NO CLEAR FAVORITES FOR USA MARATHON TITLES
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
MINNEAPOLIS (05-Oct) — Tomorrow’s USA Marathon Championships for men and women, hosted by the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon here, have no clear favorites for victory, making for what will likely be closely contested races for both men and women.
The most accomplished athlete on the men’s side is Nick Arciniaga, who has the event’s fastest personal best time: 2:11:30. Arciniaga’s last marathon was in Los Angeles last March where he placed seventh in 2:17:05. He had hoped to run the ING New York City Marathon last November, but was “cancelled out” after Super Storm Sandy hit New York City hard.. Arciniaga decided not to run the marathons in Chicago or New York –where he would have been able to earn an appearance fee– so he could concentrate on trying to win his first national title at any distance.
“It would mean a lot to me,” the 30 year-old said at a news conference. “I would be disappointed if I was outside the top three.”
His strongest rivals are likely to be a trio of Kenyan-born athletes led by form Oregon Duck Shadrack Biwott. Although he has a mediocre personal best of 2:20:28, Biwott was recently second at the USA 20-K Championships in New Haven on Labor Day, beaten only by two-time Olympian Matt Tegenkamp. He has a quick half-marathon personal best of 61:40.
“I’m excited to be here,” Biwott told the assembled media yesterday. “Training has been going well,” he said, but cautioned that the marathon “was a different beast.” He added: “We’ll see on Sunday; you have to have respect for the distance.”
Josphat Boit, a former Arkansas Razorback, finished fourth at the USA 20-K Championships and has a marathon personal best of 2:15:40, a time he ran in warm and humid conditions in Honolulu in 2011 where he placed third. That was his first marathon attempt.
“My training has been going pretty well,” said Boit, who trains in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. “Everything I’ve been doing since March has been leading up to this.”
Joseph Chirlee, who has a 2:12:10 personal best, is the third former Kenyan who could be a factor; he was fifth at the USA 20-K Championships.
Other athletes who could make the men’s podium include Tim Ritchie (2:21:31 PB), Christo Landry (2:17:11), Sergio Reyes (2:14:02), Tyler McCandless (2:17:09) and Pat Rizzo (2:13:42).
The women’s race is shaping up to be a two-way battle between USA 20-K champion Meghan Peyton and late-bloomer Wendy Thomas. Peyton, who lives in nearby Richfield, Minn., said yesterday that she is both ready to run and is excited to have the benefit of the hometown crowd.
“Definitely a lot of friends” will be on the course, she said. “My husband will be out there cheering, also. My family actually lives in Tennessee, but they will be cheering from far away.”
Peyton has only attempted the marathon distance once before, at the USA Olympic Trials Marathon last January in Houston. She was unable to finish.
“I mentally gave up on myself,” said Payton, whose coach, Dennis Barker, will drive around the course tomorrow to shout encouragement from various points.
Conversely, Thomas made a surprisingly strong marathon debut at the Trials at the age of 32, finishing 12th in 2:34:25. She finished a credible tenth at the USA Half-Marathon Championships in Duluth last June in 1:13:17, won the America’s Finest City Half-Marathon last August in about the same time, and was fifth at the USA 20-K Championships last month in New Haven. She reminded reporters yesterday that 26 miles is a long way, and there is a lot of time for the mind to wander.
“Probably keeping my head in the game,” she said was her biggest challenge for tomorrow.
Michelle Lilienthal, who lives here in Minneapolis, could also be a factor in the race. She has a 2:35:51 personal best, and really enjoys competing in her adopted home state of Minnesota (she is originally from Iowa).
“Twin Cities is probably one of my favorite races,” she said yesterday. “It’s a special thing for Minnesota to host the half-marathon and marathon championships in the same year.”
Elva Dryer, 42, is primarily racing for the masters title, but as a two-time Olympian with five national titles she could sneak into the top three in the open race. She recently told Race Results Weekly that her marathon attempt here was “a shot in the dark” because she only committed to the race in early August.
“She’s a talented woman,” said Peyton. “I’d never count her out.”
Other athletes entered include Atalelech Asfaw (2:33:56 PB), Esther Erb (2:36:24), Annie Bersagel (2:44:17), Marci Gage (2:39:19) and Sheri Piers (2:36:59) who, like Dryer, is competing for the masters title.
The race offers a $145,000 prize money purse, with $25,000 going to the winners. The course records are 2:10:05, but American Phil Coppess (1985), and 2:26:51 by Russian Zinaida Semenova (2001). Neither of those marks is likely to fall tomorrow.