Contributing writer Sam Juliano makes his top three picks for the Olympic Trials Marathon. Included in his predictions are two individuals considered “darkhorses” – Nick Arciniaga and Amy Hastings.
Ryan Hall: The clear or should we say obvious favorite to take the American title at Houston after coming off the record setting – albeit not wind or course legal – finish in Boston and a solid performance at Chicago finishing 5th. His training methods maybe a bit unorthodox as he trains himself rather than being guided by a training super group but this man is the best the U.S. has and he will make the Olympic squad.
Meb Keflezighi: The blast from the past (Athens 2004 is not all that long ago) will be making a comeback statement after disappointment at the 2008 Trials. He has this past year been able to set a new PR at the distance despite getting a little up there in prime racing age. His savvy for coming up big when it counts should propel him to a flight to London this summer.
Nick Arciniaga: Maybe it’s a bit of favoritism or just a hunch, the Cal State Fullerton alum and current adidas McMillan Elite professional will be able to find his way to finishing in the top three. His progression from 17th place in the 2008 Trials to his current 2:11 marathon PR sound like this man has a distinct shot at being the man who shocks the community in a fashion similar to Brian Sell during Beijing. Though just behind the front men his time is not out of reach of being able to qualify and this may be his year.
Disclaimer: Dathan Ritzenhein and his phenomenal aerobic capacity would be here but with such little to see from the past year as far as racing goes and recovering from such a dramatic injury, I am hesitant to pick a man who would otherwise be a part of the team.
Desiree Davila: After a stunning race at Boston where few could admit that they knew who she was, this Hansons Brooks and Arizona State graduate has become the favorite to win. Her drastic breakthrough and tough running style makes her a threat even beyond the trials.
Shalane Flanagan: The 2008 bronze medalist at the 10k has decided in the intervening years that the marathon was the place to be. In 2010 her second place finish at New York City was stunning and her continual placement against world class competition has made her a fixture as the leader of American distance running. She should be set to be a part of the squad and maybe come through with another clutch performance at the London Games.
Amy Hastings: Another Arizona State prodigy, Hastings made a big name for herself this past track season in Europe and Worlds and this could carry over to the Trials. After a solid debut at the marathon and gritty racing on the track, Hastings has proven that she has not only the physical skills but the intangible tough attitude to be a qualifier and a member of the lead pack. She should be able to outperform those who have been there before such as Kara Goucher and Magdalena Lewy Boulet and not be intimidated by their racing abilities.