Thursday, January 12, 2012

Someone has to make a pick for the US Olympic marathon team...

Ryan Hall (photo by Paul Merca)
Okay, so many of you have been wondering why I've been so quiet from my end regarding Saturday's Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston.

Unfortunately, I won't be among the plethora of reporters/photographers/bloggers attending the Trials, as I will be staying in Seattle to announce the first University of Washington indoor track meet of the season.

However, that doesn't mean I'm ignoring the event--I'll actually make my picks for the six coveted spots on the US Olympic team.

This is the first time that both the men's and women's teams will be picked in the same venue, as past trials races were contested in separate cities, including the first women's marathon trials in 1984 in Olympia, an event I hold dearly, as I was the assistant director of communications for the race.

Here's the low-down on the course--after one lap of 2.2 miles, the runners will run three laps of eight miles through the streets of Houston, making it very convenient for spectators to follow the progress of the race.

The Trials race is pretty simple--top three make the team, provided all three have the coveted IAAF 'A' standard time of 2:15:00 for men, and 2:37:00 for women.

The races begin at 8 am (men) and 8:15 am (women), local time, meaning if you're planning on following it on the West Coast, it's a 6 am start.

Unlike the 2008 trials races, which were streamed live online, there will be no live coverage of the trials; however, NBC Sports will offer a two-hour same day highlight show beginning at noon, Pacific time. In the Seattle area, the Trials will be shown on KING 5 (channel 5, or channel 105 in HD).

At the close of declarations on Tuesday, athletes from the state of Washington intending to run include on the men's side former Husky and Daegu world championships competitor Mike Sayenko, who has a PR of 2:14:27; Washington State alum Drew Polley; Tacoma native Alex Crabill; and Mercer Island HS grad Donnie Fellows.

Washington alum Jake Schmidt, who qualified for the Trials with a half-marathon mark of 1:04:51, will not run, due to an injury.

Women from Washington state who declared their intent to race include former Eastern Washington and Oregon standout Mattie Suver, who earned her way into the Trials with a 1:14:56 half marathon time; Seattle Pacific alum Ruth Perkins, who qualified with a 2:43:19 mark at the 2010 Twin Cities race; and Mercer Island's Susan Empey.

As I didn't bother to put up a poll, here are my picks for the three men's and women's spots on the plane to London:

MEN: Ryan Hall (above). You'd have to be a fool NOT to pick him. The Stanford grad and defending Trials champion is by far the class of this field, with a personal best of 2:04:58, set at last year's Boston Marathon.

Beyond Hall, my gut tells me that Meb Keflezighi, who missed some time after the ING New York Marathon with a foot problem caused by a Breathe Right strip accidentally left in his racing shoe; Dathan Ritzenhein, who appears to have shaken off his injury bug that caused him to miss most of 2011; former Oregon standout Jason Hartmann; and 2011 US cross country champ Brent Vaughn are going to be the ones battling it out for the other two spots, with Meb my pick for the #2 spot.

Having said that, the one guy no one can overlook is the Mayor of Tuscon, aka the Black Cactus, Abdi Abdirahman, who is shooting to make his fourth US Olympic team.

Desiree Davila (photo by Paul Merca)
WOMEN: The Trials may perhaps be the most competitive domestic race we've witnessed in a long time, with the Trials record of 2:28:25 set by Colleen de Reuck in the 2004 trials race in St. Louis probably going down; in fact, our friends at think that someone will break 2:30, and not make the team, a great change from the 2000 Trials in Columbia, South Carolina, which was the absolute low point in American women's marathoning.

Desiree Davila and Shalane Flanagan are the two safest bets to make the team, with Davila, the Arizona State grad, turning some heads with her Boston performance of 2:28:38 last year. Likewise, Flanagan, the American record holder in the 10000, Olympic bronze medalist in Beijing at 10000, and the third place finisher at last year's IAAF world cross country championships in Punta Umbria, is just as solid a pick, despite a marathon PR of 2:28:40.

It will come down to four runners for one spot--Kara Goucher, Magdalena Lewy Boulet, 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist Deena Kastor, and Amy Hastings.

While I'm waffling on the third spot on the men's side, I'm picking the youngster, Amy Hastings, who was Davila's teammate at Arizona State, and ran 2:27:03 in Los Angeles last spring to get spot number three!

How will this all pan out?  The only thing we can do is to let the runners line up and take care of business Saturday!


Caitlin said...

great post as always, Paul!! it's painful to think of the amazing women who will end up just outside of top three...the depth is insane! :)

as for the guys, i have to say i'm really pulling for Ritz to put together a standout race...he's got the grit!

pjm said...

Paul, my women's picks were exactly the same as yours. But I think we're in a minority picking Hastings.

As for the men... Dathan vs. Abdi is an interesting battle, but if Dathan is close to 100% I like his chances more than Abdi's.

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