2012 USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon - Men's Contenders
by Sharon Ekstrom and MarathonGuide.com Staff
See also: Men's Preview | The Favorites
Tim Nelson |
Brett Gotcher |
Jorge Torres |
Nick Arciniaga |
Jason Lehmkuhle |
Victah Sailer / PhotoRun
DOB: February 27, 1984
Home: Portland, Oregon
Coach: Jerry Schumacher
PB: 2:15:06, 2010 New York City Marathon
Trials Qualifications: ING New York City Marathon (Marathon - 11/07/2010 - 2:15:06); 2010 USA Half Marathon Championships (Half Marathon - 1/17/2010 - 1:02:11); ING Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon (Half Marathon - 9/19/2010 - 1:03:03); Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational (10000m - 5/01/2011 - 27:28); Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational (10000m - 5/01/2010 - 27:31.6);
Payton Jordan Invitational (10000m - 5/02/2009 - 27:37); 2009 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships (10000m - 6/25/2009 - 28:01); IAAF World Championships in Athletics (10000m - 8/17/2009 - 28:18)
Tim Nelson may not have the fastest marathon finish in the field; but his debut at the 2010 New York City Marathon is worth a mention. A 2:15:06 debut on the more challenging course where 2:08-2:09 were the standing course records, is noteworthy. And with the growing number of top 10000m talent newly transitioning to the marathon distance in their early 20s and having done so in the past 2 years, Nelson may still be a newbie; but his experience racing against top international fields (2009 World Championships 10000m) provides the mental toughness he could draw upon in the marathon competition. While Galen Rupp, another 10000m superstar was also qualified for the USA Olympic Trials Men's Marathon, Rupp opted not to race the marathon instead to focus on the 10000m at the Olympics.
A bit of a wild card, Nelson whose best half was a 62:11 (4th place) at the 2009 USA Half-Marathon Championships in Houston cannot be factored out from being a top competitor. Only time will tell how Nelson will fare in the distance and the Trials will be a great place for him to showcase his talents.
Why? A wild card with a great deal of speedwork. Houston's flat fast course could be a good launchpad for Nelson to prove himself in the distance.
Victah Sailer / PhotoRun
DOB: September 1, 1984 - Watsonville, CA
Home: Flagstaff, AZ
Coach: Brad McMillan
PB: 2:10:36, 2010 Houston Marathon
Trials Qualifications: Chevron Houston Marathon (Marathon - 1/17/2010 - 2:10:36); 2009 USA Half Marathon Championships (Half Marathon - 1/18/2009 - 1:02:09); ING Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon (Half Marathon - 9/19/2010 - 1:02:50); Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational (10000m - 5/01/2010 - 28:09)
Brett Gotcher has been one to watch. His debut performance of 2:10:36 at the 2010 Houston Marathon jettisoned him into the ranks of top American marathoners. This talented runner who worked up from the 5000m and 10000m distances seemed to be on the rise in the half and full marathons by his mid-twenties. While he started to make a name for himself by winning the 2009 USA 20K National Championships, Gotcher spent a great deal of time racing longer distances on the roads in Houston - most notably taking 3rd at the 2009 USA Half Marathon Championships in his second career half marathon. Gotcher dropped his time down to 62:09 from his debut at the 2008 National Championships in Houston where he finished in 64:08 (11th place).
With these half marathon and marathon successes, Gotcher chose to return to Houston in 2011, seeing that this was his best chance for the time and while the rest of the best of American men were running in the Half Marathon Championships the day before. Gotcher was comfortable on the Houston course and the hopes for 2011 was that he could become one of the few American marathoners to run sub-2:10. Things were looking promising as the top two seeds, including defending champion Teshome Gelana, were unable to make it to the USA - Gotcher became the favorite.
Unfortunately, sometimes the best laid plans don't work out. Gotcher was paced well by fellow American and McMillan Elite teammate Nick Arciniaga hired to bring Gotcher through 25K and continue on if he felt well. At 25K Gotcher pushed on as Arciniaga slowed, but a few miles later Gotcher's wheels were falling off and Arciniaga caught Gotcher and tried to encourage him to continue. Gotcher didn't have it in the tank and faded to 6th place 2:19:30 while Arciniaga pushed onward to take 2nd place.
