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2008 Women's Olympic Trials Recap: Deena Triumphs in Boisterous Boston
by: LetsRun.com
April 20, 2008

Ho-hum, Deena Kastor won the 2008 Women's Olympic Marathon Trials in 2:29:35.

If that's your initial reaction on hearing Deena winning the Trials, then clearly you didn't witness the incredible spectacle in Boston on Sunday.

On a spectacular, sunny day, tens and thousands of people poured onto the streets of Boston to create an atmosphere the Olympic Trials has never seen before. Take the crowd in New York for the men's Olympic Trials, at least double it and then you might have a starting point. (The course set-ups were slightly different, but nearly everyone we talked to in Boston thought the crowd was at least double the crowd in NY (despite locals saying there was almost zero pre-race publicity on the Trials)).

Magdalena Lew Boulet
Magdalena Way  in Front

Lewy Boulet to the Lead

Magdalena Lewy Boulet seized control of the race from the gun. The first mile was slow (6:03), but she was already clear of the field. By mile 3 she was 44 seconds ahead of the field (but only on 2:32:30 pace, the chase pack was on 2:38:54 pace). Magdalena was one of the top contenders heading into Sunday's race after finishing fifth in 2004, and setting a 10k pr two weeks ago at Stanford. Thus it was surprising that the other favorites let Lewy Boulet open up such a big lead despite the very slow opening pace. After the race both Deena Kastor and Blake Russell said they did not recognize Lewy Boulet's new hair style and did not realize it was her out front until the first turn around (5 miles).

By mile 5, Magdalena was a minute and five seconds ahead. Kastor and crew no doubt knew who was in front of them then, but they made no attempt to narrow the gap. Lewy Boulet continued to grow her lead. She cruised through half in 1:14:38 and lengthened her lead to its biggest margin at 14 miles (1:54). The chase pack had been whittled down to 9 (Olympic bronze medallist Deena Kastor, 2004 Olympians at 10k Elva Dryer and Kate O'Neill, Alan Webb's training partner Samia Akbar, Brooks Team Hansons Melissa White, prodigious marathoner Mary Akor, Brooks Team Hansons Desiree Davila, Zoila Gomez, and Ann Alyanak).

Deena Kastor
Deena Giving Chase

Deena Begins the Chase
During the 15th mile, Deena, who entered the race with a 12 minute advantage on the field, finally had had enough. She began her pursuit of Magdalena and broke up the chase pack with a 5:37 mile that for the first time cut into Magadelena's lead (Lewy Boulet ran a 5:43). Mary Akor and Blake Russell were the only two able to stay with Deena. Another 5:33 mile on the 16th mile had Deena clear of the chase pack as Akor and Russell were 5 seconds behind Deena in the race for the final Olympic spot, but 14 seconds ahead of the next chaser.

Upfront, Magdalena started to rally. She ran 5:39 and 5:30 miles for miles 17 and 18 to actually get another second ahead of Deena (leading by 1:43 at 18 miles). Deena continued to plug away and would run at least 5:30 miles (1 mile at 5:29) the rest of the way. Then at mile 20 (the start of the "second half" of the marathon) Magdalena began to falter slightly. She ran 5:51, and for those of us doing the math, it seemed that Deena would catch up to Lewy Boulet by the finish.

Deena picked up 23 seconds, 20 seconds, and 22 seconds on Magdalena during the 21st, 22nd and 23 miles, and on the 24th mile she went by Lewy Boulet. Order was restored but it had not been without drama.

Afterwards Deena said there were points in the middle of the race where she thought she was racing for second. "For the longest time I thought I might may have misjudged Magdalena'(s) strength," she said. She added she had thoughts of "succumbing to second place in the middle of the race."

Magdalena had a huge cushion on third and was still running 5:50 miles. When Deena went by, Magdalena tried to latch on and ran a 5:42 the next mile. After that Magdalena knew she was booking her ticket to Beijing, "At that point I knew the three of us would be on the team," she said afterwards.

Blake Russell in Third by a Little

The Battle for the Final Olympic Spot
Meanwhile the battle was on for the third Olympic spot. Blake Russell was never out of the top 3 once the main pack broke up, but Brooks Hanson's newcomer Desiree Davila was hot on her heels at 21 miles. Just nine seconds back, Davila was a darkhorse many expected to emerge thanks to her huge breakthrough (2nd place) at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon US Champs in January.

However, Davila's lack of marathon experience (2:44:56 pr) soon paid its toll. Just like that, she began to fade. Miles of 6:06, 6:15 and 6:25 would do her in. (Things got much, much worse for Davila as she ran 7:33 on the 25th mile and 7:54 for the 26th, to finish 13th in 2:37:50. A 7 minute pr, but not what she was looking for). All Blake Russell had to do was hold on and she was going to Beijing.

This time the final miles were much more pleasant for Blake than they were in 2004 when she faded to fourth place. She held on to comfortably finish in 3rd in 2:32.40.

She'll join the legend Kastor and the brave Lewy Boulet on the Olympic Team in Beijing. Not qualifying would have almost been an injustice to Kastor, Magdalena Boulet deserved to go for running a brave and strong race, and Russel's selection was the culmination of four years of perseverence. In 2004 at the Trials, she went out with a huge lead at half-way (1:11:58) then cratered over the second half to finish in the most frustrating spot at the Olympic Trials- fourth.

