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2008 USA Women's Olympic Trials - The Veterans
by Sharon Ekstrom and MarathonGuide.com Staff
Editor's Note: We wrote this article before the final announcement of entrants was settled. Since then, a number of runners chose to not enter the marathon for various reasons, and some have announced that they will not be making it to the starting line. Nonetheless, we leave this article as originally conceived.
The Veterans: Deena Kastor | Colleen De Reuck | Marla Runyan | Joan Benoit Samuelson
DOB: 2/14/73 - Waltham, MA
Home: Mammoth Lakes, CA
Coach: Terrence Mahon
Trials Qualifications: 3 marathon, 1 track
The Favorite: It is no surprise that Deena Kastor (nee Drossin) tops our list. Also known as "America's darling," Kastor came on the scene when USA distance running was in decline and, in particular, American Women's distance running was in serious trouble with no new role model to compare to Joan Benoit Samuelson with her Olympic Gold Medal of 1984. Kastor, building on a strong background in cross-country and the 10,000 meters on the track, progressed to 15K and half marathon road races before debuting at the 26.2 mile distance at the 2001 NYC Marathon. Kastor finished with the fastest American female marathon debut in history - 2:26:58. She continued to show promise with a third place finish at the 2003 London Marathon where she set an American Record of 2:21:16, while continuing to win national titles in cross country and track at the same time. At the 2004 Olympic Trials in St. Louis, Missouri, Kastor finished second with a 2:29:38, over a minute slower than champion Colleen De Reuck (who won in 2:28:25). Kastor told us that she was too confident entering that race and was not as well prepared as she could have been - a mistake she did not want to repeat ever again. At the Olympics that year soaring summer temperatures in Athens required athletes to make special preparations and pressure was building on Kastor. Running her own race, and perfectly planning for what she could achieve on that day, Kastor earned the Gold medal in Athens and put American women back near the top of distance running. After earning an olympic medal, Kastor set her goal on being the first American woman to break 2:20. Kastor came close to breaking her own American record at the 2005 Chicago Marathon, and finally achieved her goal of a sub-2:20 finish at the 2006 London Marathon where she set a new American record of 2:19:36. At the 2007 Boston Marathon she was the winner of the race-within-the-race, USA Marathon Championships, although she placed a disappointing fifth place overall. Four time champion of the Gate River run 15K, Kastor is still running strong.
Why: Kastor is the American record holder and heads-and-sholders above all other American women. Although she has had a few tough marathons against an international field, her ability to bounce back mentally and physically with a positive attitude is tremendous for an athlete. Kastor is part of the Running USA group coached by Terrence Mahon at altitude in Mammoth Lakes and the success of that group will continue to rub off on Kastor. Without a doubt, Kastor is in contention for a medal at the Olympics; but the USA Olympic Selection Committee's resolve to choose the team based on the top three performances at one selected "trials" race adds a fraction of uncertainty to "the odds". Anything can happen at any marathon, but anyone betting would be foolish to bet against Deena Kastor as a member of America's Olympic Marathon team.
Colleen De Reuck
DOB: 4/13/64 - Vryheid, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa (became a USA citizen 12/2000)
Home: Boulder, CO
Coach: Darren De Reuck
Trials Qualifications: 2006 Chicago Marathon
The Defending Champion -
[Editor's Note: DeReuck will not be starting the trials race]
As the winner of the 2004 Olympics Trials in St. Louis, MO in a 2:28:25 and a perpetual champion, Colleen De Reuck makes the list as one to watch. De Reuck, regularly performs well at national level marathon competitions, although she will face some challenges at the 2008 Trials - not least of which is her age (44 years old) and the fact that the Trials will be held just 9 months following her giving birth to a daughter. De Reuck's impressive career in a variety of distances from cross country to Marathons spans two decades. Her resume includes a win of the 1993 Carlsbad 5000 meter race in 15:20 as well as victories at the 1995 Honolulu Marathon, 1996 Berlin Marathon, 1997 Quad-City Times Bix 7 (37:34). De Reuck has had high marks at other high profile races - second at 1997 New York City Marathon (2:29:11), third at 1997 Boston Marathon (2:28:03), second at 1998 Chicago Marathon (2:27:04), fifth at 1998? Boston Marathon, fourth at 1999 Boston Marathon & Chicago Marathons. Her victories at a number of cross country national and international championships continued through 2002-2005, with highlights of a second place finish at the 2003 USA Marathon Championships and a victory at the 2004 USA Marathon Championships.
