2012 USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon - Men's Favorites
by Sharon Ekstrom
See Also: Men's Preview | Men's Contenders
Ryan Hall |
Dathan Ritzenhein |
Mohamed Trafeh |
Meb Keflezighi |
Galen Rupp |
Victah Sailer / PhotoRun
DOB: October 14, 1982 - Kirkland, WA
Home: Flagstaff, AZ
PB: 2:04:58, 2011 Boston Marathon
Trials Qualifications: B.A.A. Boston Marathon (Marathon - 4/18/2011 - 2:04:58); Bank of America Chicago Marathon (Marathon - 10/09/2011 - 2:08:04); B.A.A. Boston Marathon (Marathon - 4/19/2010 - 2:08:41); B.A.A. Boston Marathon (Marathon - 4/20/2009 - 2:09:40); 2009 USA Men's Marathon Championships (Marathon - 11/01/2009 - 2:10:36); ING Philadelphia Distance Run (Half Marathon - 9/20/2009 - 1:01:52); 2011 USA Half Marathon Championships (Half Marathon - 1/29/2011 - 1:02:20); NYC Half-Marathon (Half Marathon - 8/16/2009 - 1:02:35); NYC Half-Marathon (Half Marathon - 3/20/2011 - 1:03:53); ING Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon (Half Marathon - 9/19/2010 - 1:03:56); P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon (Half Marathon - 1/17/2010 - 1:04:08)
Leading the roster of top marathoners at the 2012 USA Marathon Trials is Ryan Hall whose running career quickly catapulted him into the upper echelons of the 26.2 mile distance. As the fastest American marathoner currently in competition, Hall, a 2008 Olympian and American half-marathon record holder, began his early career with college track and cross country performances before coming into prominence on the roads.
Hall distinguished himself in long distance with his half-marathon debut at the 2007 Houston Half Marathon where his 59:43 victory was the fastest Half Marathon finish by a non-African born runner. Three months later, Hall ran the 2007 London Marathon in a 2:08:24 - the fastest debut ever by an American-born runner. Having achieved a respectable finish, Hall's strategy stunned those believing in the tradition methodology of marathon race strategy. Hall started in the second pack, briefly caught the leaders; but fell back. Regardless, Hall proved his mettle to the toughest marathoners in the world. And he solidified his place in American distance running despite the detractors, with his victory of the 2008 US Olympic Team Trials Marathon (2:09:02) - merely his second career marathon.
Hall was held in high regard as the 2008 Olympic year approached and he returned to the London Marathon in 2008 finishing in 2:06:17, becoming the second-fastest American marathoner behind Khalid Khannouchi (whose 2:05:38 at the 2002 London Marathon remains the American record).
Despite the success and promise, Hall's luck turned. Hopeful to medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Hall finished tenth in 2:12:33 - the beginning of a number of disappointments to follow in his racing career. Many suspected the mounting pressure to take on the best runners in the world to be the root cause while others believed that his beginners luck had run out. And high hopes at the 2009 Boston Marathon where many wanted Hall to become the first American to win that race since 1983 were dashed.
In his Boston debut, Hall pushed a breakneck world record pace in the opening miles of the event running sub-4:45 miles, but faded in the Newton Hills as the rest of the field surged. Hall nonetheless made a remarkable recovery to finish in third (2:09:40). His next marathon was the 2009 New York City Marathon, again a favorite in the field armed with the lessons from his reckless running in Boston, Hall ran what he felt to be too conservative finishing 4th (2:10:36).
In 2010, Hall returned to Boston and once again pressure mounted for an American, specifically Hall, to win and he believed it as well - studying the Boston course several times leading up to the event. And while earlier in the season a 64:08 (2nd place) from the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half-Marathon seemed a minor glitch for this speedy half marathoner; perhaps it was too grand a leap of faith. Hall once again finished 4th (2:08:41). Discouraged, his racing took a hit - 13th place in the Philadelphia Distance Run (43:56) and withdrawal from the 2010 Chicago Marathon field, all hopes for Hall to set a new American Record fell by the wayside. Hall left Coach Terence Mahon and the Mammoth Lakes training camp and began to self-coach.
Hall entered 2011 with a 2nd place finish at the USA Half Marathon Championships (62:20), but a lackluster performance at the 2011 New York City Half Marathon (63:53, 21st place) was reflected by his own admittance post-race when he attributed the performance to "feeling flat" perhaps as a result of running the two events so close to one another.
