A rejuvenated Kara Goucher (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

The “Safe” Picks For Houston 2012


The long-awaited Olympic Trials Marathon picks courtesy of lead writer Kevin Liao. Rather than choosing darkhorses like contributing writer Sam Juliano did, Liao went with relatively safe picks.

Tune in to watch the race live – oh wait, the race won’t be webcasted at all. Two hours of constantly refreshing Twitter will have to do.

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Ryan Hall is the conventional pick for the win and there’s no real reason to stray away from him. Hall has been far and away the most consistent American marathoner since he made his debut in London in 2007.

I’m going with Dathan Ritzenhein in second. Ritz is still among the most talented and toughest runners in the field – two attributes that have carried him to success his entire career. Despite all the uncertainty of injury troubles, all indications point to Ritz having had a solid marathon buildup. His two 5k races in New York City and San Jose were not the greatest showings but it’s hard to judge marathon fitness from 3.1 mile races.

Third place was a tough call. It’s hard to count Meb Keflezighi out but the foot infection he sustained after New York left him too little time to get fit enough in my estimation. At first, I was going with a dark horse pick for third – either Tim Nelson or his teammate Brent Vaughn.

But once I saw Brett Gotcher’s super relaxed demeanor at the pre-race press events and  heard Nick Arciniaga boasting about his teammate’s fitness, I’m going with the Aptos High and Stanford grad for third. Something about the way he spoke exuded a quiet confidence of a man who knows he’s fit. Gotcher has now been through the ups (2:10:36 debut) and downs (2:19:30 second attempt) of the marathon and has matured with the event to be ready on Saturday.

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As it’s been hyped, it’ll all come down to Desiree Davila and Shalane Flanagan. I give the edge to Davila. She’s run some killer workouts leading up to the Trials and made some great strides in shorter distances on the track this summer. But the big factor that will give Desi the edge over Flanagan will be her experience having run multiple major marathons in the past three years.

That being said, a Flanagan win would not surprise me at all. Her two medals at world competition prove her massive talent level but my reservations are over her limited marathon racing experience.

Kara Goucher’s fitness has been questioned as she missed significant time from an injury after the Daegu World Championships. Although her short marathon buildup is not ideal, Goucher has more than enough talent to make up for it. Goucher was upbeat at the pre-race press conference, boasting she feels rejuvenated from joining Jerry Schumacher’s training group and has come closer and closer to hanging with Flanagan in workouts. Look for her to finish third. It also doesn’t hurt that I got Kara as a steal with the fifth pick in my Olympic Trials fantasy league.

If any of the above falter, Amy Hastings is my underdog pick. She’s not only run a blistering 2:27 debut in Los Angeles but also posted an impressive 15:14.31 5k on the track. The combination of speed and strength could make the Arizona State grad dangerous.


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