2012 USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon Women's Preview
By Sharon Ekstrom
See Also: Women's Favorites | Women's Contenders
Photo Credit: Victah Sailer/PhotoRun
Shalane looks to add to her Olympic resume
The 2012 USA Olympic Team Trials - Women's Marathon was set to be the largest Olympic Trials race ever held. 226 women were "qualified" to run in the Trials and 194 declared that they would run. Many have achieved their place at the Trials through the 'B' standard and are not running with the hope of making the Olympic Team. This article will focus on the dozen or so women with a chance of making one of the top three spots - the spots that will let them go to the ultimate goal the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Return of the 2008 Team
While there had been a dearth of American women aggressively competing in the marathon distance a decade earlier, 2012 and the 2012 Trials tells a different story. Prominent in the field will be the return of the entire 2008 US Olympic Marathon Team that competed at the Beijing Games: American Record holder in the marathon Deena Kastor, Magdalena Lewy Boulet and Blake Russell. 2004 Athens Olympic Bronze medalist Deena Kastor's American record, 2:19:36 at the 2006 London Marathon, makes her the fastest woman in the field; but breaks in her racing following the stress fracture that forced her out at the 5K mark of the 2008 Beijing Olympic marathon, and recent childbirth and the return from that offer no guarantees that she will be in top form and able to fend off the new generation of marathoners who have stepped up. Lewy Boulet whose steady improvements have brought her to a 2:26:22 make her a possible candidate for the team, while Russell who had taken time off for childbirth as well could be flying under-the-radar as she had at the 2008 US Team Trials in Boston. Other former Olympians returning to the Trials are Colleen de Reuck and Linda Somers Smith will also be in the mix, proving that women who go the distance have the fortitude to last a lifetime while still competitive against athletes decades younger.
Expect to see strong performances from Desiree Davila, Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher. These three have been the strongest American marathoners seen in elite fields of late - with strong performance especially in Chicago, Boston and New York. They currently are all competitive on the track and their strongest performances in the marathon have yet to be seen. Davila coached by the Hansons has slowly made her way up the ranks, debuting at the distance at the 2007 Chicago Marathon and raced the 2008 USA Olympic Trials. Always a little bit below the radar, her aggressive 2011 Boston Marathon runner-up finish in 2:22:38 has placed her firmly in the spotlight. Shalane Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic 10000m bronze medalist, debuted at the 2010 New York City Marathon and took second place in 2:28:40. Many believe that Flanagan is better suited for the 10000m and some are uncertain if she would race at the Olympics Marathon if she earns a spot on the team - but with her speed and talent, she has a high likelihood of making the team. If Kara Goucher is fully recovered from giving birth and back to her old form she is a force to be reckoned with at the Trials. She took time off for childbirth and it had been a tricky return plagued by minor injuries. Goucher still has not displayed her best and when she does...Watch out!
Others to watch will be Amy Hastings, former training partner to Desiree Davila. Hastings, 5000m specialist now coached by Terence Mahon (along with Deena Kastor and Jen Rhines), transitioned to the marathon at the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon where she ran a 2:27:03 (3rd place). Hastings who originally planned to run the 2011 Houston Marathon but was recovering from an achilles injury is a wild card in the field, but her resume documents her speed and her debut could be more than beginner's luck. Janet Cherobon-Bawcom recently naturalized to the US is a prolific marathoner and tough competitor. Her wins of multiple marathons per year in impressive not for the quantity alone, but for the quality of events as well - and her recent victories at USA Championship events and new training regimen puts her in good position.
As with the men's field, there will be a number of possibilities in the top ten. Another recently naturalized athlete, Adriana (Pirtrea) Nelson whose 2:28:52 (10th place from the 2008 London Marathon) gives her strong potential. Nelson nearly won the 2007 Chicago Marathon in her debut (2:33:52) but was caught by Berhane Adere who snuck by her at the finish line. Serena Burla, Clara Grandt, Tera Moody and Molly Pritz also stand to be competitive in the field.
We always say that there is no determining the outcome of the marathon - any number of factors such as weather, good health in training, good health on race day, solid training, nutrition, fluid intake, race strategy could play key roles. One factor in both the men and women's races at the 2012 US Olympic Team Trials are the deep fields of Americans all vying for the elusive spots on the Olympic team. There are veterans whose dominance in the distance have made them steadfast icons in the past and there are the faster generation who at the 2008 Trials stole some thunder...but have not been dominant presences in the distance. Now, both will have to contend with brand new upstarts eager to make a name for themselves. There is no tway to predict the outcome of the Trials or who has the best shot...but may the best men and women win.