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Female contenders for Marathon Trials

Date: 
11/25/2014 - 13:58

By Carolyn Mather, R.N., PhD.

After seeing the fall marathon results and preparing to go to New York City for the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon, I thought I would spotlight the ladies you should keep on your radar as we approach the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles in a little over a year. There should be a number of contenders for the 2016 Olympic team.

First and at the top of her game, Shalane Flanagan did not win Boston or get the American record in Berlin but she has PR'd twice (2:22:02 and 2:21:22). If she stays healthy she should be on the team again without a problem. Flanagan is a very strong and focused woman and although I suspect she will make a try for victory in Boston next spring, that should not deter her from securing a spot on the 2016 team. She is the best American out there.

Runner up at the 2012 trials, Desi Linden suffered an injury before the 2012 Olympics and she is certainly motivated to get back to the trials. Her 2:23:54 at Boston was done at 90% according to her coach Kevin Hanson. She intends to run New York and hopefully she will have a great showing. If she stays the course I would definitely think she will be on the team.

Then we come to the remaining spot. Wow there is so much talent out there and so many variables and a year to improve that I believe the third position is definitely up for grabs. I want to provide you a list to watch and can virtually guarantee the last spot will be filled by one of these ladies. And if Flanagan or Linden falter, there could be some virtually unknown contenders.

Obviously fourth place finisher at the 2012 marathon trials Amy Hastings has to be a favorite. Her recent 2:27:03 in Chicago demonstrates that she is on the right track and as an Olympic team alternate she will be planning to make the team. She did run the 10,000 in London so she definitely has speed and the motivation.

2008 Olympians Deena Kastor, Kara Goucher and Blake Russell are making marathon comebacks and will be racing in NYC. Russell has had a daughter since the 2008 Olympics but she has been racing well this summer and fall. Kastor is now a master but never count Kastor out of the mix. Her disappointing 6th place finish in 2012 has only fueled her desire. At September's Philadelphia Half, she not only set a world masters record for the half (1:09:36), but set world masters records at 10K (32:41), 15K (49:03) and 20 K (1:05:52) along the way! She is looking for a 2:25 in NYC that would solidify her bid. Goucher had a 2:28:11 at the 2013 Boston Marathon but has struggled with injury, a coaching change, and a move since then. Hopefully she will be able to be back in the mix for the trials.

Janet Bawcom was the fifth place finisher at the 2012 trials and had a thrilling string of races in 2012 and 2013 including her 10,000-meter performance in London. But she has not finished a marathon in awhile and has struggled with injury. But her recent Tufts 10K time of 32:12 shows she is on the comeback trail.

There are a bunch of newer ladies on the marathon scene. Lauren Kleppin who runs with the Mammoth Track Club is entered in the NYC marathon but ran a stellar 2:28:48 in Los Angeles last spring. Her teammate Lauren Jimison bettered her time at Grandma's with a 2:34:38 in Chicago. Both ladies are improving and train with Kastor so I expect to see improvement from both of them.

Serena Burla ran a 2:28:01 at the 2013 Amsterdam Marathon and that was the fastest time of 2013. She also won the half marathon championship in 2014. She has been sporadic since then but could be ready for a speedy time at the trials.

Annie Bersagel lives in Norway but took the 2013 Twin Cities Marathon national title with a surprise win in 2013 then bettered her time at the Dusseldorf Marathon last April in 2:28:59. She is also entered in this year's NYC Marathon.

Stephanie Rothstein Bruce has a marathon PR of 2:29:35 but recently gave birth to her first son Riley. She has signed with Oiselle and is back in training, so I could see her and her training in Flagstaff with marathoning husband Ben, as a ticket back to a fast time. It just depends on how quickly she rebounds and how much rest she can get with the new baby.

Becky Wade made her debut last December with a phenomenal 2:30:41 win at Cal International. Unfortunately she had to pull out of the recent Chicago Marathon after a "very rocky" 2014 plagued with injuries and sickness. She plans to run a spring marathon before the trials and being only 25 she looks to have a stellar career ahead.

Then there are a significant group of ladies in the 2:31- 2:34 arena. Clara Santucci (2:31:39 Chicago 2013), Melissa Johnson-White (2:32:37 Chicago 2013), Wendy Thomas (2:32:49 Boston 2014), Esther Erb ( 2:34:01 Twin Cities National Champion 2014),Sarah Crouch ( 12 minute PR 2:32:44 Chicago 2014), Laura Portis (2:33:42 Twin Cities 2013), Brianne Nelson (2:34:24 Twin Cities 2014) and Adrianna Nelson (2:31:15-1st American Boston 2014) are definitely in the mix but will have to up their games significantly to contend for an Olympic team spot.

Finally there is the incredible Molly Huddle who has yet to run a marathon and may not even be interested in the trials. But she has moved up all year from her defeat of Flanagan last November, to set a 12K world record in 37:50, to her American record 5K of 14:42, her New York mini10K win of 31:37, and her 20K national title in New Haven in 1:08:34. She has recently contended at two half marathons with a best of 1:09:04. Huddle trains with Amy Hastings and Kiwi star Kim Smith in Providence and if she decides to give the trials a shot I would not count her out. although I think she will race the 5K or 10K at the Olympics.

All told these are the women who legitimately have a shot at the trials. They are all working to make the team and on February 13, 2016 we will know who takes the coveted top three. Keep an eye on the ladies mentioned here and pick your favorites over the next year. It should be an exciting 2015! And I suspect there is the possibility of a big surprise, but I believe the team will come from these ladies barring a big surprise in 2015.

After watching the TCS New York City Marathon from the women's press truck I am even more unsure of who gets third place on the team. Linden retains her pace but not much more could be determined due to the brutal wind and chill in the air in NYC. The official weather at the start was 43 degrees with a sustained headwind of 31mph.

Carolyn Mather, R.N., PhD. lives and runs in north Georgia and is a member of the Atlanta Track Club Elite. She can be reached at carolynmather@tds.net.

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