The Olympic Trials Marathon will be held in Los Angeles on February 13, 2016. The list of qualifying athletes is extensive; however, many of the names at the top are familiar. A lot can happen in a marathon, but here is my best guess as to the teams that will head to Rio.
I would be very surprised if Shalane didn’t make the team. She has the fastest qualifying time by nearly three minutes. In addition, she has demonstrated that she is a pretty consistent performer. Since she has run much faster than the field, she will have a lot of flexibility in how she chooses to race. Not only that, Shalane brings track speed to the table. She is my favorite to win the race, and she will head to Rio as a realistic medal contender.
Barring something unexpected, Desi will also make the team. While her qualifying time is nearly three minutes slower than Shalane’s, she is more than three minutes faster than the third fastest woman. That gives her the same flexibility that Shalane has – she can run her own race and secure a spot to Rio.
I’m going to concede up front that the third spot for the women is up for grabs. There is no standout, and there are probably at least a dozen women that could fill this spot. With that being said, who would bet against the fastest American marathoner of all-time? Deena has the fourth fastest qualifying time in the marathon and she showed in Chicago that she can still get it done. She has been to the Olypmics before. Deena is the nicest woman you’ll ever meet, but she is a fierce competitor. Bet against her? Not this guy.
I’m going with Maegan Krifchin. Of course, I’m biased because Maegan went to Syracuse University and used to train/race locally. The reality is, this could be her time. She ran her marathon debut in 2015, and she finished in 2:33:30. Maegan has run under 1:10 in the half marathon, and she raced middle distances in college. If the race starts slowly, and it probably will, she will definitely be a factor.
The race will probably start slowly, as this type of race tends to do. Shalane and Desi won’t need to push the pace, and I doubt any of the other ladies will take off. At some point, Deena will want to make a move. She’s not a 1:07 half marathoner any more, and she won’t want to get into a late kick with some of the youngsters in the field.
Alana Hadley will be running in Trials, although she won’t be eligible for the Olympics even if she finishes top three. Basically, the rules for the marathon require that you are at least 20 at the start of 2016 – Hadley was only 18. Colleen DeRueck will also be running trials. She is 51 years young.
I like Ritz to win the Trials. He is the last member standing of the class of 2001 (Webb, Hall). Ritz finished 9th in the marathon in Beijing, but didn’t qualify in the marathon in 2012, finishing fourth in trials. He hasn’t raced a lot of halves or fulls lately, so it’s difficult to see where he is at. However, he carries in the same advantage that Meb does – been there, done that. He’s still young, he’s still fast, and I think this is his time.
I think this one speaks for itself. He has the fastest qualifying time in the field, and he is SO tough in tactical races. I do expect this race to start out faster than the women’s race, and I think there will be some mid-race moves by athletes that qualified with a fast half. With that being said, I’m not betting against this guy. Everyone that has for the last decade has gotten steamrolled. Meb has conceded this year is his last hurrah. Let’s hope he can go out on top.
Much like in the women’s race, the third spot is wide open. Once again, I think there are at least a dozen people who could claim it. With that being said, there’s no Deena Kastor in the men’s race, so I’m not even going to venture a guess.
Jared Ward was the top American at the L.A. Marathon earlier this year. In addition, his qualifying time of 2:12:56 is comparable to some of the faster times his competitors ran at Berlin, London, Chicago, etc. He’s young, he’s fast and he’s coached by former Olympian Ed Eyestone. Will he be able to snag that final spot? Only time will tell.
Obviously, Ryan Hall is not running. In addition, numerous athletes qualified by way of the half marathon (both men and women). However, I did not pick any of them in my preview. While they may have superior speed at the shorter distance (e.g. Diego Estrada), I’m still not convinved it translates to the full marathon.