2nd, 2:09:53; 2002: 9th, 2:12:35.)
photo by PhotoRun.net
photo by Photorun.net
Moran comes to New York as the prodigal son returning. Hailing from Staten Island, Moran notched a 13:25.87 5,000m PR while still in college in 2005. But more significant is Moran's cross country background, most recently his 3rd at the 2011 USAs. "I'm not a pure trackster. I feel like I can handle anything that the course can throw at me," he says. For a race that favors harriers (Gebremariam, anyone?), Moran looks promising.
On the women's side, there are the Right and Left Hand of the Father in Lauren Fleshman and Jen Rhines. Both of these girls are sharp; Fleshman really rounded into form after USATF Championships, winning the 5,000m at the Aviva London Grand Prix in 15:00.57 while simultaneously punching her ticket to the World Championships in Daegu (she would finish 7th in the final). But for all her speed, Fleshman is debuting, and her one half marathon to date was an XTERRA trail run.
photo by PhotoRun.net
There are a trio of American women who will be looking to run in the low 2:30s. The one to watch is Molly Pritz, 23, of Rochester Hills, Mich. Once with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, she claimed the first women's USARC title for the team ever (USA 25km champs, 1:25:28). Now sponsorless, Pritz is hungry, both literally and figuratively. "Pride's on the line," she says of her debut.
"You don't want to run a marathon under everything you have." Jennifer Houck, now of Minneapolis, is also someone you should expect to finish in the low-2:30s. This girl loves racing marathons, and frequently: she ran Boston in April (2:34:28) and then Grandma's in June (2:33:00). "The ideal [is] to gain off of that first marathon . . . and to come into that next one stronger and fitter," she says.
Finally, Sarah Porter debuts as well. Porter was a D-II 10,000m Champion in the spring for Western Washington University. She followed it up with a huge PR at the USATF Championships (32:57.15), and was fifth at the USA 10 Mile Championships (55:01).
The U.S. has a strong crop of both debutantes and veterans that will race on November 6. The biggest reason this race matters is that everything, everything going into the trials in January has to do with momentum. Look to see who's got it on Sunday.