Third time was the charm as Hall returned to the 2011 Boston Marathon rematching top African runners. While a victory was far off, Hall earned a massive personal best - 2:04:58 (4th place) - restoring confidence which had slowly been eroding away due to the expectations of all around him.
For the 2011 Chicago Marathon, all was silent from Hall before the race despite the silent hopes that he could set a new American record or take a crack at the late Sammy Wanjiru's course record; but Hall's earlier lackluster race season had been indicative of his performances and he was 5th in 2:08:04.
Why? Hall's career is not over. While he has not held consistency in marathon performances, he remains the fastest American in the distance to date. And as overeager as the USA has been to see more Americans best the Africans in the distance, we just need to be patient to see him mature into the distance.
Victah Sailer / PhotoRun
DOB: December 30, 1982 - Grand Rapids, MI
Home: Portland, OR
Coach: Alberto Salazar
PB: 2:10:00, 2009 London Marathon
Trials Qualifications: Flora London Marathon (Marathon - 4/26/2009 - 2:10:00); ING New York City Marathon (Marathon - 11/07/2010 - 2:12:33); IAAF World Half Marathon Championships (Half Marathon - 10/11/2009 - 1:00:00); 2009 USA Half Marathon Championships (Half Marathon - 1/18/2009 - 1:01:35); IAAF World Championships in Athletics (10,000m - 8/17/2009 - 27:22.3); 2009 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships (10,000m - 6/25/2009 - 27:58.6)
Absent but not forgotten is two-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein whose early impressive running career has spoken volumes of his abilities in distance running. Despite only four marathons and five half-marathons on his resume, this cross-country star got an early start into professional distance running when even Ryan Hall was still trying to make a name for himself and Meb Keflzighi was a rising star. Ritzenhein was a 2004 Athens Olympian in the 10,000m; but a stress fracture to the third metatarsal in his left foot forced him to drop out during the event. The constant recurrence of the injury hampered his training over the years and compensation for the injury has further impeded his abilities; but Ritzenhein remained determined to compete.
In 2006, at his half-marathon debut at the Great North Run, Ritzenhein placed third in 61:25 beating out veteran runners, two-time World Champion Jauoad Gharib, 2004 Olympic marathon gold medalist Stefano Baldini and top Kenyan Rodgers Rop. In his marathon debut at the 2006 New York City Marathon, he finished eleventh in a 2:14:01; not bad, considering he lost to the likes of then world record holder Paul Tergat, Rodgers Rop, Stefano Baldini, and Hendrick Ramaala. His second career marathon was the 2008 U.S. Men's Olympic Trials in New York City where he ran a 2:11:07 on a tough criterium course earning him second place and a spot on the 2008 U.S. Beijing Olympic Marathon team. His third career marathon was the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he placed ninth overall and top American ahead of teammate Ryan Hall, who was incidentally the favored American in the field.
In 2009 Ritzenhein finished 2nd behind Meb Keflezighi at the US Half Marathon Championships (61:35) then headed to the London Marathon where he ran a personal best time of 2:10:00 (11th place). Ritzenhein changed gears and coaches and began training under running legend Alberto Salazar. He refocused his training, opted out of a fall marathon and returned to the track competing in the 5,000m and 10,000m distance worldwide. With a 2nd place finish at the 10,000m USA Men's Championships in Eugene, Oregon and a 6th place at the 10,000m World Championships behind the fastest African 10,000m runners today, he seems to be getting his speed back. Ritzenhein then went on to set a new American record (12:56.27) in the 5,000m at the Weltklasse Golden League meet in Zurich, breaking a 13 year record held by Bob Kennedy. He rounded out the year on a high note with a third place finish at the Great Birmingham Half Marathon in 60:00. He was ready to take his distance running to a new level.
At the start of 2010 Ritzenhein won the USA Men's Cross Country National Championships 12K. But soon he found himself sidelined with a stress fracture to the third toe of his right foot (the healthy foot that had been injury free through the years). Ritzenhein did not let up on training or the uncertainty if he was exacerbating the injury by continuing to train. He returned to racing in September at the Great North Run and finished in a disappointing 62:35 (4th place), a race incidentally won by Haile Gebrselassie who he would rematch at the New York City Marathon.