Deena Kasto
Deena Kastor

She and her coach, Joan Benoit's former coach Bob Sevene, began plotting for redemption four years later. She said the ramnifications of making the team had not "sunk in" but that it was the result of a lot of hard work and planning. She said, "after the disaster in 2004, my coach and I knew we had to sit down and develop a game plan to get where I am now." This time, Russell ran a smarter race and was rewarded.

Fourth place at the Trials can be a bitter place to swallow, especially the way Blake finished fourth in 2004, but the fouth place finisher is the first alternate for the Olympic team. A little over a minute behind Russell, (former Adam State star) Zoila Gomez and Tera Moody (she was on Colorado's 2001 NCAA XC National Championship team) were battling for the alternate spot.

Gomez had initially been in the chase pack with Deena whereas Moody had been heading up the 2nd pack behind Gomez and Deena (30 seconds farther back at halfway). Moody had passed Gomez during the 23rd mile but Gomez hung tough and came back to pass Moody the last mile and get the coveted 4th spot by one second. It's a crucial one second as if any of the top 3 get injured, Gomez will be going to Beijing. Gomez knew what was at stake, "I wasn't sure if I had enough energy. I didn’t know I had a kick, but then I just remembered I was in fourth place and you're going to regret it if you don't try. So I just went for it and I knew if I died right before the finish, I could crawl anyway," she said.


Magdalena Talks About Getting the Big Lead
Both Deena and Blake said they did not realize it was Magdalena taking the early lead or they would have gone with her. Magdalena said she was just as surprised to have the big early lead. Magdalena said the plan was not to take the lead but to run her own pace (sub 2:30). Little did she know that would give her a huge lead. She said, "The pace wasn’t really that fast. I didn’t go out in 1:11; I went out in 1:14...I just knew I had to stick to 5:40s, coming through 1:15 at the half and just feeling comfortable....and to try and duplicate it (in the second half)... I had no idea I was going to have to do it myself."

Lewy Boulet showed no signs of nerves, but said being out front was a bit strange. "I was definitely a bit uncomfortable, a bit surprised I was out there by myself."

Magdalena said as the race went on, the possibility of doing the unthinkable (beating Deena) entered her mind. She said, "Actually for a moment I thought I was going to win the race."

Then Deena upper her pace and Boulet-Lewy began to fade a bit. Boulet said she could see Deena closing in on her and also knew from the crowd that Deena was gaining on her. "For a while everyone was telling me it was 1:40 (my lead) and then they stopped telling me what the gap was, so I knew she was coming."

Kate O'Neill Dropped Out With Injured Knee
Local hero and 2004 Olympian at 10k, Kate O'Neill had been in great shape according to training partner Deena Kastor, but then suffered knee problems around the time of the Lisbon Half Marathon last month. O'Neill turned to cross training, but the knee pain returned during the race and she was forced to drop out around the 20 mile mark. She told the press office after, "I got to mile 20 and it (her right knee) really, really hurt and I was afraid of injuring it further. I have never dropped out of a race before and I would never even consider except I was really worried about injuring my right knee a lot worse. I’m disappointed but I know I did everything I could to prepare for this. Sometimes you can do everything right and just have a little hiccup along the way, and it can really throw things off in a marathon."

Joan Benoit Samuelson
Still Going Strong at 50

Joan Benoit Gets Another Record in Her Final Competitive Marathon
1984 Olympic Gold Medallist in the Marathon, 50 year-old Joan Benoit Samuelson was one of the most popular runners on the course as the appreciative Boston fans cheered for Joan in her last competitive marathon. Samuelson dipped under 2:50 running 2:49:08 for a US 50+ record. Afterwards, she said, "I'm just happy to have this medal around my neck.... The support around the course was unbelievable. I want to congratulate the BAA and all my fan support in Boston... I ran a very conservative race... I just wanted to break 3 hours and finish. I put enormous amount of pressure on myself... as I didn't know if either was possible."

Joan summed up her career pretty succinctly when she said, "It's been a great run."

Deena Fastest Mile 5:29, Her Marathon Pace in London 5:20
Deena has dipped under 2:20 in the marathon (5:20 a mile pace), but said the plan on Sunday was to not run anything under 5:25 a mile. She said, "I didn't want to dip under 5:25 pace, as I wanted to make sure I was staying in the right energy zones." Bonking was probably the only way Deena wasn't going to make the team on Sunday, so we see the justification for the cautious pace, but it's a testament to how fast she ran in London that not a single mile today was even close to the pace in London.
Video  Below:
LetsRun.com! Boston Women's Olympic Trials Photos
*Results/Splits Here
(Top 25 Below)

Highlights of Post Race Press Conference (4 Minutes)
(Deena, Magdalena, Blake Russell and Joan Benoit all give their take)

  Bib Name Time at FINISH
1.  1

Deena Kastor 

2.  43

Magdalena Lewy Boulet 

3.  17

Blake Russell 

4.  7

Zoila Gomez 

5.  152

Tera Moody 

6.  11

Turena Johnson Lane 

7.  15

Ann Alyanak 

8.  54

Dot McMahan 

9.  18

Robyn Friedman 

10.  23

Erin Moeller 

11.  68

Kasie Enman 

12.  97

Megan Hepp 

13.  87

Desiree Davila 

14.  19

Melissa White 

15.  32

Veena Reddy 

16.  116

Sheri Piers 

17.  28

Linda Somers Smith 

18.  6

Samia Akbar 

19.  5

Mary Akor 

20.  46

Sally Meyerhoff 

21.  51

Caroline Cretti 

22.  76

Sopagna Eap 

23.  56

Caitlin Tormey 

24.  91

Casey Smith 

25.  27

Rachel Kinsman 



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