Gotcher cited nutritional issues as what was to blame, despite being in top conditioning. Gotcher then toyed with the idea of running the 2011 Boston Marathon last minute; but withdrew from the field as race day neared.
Why? Obviously, it wasn't Gotcher's day in Houston last January; but with his familiarity running in Houston and despite the Trials course being a criterium course, along with him being accustomed to race marathons in January; Gotcher has a shot to make the USA Team.
Victah Sailer / PhotoRun
DOB: August 22, 1980 - Chicago, IL
Home: Boston, MA
Coach: Steve Jones
PB: 2:13:00, 2009 New York City Marathon
Trials Qualifications: 2009 USA Men's Marathon Championships (Marathon - 11/01/2009 - 2:13:00); ING New York City Marathon (Marathon - 11/07/2010 - 2:14:57); BUPA Great North Run (Half Marathon - 9/20/2009 - 1:02:42); 2011 USA Half Marathon Championships (Half Marathon - 1/29/2011 - 1:04:18); Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational (10000m - 5/01/2011 - 28:12.2); OTC Open (10000m - 6/06/2009 - 28:16.8)
Jorge Torres was a surprisingly late arrival to the marathon distance making his debut in the distance at the 2009 New York City Marathon (2:13:00, 7th place). Best known on the track and in cross country, Torres had been a 5000 specialist for about a decade, was 3rd at the 2008 USA 10,000m Championships (27:46.33). At the 2009 Great Edinburgh Cross Country 9.0k champs he and his twin brother (Ed) tied for 13th place and were top Americans in 28:05. Torres won the 2009 Oregon Track Club Open (28:16.81 PR) edging out his brother who is a specialist in the distance by hundredths of seconds. Other accomplishments include a victory at the 2008 Men's 8000m Championship in New York City (22:41.2) and personal bests at the 2009 Great North Run (62:42, 7th place), 2009 USA 15K Championships (44:05, 5th place) and 2009 Cross Country 12.0k nationals (36;16, 4th place).
In the marathon distance, Torres' debut was tough to predict. His twin brother, a 10000m specialist w/ three marathons under his belt, took 3rd place finish at the 2008 USA Championships (2:17:54). And MarathonGuide.com felt that if genetics was a factor Jorge Torres could better that time and would place in the top ten American finishes at the USA championship marathon....Torres finished 3rd in the USA national championships / 7th overall in the 2009 New York City Marathon field. (The championship race was held simultaneously with the international event.)
Under the coaching of marathon great Steve Jones, winner of the 1998 New York City Marathon (2:07:20), Torres' marathon debut was stronger than Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, the first American to cross the line at the 2008 Beijing Games who also ran his debut at the 2006 New York City Marathon (2:14:01, 11th place). At the 2010 New York City Marathon, Torres was met by a deeper field than ever before; and interestingly enough he met track and cross-country rival and former Boulder, Colorado neighbor Ritzenhein who is coached by another marathon legend, Alberto Salazar, a three-time New York City Marathon champion (1980-2:09:41, 1981-2:08:13, 1982-2:09:29). With only two career marathons to his name, Torres remains a variable in the Trials field.
Why? While Torres spent 2011 away from the 26.2 distance, he had a number of top 10 finishes at a number of National Championships. While his 8th place finish at the the 2011 USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston was not what would be expected from the top competitors at the Trials...we have to repeat ourselves by saying that anything can happen in a marathon.
Victah Sailer / PhotoRun
DOB: June 30, 1983 - Fountain Valley, CA
Home: Flagstaff, AZ
Coach: Greg McMillan
PB: 2:11:30, 2011 Houston Marathon
Trials Qualifications: Chevron Houston Marathon (Marathon - 1/30/2011 - 2:11:30); Rock 'n' Roll Marathon San Diego (Marathon - 6/06/2010 - 2:11:48); 2009 USA Men's Marathon Championships (Marathon - 11/01/2009 - 2:13:46); Bank of America Chicago Marathon (Marathon - 10/10/2010 - 2:18:12); 2010 USA Half Marathon Championships (Half Marathon - 1/17/2010 - 1:03:22); NYC Half-Marathon (Half Marathon - 3/21/2010 - 1:03:48); 2009 USA Half Marathon Championships (Half Marathon - 1/18/2009 - 1:04:24); Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational (10000m - 5/01/2011 - 28:30)
One of the top upstarts from the McMillan Elite training group, Nick Arciniaga, has slowly made his way up the ranks in the marathon distance. He made a quiet debut for himself at the 2006 Chicago Marathon finishing in 2:16:58 (22nd place), qualifying for the 2008 Olympic Trials which was held primarily on a criterium course in New York City’s Central Park. He finished 2:17:08, a far shot for the Olympic team; but Arciniaga was still in his early twenties.
