Thirteen days from now, the 2012 U.S. Marathon Team Trials will be held in Houston, Texas. The races on Saturday, January 14, 2012, will determine who will represent the United States, in one of the iconic events of our sport.
Team U.S.A., the track & field team in particular, has the best won-loss record of any team in the U.S. The renaissance of our middle and distance runners over the past decade was a long time coming, and is a constant reminder that our country has more ability in a major metropolis, in athletics, than many countries around the world.
Who will make the men and women’s team? That, dear readers, will be decided in thirteen days. There will be surprises. There will be moments that bring smiles to one’s face as well as, tears to one’s eyes. Some have been training for this day since the 2008 Trials. Some have come into this race over the last six months. Some have realized that the marathon distance is their destiny. Some have yet to realize that. Both races, held in Houston, Texas on the same day, will be televised by NBC that same afternoon (please check your local listings).
Mark Winitz, a frequent contributor to California Track & Running News as well as American Track & Field (he also wrote for American Athletics, our first title), wrote this piece for the January 2012 issue of California Track & Running News (www.caltrack.com). We hope that you enjoy it!
BEST MARKS by Mark Winitz – Will Californians Deliver Again at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials?
Submitted by admin on Sat, 12/31/2011 – 15:08.
Or maybe, the real question is: Can they possibly deliver even
more this time? In 2008 it was easy for me to predict that Golden State
women had a decent chance of sweeping the top three spots at the
women’s Marathon Trials in Boston. They did, as Deena Kastor (Mammoth
Lakes), Magdalena Lewy Boulet (Oakland), and Blake Russell (Pacific
Grove) led the way to Beijing. A few months before, at the men’s Trials
race in New York City, Ryan Hall (Redding), one of the pre-race
favorites, ascended the winner’s podium.
Will California, once again, showcase its deep distance talent at
the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials in Houston on Jan. 14 where
separate trials races will determine the three men and three women who
will represent the U.S. at the Olympics in London? That’s an easy one
to answer. At our editorial deadline a month before the Trials, 383
athletes (158 men, 225 women) had met the qualifying standards for
entry into the event. Among the qualifiers, 65 athletes hail from
California. That’s 17% of all qualifiers. No other state comes close to
these numbers (although Colorado, with a population of 5 million
compared to California’s 37 million, posts 45 qualifiers).
In quality, too, California has no peers. NikneCalifornians bring the benefits of
Olympic experience to the 2012 Marathon Trials: Kastor, Lewy Boulet,
Russell, Hall, Meb Keflezighi (Mammoth Lakes), Bolota Asmerom (San
Leandro ), , Dan Browne (Chula Vista/Mammoth Lakes), Jen Rhines (Mammoth Lakes), and Linda Somers Smith (Arroyo Grande).
Although international experience at the top levels of our sport
certainly provides an edge, it doesn’t necessarily predict success at a
one-chance trials event at the often-unpredictable marathon distance.
With young American athletes eager and capable of taking the reins,
perhaps in unprecedented numbers, the most competitive marathon trials
in U.S. history is likely in store.
“Having run the Marathon Trials in 2004 and 2008 will hopefully help
with the nerves for Houston,” said Russell, who, like Kastor and Lewy
Boulet, juggles motherhood around her demanding training schedule.
“Going into the 2008 trials, I accurately predicted the [women’s]
marathon team before the gun went off. But this trials will be much
different with returning veterans and many notable newbies to the
distance. It will be an exciting race, to say the least.”
Conventional wisdom says that the top three slots at the marathon
trials will be composed of one runner in the very top U.S. ranks, one
highly ranked (but not necessarily favorite) competitor, and one
“surpriser.” But that perception is changing as new, young talent comes
to the fore. With the qualifying window about to close as of this
writing, the top three men’s qualifying times at the full marathon
distance were all set by marathon veterans: Hall’s 2:04:58 set at the
2011 Boston Marathon, Keflezighi’s 2:09:13 at the 2011 New York City
Marathon, and Dathan Ritzenhein’s (Oregon) 2:10:00 from the 2009 London
Yet none of the top qualifiers are taking their credentials for
granted. Not even Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic marathon silver
medalist. Not even Hall, who tamed what had been thought of as a slow
and difficult course at the 2008 Men’s Marathon Trials in New York City,
breaking the Olympic Trials record with a winning time of 2:09:02.
“I don’t even like to mention names because you never know who your
biggest rival might be,” said Hall. Some people out there haven’t even
run a marathon before.” (See the explanation below regarding qualifying
standards for more on this topic.)
To be sure, a bevy of young, relatively new talent is also among the
top qualifiers. For example, former Aptos prep Brett Gotcher, age 27
(now an Arizona resident), recorded a 2:10:36 debut marathon at Houston
in 2010. Gotcher’s McMillan Elite teammate, Nick Arciniaga, 28,
lowered his PR to 2:11:30 at last January’s Houston Marathon, where he
placed second. Arciniaga is a Fountain Valley High School and Cal State
How about 26-year-old Mo Trafeh (Duarte, CA)? Although an “infant” at the marathon
distance, Trafeh outkicked Hall and won the 2011 USA Half Marathon
Champs in Houston on a course designed to emulate the four-loop course
athletes will tackle at the trials and also in London at the Olympic
Games. Plus, Trafeh’s 1:00:39 half marathon personal best (2010 NYC Half
Marathon) converts to an impressive 2:07:01 26.2 miler.
