IN SURPRISING MOVE, BOTH OLYMPIC TRIALS MARATHONS GO TO HOUSTON

By David Monti
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Yesterday's announcement by USA Track & Field that both the men's and women's 2012 Olympic Trials marathons would be held in Houston came as a surprise to many.  Since the women's marathon was introduced to the Olympic Games in 1984, American women have had their own Trials race; the first was held in Olympia, Wash., and won by Joan Benoit just 17 days after a knee surgery.

With three bids from the Boston Athletic Association, Chevron Houston Marathon, and New York Road Runners, it seemed likely that the two-location model would be maintained for 2012.  The general consensus coming out of the USATF convention last December was that one of the Trials would be held in New York in November, 2011, with the second in Houston in January, 2012.

But while in Albuquerque for the USA Indoor Championships last weekend, USATF CEO Doug Logan recommended to his board that a unified Trials venue was the best course of action for American marathoning.  His board accepted his recommendation which was backed by the U.S. Olympic Committee, and Logan flew to Houston for a press conference yesterday, where he called Houston's $1.7 million bid "very aggressive."

"As a consequence of us putting the city under significant amount of scrutiny with regard to can this be a good place to hold one or more of our Trials, in 2012 we're not only bringing one but both of our Trials to this city," Logan told the local media, receiving a rousing and sustained applause.

Officials at the New York Road Runners were surprised by the decision, and did not learn about it until about an hour before the announcement in Houston.  The NYRR had hosted the men's Trials in November, 2007, and had hoped to land one of the Trials for 2012.

"As an organization fiercely committed to our sport and our athletes, I have to be honest and say that we are disappointed by today's announcement that both Trials races will be in Houston," said NYRR president and CEO Mary Wittenberg in a prepared statement.  "It seemed such a win-win to split the genders and to give the fans of two markets the chance to experience the Trials in an up close and personal way. The New York and Boston Trials were unqualified successes.  It would have been nice for at least one of us to have had the chance to build on that success and to capitalize on the momentum of the last Trials."

Wittenberg sent congratulations to Houston race director, Brant Kotch, and the event's managing director, Steve Karpas, who had spearheaded the Houston bid.  Kotch and Karpas plan to hold the 2012 Trials on Saturday, January 14, one day in advance of the 40th Chevron Houston Marathon, using a criterium course.  USATF said in a statement yesterday that the final format of the race, and other logistics, had not yet been determined.

Boston officials were also disappointed.  Speaking to RunnersWorld.com, Boston Athletic Association executive director Guy Morse said he was "disappointed, primarily," when he heard the news.  "We thought our bid was still a very realistic one when you consider all the additional intrinsic values of holding a Trials in Boston. Or in New York.  We felt we exceeded all expectations in 2008.  The results of our effort speak for themselves. "

Houston has hosted the national half-marathon championships for men since 2005, and the women's since 2007.  The city also hosted the 1992 women's Olympic Trials marathon with 89 starters and 65 finishers.  Janis Klecker got the victory, despite falling on wet pavement at the 16-mile water station.  She was helped to her feet by Cathy O'Brien, who turned around to assist her.  Klecker passed O'Brien at the 26-mile mark to get the win in 2:30:12, 14 seconds ahead of O'Brien.

In New York, Wittenberg said that her commitment to American athletes was unshaken; the NYRR will be hosting the USA Women's Marathon Championships in November in conjunction with the ING New York City Marathon.

"For us at NYRR, our commitment to our athletes and our sport has always gone way beyond any one day," Wittenberg said.  She continued: "We will look forward to continuing to host our American athletes often throughout the year at NYRR events."

 

 

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