He continued a steady wave of improvements - 10th place at the 2008 Boston Marathon (2:16:13), 8th place at the 2009 New York City Marathon, 3rd place at the 2010 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon San Diego, 2nd place at the 2011 Houston Marathon. The only two anomalies on his resume seemed to be the 2010 Chicago Marathon where he entered one of the deepest fields seen at the race hell bent on setting a new world record with superstars like Sammy Wanjiru and Tsegaye Kebede in the mix. Arciniaga finished 15th in 2:18:12. He also fumbled at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu where he faced such humid conditions finishing 41st in a 2:24:06.
Most remarkably in Arciniaga’s marathon career was his performance at the 2011 Houston Marathon. Initially hired as a pacer to assist fellow teammate Brett Gotcher achieve a personal best on the Houston course, Arciniaga was given the greenlight to finish the race if he desired.
As anything can happen in the marathon, Arciniaga did his job pacing favorite in the field Gotcher; but as Gotcher faded and could not return to form despite Arciniaga’s urging...Arciniaga continued on his own picking off a competitor to finish on the podium in 2nd behind Ethiopian talent Bekana Daba. He also nabbed a personal best in 2:11:30.
Why? Arciniaga talents are just emerging. His hard work and slow rise to the top are unlike Ryan Hall who became an overnight sensation. Sometimes this steady ascent to the top may in the end be the most successful.
Victah Sailer / PhotoRun
DOB: October 4, 1977 - Charlottesville, CA
Home: Minneapolis, MN
PB: 2:12:24, 2010 Boston Marathon
Trials Qualifications: B.A.A. Boston Marathon (Marathon - 4/19/2010 - 2:12:34); Virgin London Marathon (Marathon - 4/17/2011 - 2:13:40); 2009 USA Men's Marathon Championships (Marathon - 11/01/2009 - 2:14:39); 2011 USA Half Marathon Championships (Half Marathon - 1/29/2011 - 1:02:49); NYC Half-Marathon (Half Marathon - 3/20/2011 - 1:02:58); Zappos.com Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon (Half Marathon - 12/04/2011 - 1:03:37); Mercedes Half-Marathon (Half Marathon - 2/14/2010 - 1:03:38)
Jason Lehmkuhle may not have been on your radar as a top American marathoners, but this Team USA Minnesota athlete has been one that MarathonGuide.com had been following him closely since well before the 2008 US Olympic Team Trials Men’s Marathon. In fact, Lehmkuhle who has been racing marathons since 2003, ran the 2004 Olympic Trials in Birmingham finishing in 10th place. This will be his third time participating in the Marathon Trials; but not his first time attempting to win a spot on an Olympic Team....
Lehmkuhle was still in college (Drake University) when he qualified for the 2000 Olympic Trials in the 10000m. Although his main focus remained on the 2000 NCAA Division I Championships where he placed third, Lehmkuhle ran the trials in a 30:32 (25th place). In 2001, Lehmkuhle joined the newly formed Team Minnesota USA, a post-collegiate elite training group. In 2003 he dove into long distance racing with a debut at the Chicago Marathon. His finish time of 2:18:24 gave him 20th place, but the time qualified him the "A" standard for the 2004 U.S. Men's Olympic Marathon Trials.
At the 2004 Trials, Lehmkuhle finished 9th overall in a personal best at that time (2:16:27). He went on to run the 2006 Twin Cities Marathon in a 2:19:03 (7th place). In 2007, Lehmkuhle had a year of improvements - 5th place with a 1:02:51 at the USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston, 9th place with a 38:26 at the USA Cross Country Championships 12k, 5th place in 44:17 at the USA 15k Championships and 1:21:58 at a USA 25K Championships to name a few. While Lehmkuhle put in a good effort at the 2007 Boston Marathon having broken away from the pack with Peter Gilmore, he fell off the pace finishing at a disappointing 2:38:05. Regardless, the thirty-one year old bounced back at the 2008 US Olympic Trials Men's Marathon in a deep field of American talent, finishing in 5th with a four minute personal best (2:12:54).