Going into the women’s trials race, Lewy Boulet, 38, has the
third-fastest qualifying time (2:26:22, 2010 London Marathon). Kastor,
also 38, will be a sentimental favorite. After all, the three-time
Olympian is a 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist and the U.S.
marathon record holder (2:19:36). Russell, 36, considered retirement
after the birth of her son, Quin, in 2009 when she struggled with
sleepless nights tending to the infant. But Bob Sevene, the legendary
coach who has coached Russell for 12 years, has guided her back into
Like the favored men, these women and others will face younger
talent–such as Minnesota’s Desiree Davila (age 28, 2:22:28), Oregon’s
Kara Goucher (33, 2:24:52), and Shalane Flanagan (30, 2:28:40), plus
California’s Amy Hastings (27, Mammoth Lakes), whose 2:27:03 at the
2011 Los Angeles Marathon was the third-fastest debut at the distance by
an American woman.
So, can Californians come through in unprecedented fashion in
Houston and top their four U.S. Olympic marathon team spots that they
earned in 2008? My answer: an emphatic YES!
Interesting 2012 Marathon Trials Facts
â€¢The Men’s and Women’s LDR Committees of USATF have very different sets
of qualifying criteria for the Marathon Trials. Men have one set of
standards only, considered “A” standards. Men who have achieved these
standards (marathon: 2:19:00 and under; half marathon: 1:05:00 and
under; 10,000m: 28:30 and under) get their expenses paid for the trials.
Women may achieve an “A” standard (marathon: 2:39:00 and under), for
which their expenses are paid, or a “B” standard (marathon:
2:39:01-2:46:00; half marathon: 1:15:00 and under; 10,000m: 33:00 and
under) for which expenses are not paid. These differences account for
the fact that more women qualify for the trials than men.
The Men’s LDR Committee set its “A” standard-only policy before the
2012 trials based on MLDR chair Glenn Latimer’s assertion that the bar
needed to be set higher to encourage excellence, and two-time Olympian
Dan Browne’s view that men shouldn’t be in the trials if they’re unable
to run faster than Deena Kastor’s 2:19:36 U.S. women’s record. The
Women’s LDR Committee has chosen to retain a “B” qualifying standard to
allow more women to participate in the trials, even if they have little
or no chance of making the podium.
â€¢The San Francisco-based Impala Racing Team boasts 13 women who have
qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials, perhaps the most female
qualifiers of any running club in the country.
â€¢Linda Somers Smith, 50, of Arroyo Grande, is the oldest women’s
qualifier for the 2012 Trials. The 1996 marathon Olympian qualified for
her seventh consecutive marathon trials at the 2010 Los Angeles
Marathon with a time of 2:36:33. As far as we know, no other woman has
qualified for seven U.S. Marathon Trials (not even Joan Benoit
Samuelson, who qualified six times).
â€¢ The 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon will be the first time that
both the men’s and women’s marathon trials will take place on the same
day, at the same site. On Sat., Jan. 14, the men will start at 8 a.m.
(6 a.m. Pacific) and the women will start 15 minutes later.
â€¢ NBC will broadcast two hours of same-day coverage from 3-5 p.m.
Eastern. The comprehensive coverage will be the first time that both
men’s and women’s Olympic Trials are televised on the same day.
|THOUGHTS FROM CALIFORNIA’S OLYMPIC VETS|
Strategy: “I don’t really like to have a strategy.
Confidence: “Having run a lot of marathons, I know
Experience: “It’s always an honor to try your best
Editor’s Note: The 2004 Olympic marathon silver medalist
PR: 2:19:36 (2006)
Quality and Depth of Competition: “My anticipation
is growing as the trials near. The Houston organizers are doing an
amazing job at catering to athletes and fans. This will be the toughest
trials race in our marathon history as the field is super-talented.
Right now I’m at the height of my training and I know I will have
prepared the best I can come January. I just hope my best is good
enough to make my fourth Olympic team. It’s safe to say that between
the men’s and women’s marathon talent in our country, we will earn more
than one medal in this event in London.”
|MAGDALENA LEWY BOULET
PR: 2:26:22 (2010)
Goals: “This Women’s Olympic Trials Marathon is
shaping up to be the most competitive trials race the U.S. has ever
seen. My only goal is to finish in the top 3, regardless of time, but in
order for that to happen, I’ll most likely have to be in PR shape. So
I’m hoping to be in the best shape of my life 4 weeks from now.”
Preparation: “So far training has been going fine. I’ve been healthy
for the most part. I’ve only run two races, which is less than I
normally run in a marathon buildup. The 5K in NY went well, the Half
Marathon was not as fast as I’d hoped, but anytime you get to win a race
it’s a good day.”
Training Approach: “I’m happy with how my training
PR: 2:29:32 (2006)
Dark Horse?: “It wasn’t in my original plans for
2012 to run the marathon trials but after a disappointing race at the
ING New York City Marathon I decided to regroup and give it a go. I’m
back up to speed now and feel like I have a personal best effort in me. I
view myself as a dark horse in the race for the podium positions. I
have the experience and capability, but I’ve been inconsistent at the
marathon distance. It will take a phenomenal effort from all three
women who make this Olympic marathon team. I’m looking forward to being
part of it.”
LINDA SOMERS SMITH
–Compiled by Mark Winitz; Photos by Victor Sailer/www.PhotoRun.net
|Mark Winitz welcomes your comments and contributions for this column. Contact him at 650.948.0618 or email.
Mark has written for CTRN since the mid 1980s and has been running,
writing about running, and organizing programs for runners for 35
years. He is a longtime activist within USA Track & Field. He
also assists road racing events through his company, Win It!z Sports
Public Relations and Promotions in Los Altos.
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