2012 USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon Men's Preview
By Sharon Ekstrom
See Also: Men's Favorites | Men's Contenders
photo: Victah Sailer/PhotoRun
Ryan Hall looks to capitalize on a successful 2011 season
The 2012 US Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon will see one of the largest and fastest groups of American marathoners ever assembled. With the removal of the historical 2:22 'B' standard and a tightening of the 'A' standard to 2:19, the men who qualified are uniformly faster than those assembled in past years. Despite those tightened standards, the addition of a Half Marathon equivalency qualifying standard (1:05:00) has allowed additional men to qualify for the Trials, so a record number of men have qualified and declared their intention to run at the Olympic Trials: 161 men qualified and 112 men had declared their intent to run the race. Add to that a flat, fast course and improvements at the front of American running - and the race was guaranteed to be fast.
The Return of the Favorites from 2007/2008
Some of our 2008 favorites are back - Ryan Hall, the 2007 Olympic Trials Marathon champion and record-setter, has remained dominant among American marathoners and has proven capable of competing against the very best in the world. His 2011 Boston Marathon finish of 2:04:58 (wind-aided) placed him as the 12th fastest marathoner ever - and he will remain the favorite for 2012. Dathan Ritzenhein, the runner-up finisher at the 2007 Trials, has recently received accolades on the track and on the world cross country stage has been absent from marathoning, but if injury free, he remains a top competitor. 2004 Athens silver medalist and 2009 New York City Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi failed to make the 2008 US Olympic Team due to one bad day - the Trials; but his win at the 2009 New York City Marathon and personal best finish at the 2011 New York City Marathon show he is in top form and could redeem himself by making the 2012 team. Other favorites from 2007 remain on the scene with the hope of making the team, notably 10000m Olympian Abdi Abdirahman - the "Black Cactus" tells us he is in his best shape ever and plans to make both the Marathon and 10000m Olympic Teams. Dan Browne the 2004 Marathon Olympian and one of the 2007 Trials favorites is also back...
The four years leading to the 2012 Trials have seen newcomers to the marathon appear - some with great potential. Recent standouts in marathoning, Brett Gotcher and Nick Arciniaga, will be highly competitive in this field. Gotcher's performances at national championships catapulted him into the limelight, and his debut at the 2010 Houston Marathon in 2:10:36 makes him one of the fastest in the field. Gotcher's teammate at Team USA Arizona, Arciniaga has eight career marathons to his name and his perfomance at the 2011 Houston Marathon where he began as Gotcher's pacer, but pushed ahead as Gotcher slowed to claim second place at the 2011 Houston Marathon (2:11:30) - he is no longer in anyone's shadow.
Two newcomers to the marathon distance may show that past performance at the marathon is not required to make the Olympic team. Mo Trafeh and Galen Rupp - two of the best runners in the field - will hope to finish their first marathon at the Olympic Trials. 1500m specialist Trafeh, who won the 2011 USA Half Marathon and 15K National Championships, attempted to run the 2011 London Marathon, but dropped out near the halfway mark. He will be giving it another try in Houston. Rupp is the 10000m American record holder and only the second non-African runner to break 27:00 in the distance. His decision to run the trials came in December and stunned many in the industry [editor's note: at the last moment, Rupp indicated he had chosen not to run at the Trials Marathon].
Beyond these are many others who will make up the top ten: Brent Vaughn, Patrick Smyth, James Carney, Jason Hartmann, Fernando Cabada and Brian Olinger - and others. It's a marathon - so any of these might also sneak into the top three. Time will tell.