It doesn't end there, Lehmkuhle has continued to improve - 2008 USA Half Marathon Championships (62:32 PR, 2nd place), 2008 New York City Marathon (2:14:30, 8th place), USA Championship 10 miler (47:15 PR, 4th place), USA Championship 15K (44:09, 8th place), USA Championship 20K (59:04, 3rd place), USA Championship 25K (1:16:48, 11th place).
Lehmkuhle finished 10th at the 2009 New York City Marathon, (5th at the USA championships held in the same race). He followed that with 9th at the 2010 Boston Marathon in a personal best of 2:12:24 at the 2010 Boston Marathon (9th place); but his victory of the esteemed 2011 Ohme-Hochi 30K Road Race in Tokyo (1:32:08) may show that he is fit to continue to lower his personal best on a flat, fast course.
In 2011 Lehmkuhle was one of a group of American runners who went to London to test themselves on the fast course. He ran the 2011 London Marathon in 2:13:40 (13th place). While this London performance was not the personal fastest time he may have been looking for, could we see him step up at the Trials?
Why? Jason Lehmkuhle has easily been the top ten American finishers in competitive marathons (namely the New York City Marathon, Boston Marathon and the Olympic Trials) over the past decade, while he has remained on the fringe, perhaps his time has come.
Victah Sailer / PhotoRun
DOB: 1/1/1977 - Somalia
Home: Phoenix, AZ
Coach: James Li
PB: 2:08:56, 2006 Chicago Marathon
Trials Qualifications: 2009 USA Men's Marathon Championships (Marathon - 11/01/2009 - 2:14:00); NYC Half-Marathon (Half Marathon - 8/16/2009 - 1:02:51); NYC Half-Marathon (Half Marathon - 3/20/2011 - 1:03:12)
While best known for his 10,000m times over the past decade; Abdi Abdirahman is every bit a talented marathoner. As the second fastest in the USA Men's Championships field with a 2:08:56 personal best from the 2006 Chicago Marathon, Abdirahman had an early start as a standout in cross-country and track - winning the 5000m and 10000m at the PAC-10 championships. In 2000, the Somalian-born rising star became a US citizen placing third at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 10,000m (28:19.08). At the 2000 Games he placed 10th in 10,000m (27:46.17). Abdirahman again represented the USA in the 10,000m at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, finishing in 15th place twice in Athens (28:26.6) and Beijing (27:52.53) respectively.
Yet, 2004 was when Abdirahman debuted in the marathon at the New York City Marathon. Disappointed at his 14th place finish (2:17:09), he returned to the distance and earning a 5th place at the 2005 New York City Marathon with a 2:11:24 and 4th place at the 2006 Chicago Marathon with a 2:08:56. Confident about his road to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he went into 2007 with a personal best 2nd place finish of 60:29 at the 2007 New York City Half Marathon - the second fastest half-marathon performance in New York City and was ready to take on New York's Central Park for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. Abdirahman was a favorite for the U.S. marathon team, but had a bad day and dropped out of the race near mile 17 of the criterium course. Despite the performance, he went to the Beijing Games after winning the 10,000m U.S. Olympic trials, becoming a three-time Olympian at age 31.
While performances have been inconsistent due to injuries in 2008 and early 2009, events such as the 2008 New York City Marathon (2:14:17, 6th place), 2009 10,000m National Championships in Eugene, Oregon (28:35, 8th place), 2009 Healthy Kidney 10K (29:02, 11th place) and 2009 New York City Half-Marathon (62:51, 4th place) both held in New York City have been less than stellar. He returned to the marathon at the 2009 New York City Marathon finishing 9th in 2:14:00.
Why? Although it looks like Abdirahman has lost steam in the marathon since the DNF at the 2008 US Olympic Marathon Trials, he won the 2011 USA 20K National Championships and still remains the 6th fastest American Marathoner. And while he was a favorite for making the 2008 US Olympic Marathon Team, nothing is for certain in the marathon distance. Perhaps Abdirahman can surprise us.