Following a year of rebuilding confidence and being nearly injury free, Ritzenhein has not had an easy journey in 2010. Yet, he remained optimistic for the New York City Marathon where he planned to run sub 2:10; but as race day approached, Ritzenhein withdrew from a number of key races in the season citing a flareup in his foot. He ran the 2010 New York City Marathon finishing 12th in 2:12:33. Ritzenhein's tough road to healthy running continued. And despite two surgeries, complications from an adverse reaction to the stitches and returning too early to training, Ritzenhein has still struggled. In what seemed promising to be a career saver…only time will tell how he will fare for the 2012 Olympics and his career.
Why? It has been a long time since Dathan Ritzenhein has been able to race at 100% and if he is on target, he stands to shine on Team USA. There are many veterans of the distance that back his abilities and there are stats to prove it. All Ritz needs is a solid season of health before this Olympic year and we hope he's gotten it.
Victah Sailer / PhotoRun
DOB: May 13, 1985 - Benslimane, Morocco
Home: Duarte, CA
Trials Qualifications: NYC Half-Marathon (Half Marathon - 3/21/2010 - 1:00:39); 2011 USA Half Marathon Championships (Half Marathon - 1/29/2011 - 1:02:17); Intact Edmonton Half Marathon (Half Marathon - 8/16/2009 - 1:02:51)
The 2012 USA Olympic Marathon Team has many unknown variables given everything is determined on the outcome of one race alone - the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston. We would not be surprised to see young upstart Mo Trafeh shine at the Trials. Trafeh was the winner of the 2011 Half Marathon National Championships (62:17) in Houston last year and the 15K National Championships (42:58), will be making his marathon debut. This Moroccan born American who is self-coached began as a 1,500m specialist. Trafeh was planning on quitting professional running to go back to school until 2010 when his victory of the 15K National Championships for the first time and 3rd place at the New York City Half Marathon (60:39) - the 6th fastest half marathon run by an American.
Trafeh was confident to have his first marathon debut at the 2011 London Marathon. He strategized that he would not plan to go out with the 2:04/2:05 group, since he primarily wanted to be test his abilities against the field in anticipation of qualifying for the US Olympic team for 2012. Yet Trafeh blasted out at the start of the London race keeping with the leaders until mile 12 when he faded and eventually dropped out of the race.
While Trafeh most recently ran a 61:39 half marathon finish in China and the second most recent half marathon finish run behind Galen Rupp's 2011 New York City Marathon finish (60:30). (Rupp is qualified for the USA Olympic Marathon Trials, but declined entry in the distance to focus on the 10,000m.) Trafeh is not a household name, but the Trials may just make him.
Trafeh has a great deal to learn from the distance, but Ryan Hall was also relatively new when he made his first USA Olympic Marathon Team. One cannot predict the outcome of the Trials.
Victah Sailer / PhotoRun
DOB: May 5, 1975 - Asmara, Eritrea
Home: Mammoth Lakes, CA
Coach: Bob Larson
PB: 2:09:13, 2011 New York City Marathon
Trials Qualifications: ING New York City Marathon (Marathon - 11/06/2011 - 2:09:13); 2009 USA Men's Marathon Championships (Marathon - 11/01/2009 - 2:09:15); Flora London Marathon (Marathon - 4/26/2009 - 2:09:21); B.A.A. Boston Marathon (Marathon - 4/19/2010 - 2:09:26); ING New York City Marathon (Marathon - 11/07/2010 - 2:11:38); Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon (Half Marathon - 10/04/2009 - 1:01:00); 2009 USA Half Marathon Championships (Half Marathon - 1/18/2009 - 1:01:25); Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon (Half Marathon - 10/03/2010 - 1:01:45);
Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon (Half Marathon - 10/02/2011 - 1:02:17); Dodge Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon (Half Marathon - 6/05/2011 - 1:02:50); NYC Half-Marathon (Half Marathon - 3/20/2011 - 1:02:52)
It is inspirational that Meb Keflezighi is still in it to win it. This 2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2009 New York City Champion, returns to the 2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials not willing to be defeated by the distance and not ready to call it quits. While Keflezighi was absent from 2011 spring marathon rosters, his year of half marathons has been focused and consistent and progressively faster with two victories of the Rock 'n' Roll races - 3 half marathons finishing 62:53 (New York City Half), 62:38 (Rock 'n' Roll San Diego), 62:17 (Rock 'n' Roll San Jose) - before setting a personal best finish at the 2011 New York City Marathon in 2:09:13.
Now 36 years old, Keflezighi's early career was decorated with accolades in cross-country and the 10,000m. He nabbed the American Record at the 10,000m and gave a solid performance at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He turned to the marathon distance in 2002 - running his first marathon at the 2002 New York City finishing 9th (2:12:35). His second career marathon was at the 2003 Chicago Marathon where he finished 7th (2:10:03).
