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Olympic Trials – Women’s Marathon Preview

Published by
Scott Bush   Jan 13th 2012, 4:46am

It’s a rare day when the United States has three medal contenders in one distance running event, but that seems to be the case in the women’s marathon. Led by the triumvirate of Desiree Davila, Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher, the U.S. has three superstar marathon runners, but it’s the chase pack that impresses just as much, as any one of a number of women can upset one of the three favorites, set a new personal best and head into London running strong.

With the ups and downs of the marathon, comes the potential for someone to truly shock the field. Whether it’s Davila or Flanagan setting the Trials record, or a runner coming out of no where to run 2:25 and take the third spot on Team USA, this Saturday’s women’s race is sure to be memorable.

The Favorites

Similar to the men’s race, there are three favorites in Desiree Davila, Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher, all of whom could take home the victory. Each sports major marathon top three finishes, while proving time and time again that they know how to perform their best in high-pressure situations. The battle will be fierce and for spectators and fans, this will most likely go down as one of the most memorable Olympic Marathon Trials races ever.

Desiree Davila – Consistent improvement is the name of the game for Davila. She’s constantly improved her track and road times over the past few years, taking a big leap forward in 2011 with her second place, 2:22:38 performance at Boston, then taking to the track and earning some big PR’s over the 5k and 10k distances. She seems poised and ready to put up another great performance and there is no reason why she shouldn’t make her first Olympic team.

Shalane Flanagan – Similar to Davila, Flanagan raced to an impressive second place finish in a major marathon, when she captured the runner-up spot at the 2010 NYC Marathon in 2:28:40. While her time pails in comparison to Davila’s, Flanagan has shown time and time again that she comes up big in the biggest of races. Her third place World Cross Country finish in early 2011 was big, while one must remember she is the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at 10,000m.

Kara Goucher – Goucher is one of the most, if not the most, intriguing athlete to watch. Not only is Goucher still working towards the shape she was in before having her first child, but she also switched to Jerry Schumacher’s group a few months ago. Goucher has publicly said that training partner Flanagan has beaten her up in workouts, but will all that hard, excruciating work pay off in the end? Goucher is unquestionably experienced and enters with 2:24:52 and 1:09:03 credentials. Those types of PR’s can never be overlooked.

Next Up           

While the big three might be the odds on favorites to make up Team USA, there are at least a half dozen other savvy and talented runners who could make the team. Whether they be incredibly experienced or a newcomer to the 26.2 mile distance, each of these woman have as good a chance as any in the field of making the Olympic Team.

Magdalena Lewy Boulet – The 2008 Olympian can never be overlooked. Despite being 38 years of age, Lewy Boulet is running some of her best times. She PR’d in the marathon as recently as 2010, where she ran 2:26:22. The hard-working California-based runner knows it will be tough to make the team, but her continued drive and fairly recent PR’s across the shorter 5k and 10k distances shows she still has some life in her legs.

Denna Kastor – Despite giving birth in February, the 38-year old is brimming with confidence. In her recent Runner’s World interview, Kastor mentioned numerous times how good of shape she was in, and while she wasn’t going to go out and smash her PR of 2:19:36, she feels comfortable she can handle the racing if the pace goes out at 2:22-24 pace. While she may lack recent racing, Kastor can never be discounted and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if she steps up and makes this team.

Amy Hastings – Kastor’s training partner, Hastings, cannot be overlooked either. While she lacks big marathon experience, her 2:27:03 marathon in 2011 ranks her in the top five heading into Saturday’s event. On top of that, she had an incredible track season, which saw her reach the final of the 5,000m at the World Championships. Hastings has shown time and again that she has the talent to take on the big three in Houston, now it’s just a matter of time to see what she has left after 24 miles of running with the lead pack.

Stephanie Rothstein – Experience in Houston will be Rothstein’s key to success if she is to make the Olympic Team. The hard working 28-year old ran 2:29:35 at the Houston Marathon in 2011, making her one of seven women in the field to have broken 2:30. Her half-marathon personal best of 1:13:20 and slower track time over 10k means she’ll need to really hammer the middle of the race and use her strength to hold on at the end.

Clara Grandt – In her debut at the marathon distance, Grandt ran an impressive 2:29:54 and showed she could be one of the bright young stars in the sport. The former West Virginia standout still trains in Morgantown under her college coach, which means she tends to stay out of the spotlight. Strength is Grandt’s bread and butter, which means she’ll be working her way up throughout the race. All of that and she’s only 24 years old.

The Darkhorses

Janet Cherobon-Bawcom – Similar to Mo Trafeh on the men’s side, Cherobon-Bawcom has been tearing up the road race circuit this year, as she’s taken home impressive victories at the U.S. 25k Championship and U.S. 10-mile Championship. Despite such success, her personal best in the marathon is a mere 2:37. While she’s still relatively inexperienced, despite her big victories in 2011, Cherbon-Bawcom has the talent to push to the top runners in the race, and with a little luck could challenge for a top three finish.

Jen Rhines – Believe it or not, Rhines is shooting to make her fourth Olympic Team. While she’s been relatively quiet over the past two years, she continues to be one of the best long-distance track runners in the U.S. This past November, Rhines toed the start line of the NYC Marathon, only to drop out by mile 16. While she isn’t considered a strong favorite any longer, she still has the experience and speed to make it a race if she’s with the leaders with 3-4 miles to go.

Serena Burla – Burla is one of those athletes who’s dominated half-marathons, but is still looking to put together a high quality marathon. Burla rocked the Houston Half-Marathon in 2010, running a sensational 1:10:08. Since then, she’s been relatively quiet and has only run 2:35. If she puts it all together, which we hear she’s extremely fit right now, beware of her dropping a very good time in Houston. 

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