Sunday, April 20, 2008

Kastor, Lewy Boulet & Russell comprise US Olympic women's marathon team...

BOSTON--“Speed kills”—one of the oldest track & field coaches’ sayings.

When it was all said and done, Deena Kastor (above/photo by Mike Scott) of Mammoth Lakes, California used the strength gained from years of altitude training, along with the foot speed honed from years of track racing to win the US Olympic Team Trials-Women’s Marathon today in Boston, reeling former University of California standout Magdalena Lewy Boulet from Oakland at the 2:15 mark of the race.

Lewy Boulet, who became a naturalized American citizen on September 11, 2001, took the lead almost from the get-go, building up a lead of nearly two minutes over the chase pack of about eight athletes at the 14-mile mark, when Kastor, the American record holder in this event, decided she’d had enough, and began pursuing the former Polish national.

The 35-year-old Kastor began running mile splits of 5:30 to 5:34, quickly eating up Lewy Boulet's lead. When the Olympic bronze medalist strode past Lewy Boulet 2:14:50 into the race, she increased her pace even further, to 5:29 per mile, as she added an Olympic Trials marathon title to her storied resume by crossing the finish line in 2:29:35.

Lewy Boulet, 34, made her first Olympic Team, finishing second in a personal-best time of 2:30:19. The native of Poland and mother to a nearly 3-year-old boy, Lewy Boulet's time improved on her personal best of 2:30:50, which she ran in placing fifth at the 2004 Olympic Trials in St. Louis.

Blake Russell
(Pacific Grove, Calif.), who was the fourth place finisher in this race four years ago in St. Louis, nabbed the final Olympic team spot, running 2:32:40, despite a stretch in the 20th mile where she appeared to be faltering, as a surprising Desiree Davila (Rochester Hills, Mich.) of the Hanson’s/Brooks Distance Project made a charge to get within seven seconds of Russell, but could not close.

Russell, who passed on an opportunity to compete for Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland a few weeks ago, was never seriously threatened for the third spot, as Zoila Gomez (Alamosa, Colorado) garnered the alternate’s position, running 2:33:53, outkicking Tera Moody of Boulder on the final straightaway.

Afterwards, Kastor, the Olympic bronze medalist in this event from Athens, told reporters, “I accomplished my two major goals coming in to this race. First, to make the team, that was the most important thing, and secondly to win. Blake and Magdalena both gave me a run for my money today. They both looked so great. I thought for many miles I may have misjudged (Lewy Boulet). I wanted to feel as comfortable as possible the first half of the race. In the middle miles I thought I might have misjudged Magdalena's strength. I tried to pick up the pace and I kept hearing a minute forty (that she was 1:40 behind Lewy Boulet).”

Lewy Boulet, who was determined to make the Trials race an honest one, said afterwards, “Just going into the race I knew that I had to stick to about 5:40s (mile pace), coming through 1:15 through the half and trying to duplicate the second half about the same. I had no idea that I was going to be by myself, but it worked this time. I was definitely a little bit uncomfortable, especially the first and second mile, a bit surprised that I was out there by myself. But the crowd just kind of took me through it. Right before the race, my husband and my coach said the race is not going to come to me, I would have to go get it. And that's what I did. ... the gap was between 1:40 and 2:00, and for a moment I thought I was going to win the race. In the back of my mind, I knew Deena was coming. That's the beauty of a criterium course is you can see where everyone is.”

Russell, who had to have thoughts of the 2004 race in the back of her mind, when she was caught in the final mile by Jen Rhines (who is opting for the track), said “Right now I don't think it's really sunk in. It's something that after the disaster in 2004 (placing fourth at the Olympic Trials), my coach and I said we've got to set up a plan to get me to this spot right here. I think later on tonight it's going to hit me but right now it seems surreal. I just couldn't be happier. It's funny, this is the team I picked going into it. ... (at 20 miles) I was hoping I wasn't in trouble. I knew she (Desiree Davila) was gaining a little bit and I thought she was really strong. I learned from 2004 that a lot can happen those last couple of miles, so I was telling myself to stay relaxed and not to panic.”

Among runners with ties to the state of Washington, Gwen Greiner of the Seattle Running Company was the top finisher in 51st place (2:44:25). Caryn Heffernan of Bothell finished 71st in 2:46:25, and Marlene Farrell of Leavenworth was 105th in 2:52:58.

Former University of Washington runner Deeja Youngquist, who finished eighth in the 2004 Trials, then was disqualified for failing a drug test, failed to finish. Other Washingtonians who DNF’d included Vanessa Hunter, Lauren Matthews & Alysun Deckert of Seattle, and Susan Empey of Mercer Island.

1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson of Freeport, Maine, one of the pioneers in women’s marathoning, finished 90th in a time of 2:49:08, an American record in the 50-54 age group, in what she stated was her final competitive marathon. Benoit Samuelson, who won the first US Olympic Team Trials-Women’s Marathon in 1984 in Olympia, Washington, finished the race wearing a Boston Red Sox cap, as she did in 1979 when she won the Boston Marathon for the first time.

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