The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials are less than a week away – this Saturday, January 14, 2012. The race won’t be televised live or streaming on the Web, though you can get minute-by-minute updates through Runner’s World here. NBC also will be showing a tape-delay program of both trial races from 3:00-5:00 EST on Saturday.
The Stakes: The top three finishers in both the Men’s and Women’s category will make the U.S. Marathon team for the London 2012 games (assuming they come in under the qualifying times, which is an almost certainty).
Unique Course Layout: Contenders will be racing a specially designed course that starts out with a 2.2 mile inner loop followed by an 8 mile loop run three times. The course more closely resembles what athletes can expect at the London Olympic course. View the full course map here.
Weather: The weather looks to be a non-factor in this race, with a race day forecast of sunny skies and around 45 degrees when the gun fires.
Plenty of Challengers: With 147 men and 185 women qualified to run, there are bound to be some surprises and some truly inspired performances come race day. This is the first year when runners can qualify based on 10K, half marathon, or marathon times, meaning that there are lots of unknowns. Without any slight to the many other serious contenders in this race, here are a few athletes in particular to keep a close eye on:
- Shalane Flanagan: Flanagan is considered by many the leading woman on the course, even though she’s had just one previous marathon outing (2:28:40 at the 2010 USA Women’s Marathon Championships in New York). She won bronze in the 10K in Beijing and is coming off two recent half-marathon wins.
- Desiree Davila: 2011 was a year of PRs for Davila, including her 2:22:38 finish at the 2011 Boston Marathon, making her the fastest qualifier in the women’s field. Expectations (and buzz) are high for Davila.
- Deena Kastor: At age 38, this would be Kastor’s fourth Olympic Games. Still, she holds the fastest American women’s marathon record (2:19:36, London 2006) and took bronze at the 2004 Games. No one should count her out.
- Magdalena Lewy Boulet: After finishing second at the 2008 Olympic trials, a knee injury kept Lewy Boulet from finishing the event in Beijing. She’s a seasoned competitor in big races and all signs are that she’s healthy heading into Saturday.
- Kara Goucher: With a fifth place finish at the 2011 Boston Marathon (in 2:24:52), Goucher trains alongside Flanagan and is shooting for big success in road races.
- Amy Hastings: A former teammate of Davila’s at ASU, Hastings finished second at the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon and has been training with Mammoth Track Club athletes Kastor and Meb Keflezighi.
- Ryan Hall The American marathon record holder (2:04:58 at the 2011 Boston Marathon) is widely expected to finish in the top 3 if not to take the top spot.
- Dathan Ritzenhein: An injury-prone runner, all signs are that Ritzenhein is healthy heading into the trials. In addition to a second place finish in the 2008 trials, Ritzenhein has delivered personal bests in the 5K, 10K and half marathon since 2009. A top 3 finish would be a great way to start 2012.
- Meb Keflezighi: Keflezighi took a silver medal in the marathon back in 2004 in Athens. Coming off his personal best of 2:09:13 at the New York City Marathon in November, this 36-year-old may be in the zone or may have a tough time rebounding with only 69 days between races. Race day will tell.
- Brett Gotcher: With a debut 2:10:36 marathon (Houston, 2010) under his belt and coaching from Greg McMillan, Gotcher seems well positioned for a run at the top three.
- Jason Hartmann: A high school teammate of Ritzenhein, Hartmann gets noticed for his height (6’3”) but would prefer recognition as an Olympic hopeful. He qualifies based on his eighth place finish at the 2010 Chicago Marathon (in 2:11:06).