De Reuck has a history of Olympic experience as well; but has never excelled on that stage. As a three time South African Olympian, she placed ninth (2:39:03) at the 1992 Olympics, thirteenth in the 10,000m at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games (32:14.69) and thirty-first at the 2000 Summer Olympics in the women's marathon (2:36:58). After becoming an American, De Reuck finished 39th at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games (2:46:30).
Why: Colleen De Reuck may be a master's runner in age, but her abilities can pit her against the most competitive open field runners to date. She can compete against the best open field runners. Her talent in the marathon distance may be what defines the US Women's Marathon team. De Reuck was last seen at the 2008 Cross Country Championships in San Diego six months after giving birth to her first baby, where she did not look completely fresh...
DOB: 1/4/69 Santa Maria, CA
Home: Eugene, Oregon
Coach: Matt Lonergan (husband)
Trials Qualifications: 2006 USA Marathon Championships
Beater of the odds
[Editor's Note: Runyan will not be starting the trials race]
Legally blind since age nine with Stargardt's Disease, a genetic vision disorder, Marla Runyan did not let this stop her from a career as a professional athlete. Runyan began as a heptathlete at San Diego State University and her career as a world-class runner took off following the 1999 Pan American Games, where she won the 1,500-meter race. Runyan continued to make strides at the 2000 Sydney Olympics where she placed eighth in the 1,500-meter, also becoming the first legally blind athlete to compete in the Games and the highest finish by an American woman in that event. Runyon collected awards as a three time Outdoor Track National Champion in the 5000 meters from 2001-2003, three time Road 5K National Champion from 2002-04 and American Record Holder Indoor 5K - 15:07:33.
Runyan was also a standout in the marathon distance, as top American finisher at the 2002 New York City Marathon with the second-fastest debut time ever by an American woman - 2:27:10. She was also the top American at 2003 Boston Marathon (2:30:, finishing 33) and 2004 Chicago Marathon (2:28.33). In 2006 Runyon won the 2006 USA Marathon Championships held in conjunction with the Twin CitiesinMarathon, finishing in 2:32:17 thirteenth months after giving birth.
Runyan had been plagued by injuries following her pregnancy in 2005. On May 14, 2007, Runyan had a back surgical procedure called an IDET (intradiscal electrothermal therapy) to repair a lumbar disc tear between the L5 and S1 vertebrae. Runyan has been suffering from right leg tension and external rotation since 2001.
Why: Runyan has been absent from the field since 2006. Her abilities at the 26.2 mile distance coupled with incredible 5K abilities are one factor of why she made the list. The other is her ability to push through adversities - this is what makes a marathoner.
Joan Benoit Samuelson
DOB: 5/16/57 Cape Elizabeth, ME
Home: Freeport, ME
Trials Qualifications: 2005 USA Champs
Although we don't truly expect Samuelson to make the 2008 Olympic Team - she remains the greatest inspirational figure in American running and a good performance is not out of the question. As the pioneer of women's marathoning and part of the inspiration for the long distance running boom in the 1980s, Benoit Samuelson may be the only legend still actively competiting two decades after her prime in the sport. Winner of the 1979 Boston Marathon and 1983 Boston Marathons, the 1992 Columbus Marathon and the 1985 Chicago Marathon, Benoit Samuelson put American female runners on the map with a gold medal win at the 1983 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California in the first ever Women's Marathon event. Benoit Samuelson won seventeen days after knee surgery. Benoit Samuelson still holds the 27th fastest female marathon finish in the world with a 2:21:21 time from the 1985 Chicago Marathon. What is more impressive is in the US All-Time marathon finisher list, Benoit Samuelson has two of the top five times from marathons she ran over twenty years ago. (Kastor has three finishes on the list.)
Why: Need you ask why? What's most impressive is that she is participating in her seventh Olympic Trials. Samuelson has indicated that her goal is to break 2:50 in this last Olympic Trials in which she will participate - and while that will not be good enough to make the team, we will enjoy watching "Joanie" run.