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2008 Women's Olympic Trials Preview: Deena and ....
by: LetsRun.com
April 19, 2008

*Official Meet Website (One of the best meet websites we've ever seen)
*The Race Will Be Broadcast on NBCOlympics.com at 8am Eastern on Sunday

Deena Kastor enters the Olympic Marathon Trials just like she did in 2004, as a huge, huge favorite.

Things did not turn out great for Deena at the 2004 Trials. She entered the 2004 Trials with a nearly seven minute advantage on the field, cratered over the final 2 miles and lost to Colleen De Reuck. Things turned around for Deena in Athens where she picked up the surprise bronze medal, the first marathon medal for a US woman since Joan Benoit won gold in 1984.

If Deena wants to defend her Olympic medal, she has to first finish in the top 3 on Sunday. In 2004, finishing in the top 3 top on paper seemed to be a certainty  for Deena (and actually did not end up not being so easy). On paper in 2008, it seems even easier for Deena to be in the top three.

American men's marathoning has seen a resurgence sine Meb Keflezighi's silver medal in Athens. Unfortunately, the American women (outside of Deena) have taken a turn for the worse since Athens.

Don't Be Surprised to See This

Deena All Alone On The
Way to Her American Record
Photo by

Only 15 women in the field have a qualifying time within 20 minutes of Deena's qualifying time (her 2:19:36 American record in London). Yes 20 minutes (that's 45 seconds a mile). The closest woman in the field to Deena in terms of qualifying time is Elva Dryer who is 12 minutes and 12 seconds (28 seconds a mile) behind Deena. Deena could give the other women in the field a 2 mile head start on Sunday, and theoretically she'd beat them pretty comfortably.

With that type of advantage Deena has to be penciled into the top spot on Sunday. To pick otherwise, you'd have to be way smarter than us or know something we don't know. Besides yesterday Deena (via teleconference) said she has learned from her mistakes at the 2004 Trials. Deena said of 2004, "I guess I didn't want it or respect it well enough back then, so that was my biggest mistake. I know not to make the same mistake twice, so here I'm not feeling pressure, but I feel the support of everyone around me and I feel confident in my preparations and my hunger to get out there and fulfill the rest of my goals for the rest of the summer."

The Trials represent Deena's first marathon in a year. Deena last marathon was a debacle for her- a 2:35:09 5th place finish in Boston. As bad as the race was for Deena, she was only 6 minutes behind the winner Lidiya Grigoryeva in the horrible conditions in Boston (wind, cold, after huge rains). As bad as that run was for Deena, she still won the US Marathon Champs that were held in conjunction with the Boston Marathon. She did this all while having to stop to deal with "female issues." A similar effort (good enough for just 6 minutes behind the winner in Boston) will likely put her on the team on Sunday.

The break from marathoning has rejuvenated Deena. She said, ""I feel very refreshed... A little marathon break was worth it." She won the US 15k champs in Jacksonville in her only effort this spring, and said yesterday, "I'm very well prepared for this Sunday's race....I'm pretty sure the race is going to go sub-2 hours 30 minutes, so I'm hoping for about a 2:25 if all goes well."

Kate O'Neill

Who Else Will Make the Team
Now that we've penciled Deena in for the team, it's time to look at her competitors. There are 2 fellow Olympians from 2004 in the field, 10k runners, Elva Dryer and Yale's finest Kate O'Neill. O'Neill seems to be less of a question mark than Dryer to make the team. She is younger (27 vs 36) and there is little question of her form in 2008 (she won the US Half Marathon Champs in Houston in 1:11:57 in January). The only question mark on O'Neill is whether she is really a marathoner. Her only test at the distance was a very respectable 2:36 for 3rd in the heat in Chicago last fall.  A lot of people may discount the 2:36, but 3rd place in Chicago shows she is more than qualified to make the US team for Beijing.

Dryer has run two marathons, a 2:31:48 in her debut in Chicago in  2006 (which was good enough for only 12th, shows how much the heat affected things in 2007), and a 2:35:15 for 6th in New York last fall. The 2:35:15 wasn't a great performance for Dryer, but on a flat course is worth at least a couple minutes faster. It seems this year anything close to 2:30 likely will put you on the team. Dryer dropped out of the Aramco Houston Half to start 2008, so there is a little question mark if she is 100% fit, although she says she is in the best shape of her marathon career.

The two others most likely to contend are the two runners who just missed out on going to Athens in 2004, Blake Russell (4th in 2004) and Magdalena Lewy Boulet  (5th). Both Russell and Boulet ran the Stanford 10k two weeks ago. Russell came out ahead (32:14 to 32:33) but the time was actually a pr for Boulet. Both runners have their question marks. Russell has suffered a series of injuries, but her 10k time indicates she is fit once again. Boulet is coming back from the birth of her son in 2005 and has only run 2:42 since 2004.

Both have something to prove on Sunday and both appear to be returning to fitness at the right time. Russell may not be as confident heading in (while she beat Boulet her 10k time was nearly 45 seconds off her own pr). Russell, however, is likely the most talented of the two (she went out in 1:11:58 in 2004 and had a huge lead on the field only to crater the final miles).

Mary Akor

There are a couple of darkhorses who could come through to make the team on Sunday. It's hard to really call Mary Akor a darkhorse, as she has the 3rd fastest qualifying time (2:33:50 in Twin Cities), but her credentials outside of the marathon are a little bit behind the others. Akor is a workhorse (she's run 20 marathons since the last Trials) but appears to be taking things a bit more seriously for the Trials as this will be her first marathon in 6 months.

Desiree Davila is the last person we see with a good shot of making the team. She's only run 2:44 in the marathon, but she's on the Team Hanson's Brooks Team and was 2nd at the Aramco Houston Half champs in a huge pr of 1:12:10. If somehow she can drop her marathon pr close to 15 minutes she could be a factor on Sunday, but her form in 2008 shows that may be possible.

Let's not make this too complicated. Deena, as we said is a virtual lock. Dryer and O'Neill seem to be a step ahead of everyone else if they are 100% as well. But everything can't go to form, and we'd like to see Blake Russell atone for her 2004 heartache.

1) Deena 2) Kate O'Neill 3) Blake Russell

More Coverage: *Runnersworld Preview
*Runnersworld Special Women's Trials Section
*Official Meet Website (One of the best meet websites we've ever seen)
*The Race Will Be Broadcast on NBCOlympics.com at 8am Eastern on Sunday

Top 2004 Seed Time 2008 Seed Time
Deena Kastor 2:21:16 Deena Kastor 2:19:36
Collen de Reuck 2:28:01 Elva Dryer 2:31:48
Deeja Youngquist* 2:29:01 Mary Akor 2:33:50
Blake Russell 2:30:41 Samia Akbar 2:34:14
Magdalena Lewy Boulet 2:31:38

Deeja Youngquist*

Jenny Spangler 2:32:39

Michelle Lilienthal

Sylvia Mosqueda 2:33:10

Deeja Youngquist

*Drug cheat

Kate O'Neill


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