Yet, the career changer was in 2004. Keflezighi made the 2004 Athens Olympic team in both the 10,000m and Marathon, but chose to "become a marathoner" and run the one event ending with a silver medal performance at the 2004 Athens Olympics in challenging conditions. A string of successful performances were to follow at the 2004 New York City Marathon (2:09:53, 2nd place), the 2005 New York City Marathon (2:09:56, 3rd place) and 2006 Boston Marathon (same time as New York!: 2:09:56, 3rd place).
Beginning in late 2006, Keflezighi struggled through setbacks from injury and although expected to be a shoo-in to make the 2008 Olympic team, Keflezighi's injuries caused the defending silver medalist to fail to make that team. What was to follow were two injury-ridden years (2007 and 2008), many thought Keflezighi was done. But what made Keflezighi successful in his running - one of the strongest spirits and greatest toughness in the sport - let Keflezighi continue to rebuild, culminating in a 2009 that was filled with personal bests, national championship titles and major event victories.
Keflezighi's 2009 achievements started with a strong win, personal best and National Half Marathon title at the Houston Half Marathon; winning the National Cross-Country title; personal best at the 2009 London Marathon (2:09:21); strong win at the Rock 'n' Roll San Jose Half-Marathon (61:00) culminating with an incredible victory and personal best (2:09:15) at the 2009 New York City Marathon against a tough and deep field on a tough course - also his first marathon victory and the USA Men's Marathon Championship.
Keflezighi ran the 2010 Boston Marathon (2:09:26, 5th place) just eleven seconds shy of his personal best. He next had his sights on defending his title at the 2010 New York City Marathon where he had a personal best on the not-so-flat, fast course; but Keflezighi struggled and finished 6th in 2:11:38.
Why? Although the times they are a changing and younger upstarts are clocking times five minutes faster than Keflezighi's best, true marathons take such strength and determination that only a few athletes have mastered. Keflezighi is one of them. He has outlasted most of them and in his decade of running and this time at the Trials he can prove that talented guys and good guys can succeed.
Victah Sailer / PhotoRun
DOB: May 8, 1986 - Portland, OR
Home: Portland, OR
Coach: Alberto Salazar
Trials Qualifications: NYC Half-Marathon (Half Marathon - 3/20/2011 - 1:00:30); Diamond League Memorial Van Damme (10,000m - 9/25/2011 - 26:48); Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational (10,000m - 5/01/2010 - 27:11); IAAF World Championships (10,000m - 8/28/2011 - 27:27); IAAF World Championships in Athletics (10,000m - 8/17/2009 - 27:38); 2009 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships (10,000m - 6/25/2009 - 27:52.5); NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships (10,000m - 6/11/2009 - 28:21); Oregon Relays (10,000m - 4/24/2009 - 28:29)
Galen Rupp has quickly become a standout on the track with a strong start collecting accolades at the junior level right up to now. This prolific track star who attended University of Oregon is coached by legendary marathoner Alberto Salazar and has represented the USA several times on the track - most notably at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and every World Championships since 2007.
It was in 2011 that he surprised many by running his first half marathon at the New York City Half, incidentally one of the only road races he's ever competed in. He finished 3rd in a 60:30 behind British 1,500m-5,000m sensation Mo Farah and former 5,000m and 10,000m Ethiopian track specialist Gebre Gebremariam. Many anticipated Rupp's move to be a transition to the marathon distance with possible intent on an Olympic berth on the US Marathon team for the 2012 London Games. But the fact he was merely 25 years old and just coming into his own on the international level, could he be jumping the gun?
Later in 2011, Rupp grabbed the American record in 10,000m at a meet in Brussels, finishing 3rd in 26:48.00 shaving over 10 seconds off Chris Solinksy's former record from 2010 and 23 seconds off Meb Keflezighi's record which stood since 2001. Both the 10,000m and the half marathon finishes qualified the young phenom for the 2012 Olympic Trials. We have yet to see what Rupp will do in his debut at the 2012 Olympic Trials in Houston; but with his coach and fellow training partners like Dathan Ritzenhein at the Oregon Track Club, there is no denying that Rupp will be well-prepared for the event.
Why? As the majority of phenomenal 10,000m track stars have become the worlds best marathoners, ie Haile Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat, it's no surprise that Rupp has made the transition. His marathon debut at the Olympic Trials can go either way; but by looking at his talents in distance running, one can only assume that he will make the team.