Sunday, December 18, 2011

Road to Houston: An early look at the Men's Olympic Marathon Trials contenders

On Saturday, January 14th, less than four weeks away, the best American marathoners will take to the roads of Houston in hopes of a podium finish, and more importantly, a trip to London. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting a series of articles entitled, "Road to Houston," to preview the big day. First up, the early Men's Contenders.

Hall's 2007 Houston magic
1. Ryan Hall
Resume: Defending Olympic Trials champion (10th in Beijing). Owns the top three qualifying marks with his 2:04:58 at Boston (2011), 2:08:04 at Chicago (2011) and 2:08:44 at Boston (2010). American Record Holder in Half Marathon (59:43 from Houston 2007).
Why he'll make the team: Has been the most consistent American Marathoner over the past 5 years. Has run very fast in Houston (2007 Half AR). Will have to have a very bad day to finish outside of the top three.
Why he may not: Hall raced Chicago in October, so it will be a fairly quick turnaround. Three months should be ample time, but recover is tricky when it comes to the marathon.

2. Meb Keflezighi
Resume: 2004 Olympic Marathon Silver Medalist (Athens). 2009 New York City Marathon Champion. Owns marks 4-7 going into trials (best 2:09:13 at NYC 2011).
Why he'll make the team: Is coming off a PR at NYC and seems to be in the best marathon shape of his career, despite being 36 years old. Has the most experience and has proven to be a champion.
Why he may not: Meb will be only two months removed from NYC and he's not getting any younger. Will he be fully recovered and race-ready when he toes the line?

Ritz will want another day like this
3. Dathan Ritzenhein
Resume: Former American Record Holder at 5000 (12:56.27 from 2009). World Half Marathon Championship Bronze Medalist (2009). 2008 Olympian in the Marathon (9th in Beijing). Owns 9th best mark (2:10:00 at London 2009).
Why he'll make the team: Ritz is a fierce competitor and nothing would announce his comeback more than making the London team.
Why he may not: Has been injured a ton over the past two years, so his race fitness and durability is a big question mark.

4. Galen Rupp
Resume: American Record Holder at 10,000 (26:48 in 2011). 60:30 in debut Half Marathon (NYC 2011).
Why he'll make the team: Rupp's half time converts to about 2:07 or 2:08, depending on what you use to calculate and there aren't many guys running in that range. If he can hang through 20 miles, he's got a shot.
Why he may not: Has to be on the starting line to make the time. He is entered, but it's all speculation until declarations are made. Has never run the marathon. Breaking up Hall, Meb and Ritz will be tough.

5. Jason Hartmann
Resume: 1st American at Chicago 2010 (2:11:06). Won Twin Cities in 2009 (2:12:06).
Why he'll make the team: Has run excellent marathons in back to back years and can run with the best when healthy. Has proven to do well on flat courses and warm conditions.
Why he may not: Has to break up the big three (and possibly Rupp), which will be no easy task.

Saucony's big gun, Jason Lehmkuhle
6. Jason Lehmkuhle
Resume: 5th at 2008 Olympic Trials. Ran 1:02:49 at Houston Half in 2011. Ran 2:12:34 at Boston (2010).
Why he'll make the team: Lehmkuhle is incredibly consistent and will be in the hunt. He came close in '08 and will run his race. Whether or not that will be fast enough will be the question.
Why he may not: His PR is 2:12 and it will take every bit of that to make the team. Lehmkuhle will have to have an A+ day to have a shot.

7. Brett Gotcher
Resume: 2:10:36 for 2nd at Houston (2010). 46:51 for 10 miles in October (Twin Cities).
Why he'll make the team: Gotcher's excellent debut came on the Houston course (although it's a little different) and he boasts the best qualifying time outside of Hall, Meb and Ritz.
Why he may not: His second trip to Houston wasn't as successful. This will only be his third marathon.

The McMillan men look at the field with deep focus
8. Nick Arciniaga
Resume: 2nd at Houston in 2011 (2:11:36) while pacing Gotcher and then choosing to continue. 3rd at San Diego in 2010 (2:11:48).
Why he'll make the team: Arciniaga's success at Houston last year will certainly give him confidence. Trains with Gotcher (for McMillan Elite), so the two of them will be able to help each other.
Why he may not: Has been injured of late and it's hard to say what kind of marathon shape he'll be in. Making the team will demand an A effort, but certainly something he's capable of.

Trafeh will take aim at Hall over 26.2
9. Mo Trafeh
Resume: 2011 USATF Half Marathon Champion (in Houston with a time of 1:02:17). 2011 USATF 10 Mile Champion (Twin Cities, 46:46). 60:39 at NYC Half (2011).
Why he'll make the team: Trafeh's very good over the half marathon and below distances. He out kicked Hall in the USATF Half Championship in Houston last year and has dominated the Gate River Run 15k two years in a row. Like Rupp, if he can get to 20 miles with the leaders, he's a threat.
Why he may not: Has never raced a full marathon. The trials will be a pressure packed place to debut!

10. Tim Nelson
Resume: 27:28 PR in the 10,000. 1:02:11 Half at Houston 2010
Why he'll make the team: Nelson has an excellent training group with Team Schumacher in Portland (Solinsky, Tegenkamp, Bairu, Jager, Vaughn) and has a great kick. If he can hang on, he'll be tough over the last few miles.
Why he may not: His first go at the marathon wasn't the best (2:15:06 at NYC 2010). He'll need to have a much better day to be considered a threat.

Stay tuned for the Women's Contenders article this week and continued coverage leading up to the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, TX on January 14, 2012.

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