The 10 LetsRun.com Long Shots For 2012 US Olympic Men's Marathon Trials Glory - Can One Of These Guys Take Tim Tebow Off The Front Page?
We Keep The Dream Alive For 10 More Guys Who Somehow, Some Way Could End Up On The 2012 Olympic Team
January 12, 2012
Yesterday in our men's preview, we gave the top 10 contenders for the US Olympic Men's Marathon team. But more than 10 people will be toeing the line in Houston. And on the men's side, unlike the women, there are a few more people who somehow, some way could end up on the Olympic Team. How good of a chance do these guys have? Well, we don't know exactly, but we do know "there's a chance" (see video below to get an idea of how good of one).
Basically to make the team, one probably really needs to have a sub-2:12 in the tank, do it on the day and (if 2:11 is a knock-it-out-of-the-park dream race) also hope for some subpar races from at least a couple of more credentialed runners. So who on paper is realistically capable of running sub-2:12 if they can get in marathon shape and race it right? Probably people that are capable of running 62:00-flat or 28:00-flat. As a result, we list the other Trials contenders who have gone at least 62:30 or 28:10 and make the assumption that they have gotten in better enough shape to have in them a marathon which is better than anything they've done so far. Of course, using these criteria, probably anyone with a PR under 63:00 and 28:30 is technically in the hunt (maybe even 64:00 and 29:00), as by some stretch of the imagination, they could theoretically be capable of 62:00 and 28:00 assuming they've improved a whole bunch and can translate it to the marathon. But those are pie-in-the-sky assumptions - Cinderella fantasies, basically - so we'll just give you the 10 underdogs we think are the most likely to pull off a 2:12 or better and sneak their way into contention for an Olympic berth.
10 Long Shots (Listed Basically In Order, But Sentiment Prevents Us From Looking At Shay Objectively)
1. Matt Gabrielson - 2:13:28 Marathon. The 33-year-old Team Minnesota runner is steadily getting better. His 5k went from 14:05 in 2002 to 13:30 in 2007 and his marathon has gone from 2:19 in 2006 to 2:13 in 2011. In 2008, Gabrielson competed in the US Olympic Track Trials, finishing eighth in the 5,000 meters. He's a consistent improver who has been able to handle more work in this marathon prep phase than ever before. Gabrielson is probably the safest bet for a high finish out of any of the guys on this list.
2. Andrew Carlson - 62:21 Half. Another Team Minnesota member, this guy is a proven champion at moderately long road distances and on paper has very good potential as a marathoner. John Kellogg's conversion chart equates Carlson's 25k PR of 1:14:42 to a 2:12:17 for 26.2 miles, which obviously indicates promise; however, the Trials race will be Carlson's debut marathon, so he had better hope he gets it right. In his favor is the fact that he's won two national championships on the road - a 15k title in 2008 and a 25k crown in 2010, when he set his PR. On the down side, he had two torn ligaments in his ankle in September. This video makes us want to pick him or at least one of his teammates (that's actually a trailer for the brief film (11 minutes) Marathon Road, which just got finished on Wednesday).
3. Stephan Shay - 62:21 Half. If he makes the Olympics, it'll knock the Tim Tebow story off the front page, as his brother Ryan tragically died in the last Olympic Trials. And we promise a movie will be made about it. His pre-Trials blog had a great quote, as two months ago he was certain he was screwed for the Trials but now things have turned around. Shay wrote: "Two things kept me from what I thought was an inevitable emotional and physical downward spiral: Caprice, and knowing that my brother would not have given up without doing everything he could to toe the line on January 14th. I used to think that the only way to truly honor Ryan and show everyone what he taught me - both as a role model and brother - was to finish near the top in every race I entered. As I mature as a person and runner, I now see the importance of competing for myself ... not for a shoe contract not for prize money and certainly not for a piece of hardware."
4. Mike Morgan - 2:14:55 Marathon / 62:56 Half. We skipped over some guys with better times - notably Ryan Bak (has to somehow recover/retrain following a 2:14:17 on Dec. 4) and Mike Sayenko (2:14:27 PR but no performances in all of 2011 to indicate that kind of fitness) - to give Hansons-Brooks a guy on the list. Word is his recent simulator run (26.2k) was done at sub-2:11 pace. Does that mean he can hold close to 5:00 pace for an additional 10 miles when he's tapered? No one knows until race day, but the Hansons squad is disciplined at race execution and always seems to have a guy who pulls off the perfect pick-up-the-pieces race every blue-collar underdog dreams of, so maybe Morgan can be their guy this time.
5. Patrick Smyth - 62:01 Half. The multi-time All-American at Notre Dame is admittedly still an unknown in the marathon, having abandoned the race in London last year following a too-ambitious 63:51 halfway split. Smyth's half PR of 62:01 from 2010 earned him a runner-up spot in the US Champs and put him ahead of several proven marathoners and Trials hopefuls, including 2:11 man Nick Arciniaga and 2:13 runner Matt Gabrielson. In 2011, Smyth returned to the US Half and ran 62:32 to finish only behind Mo Trafeh and Ryan Hall but ahead of other legitimate Trials contenders, including 2:12 man Jason Lehmkuhle. Dropouts at the New York Half in March and then at London in April weren't auspicious, though, and he only ran 64:55 in Las Vegas last month. Let's hope that was just a pace run and he was training through. 62:01 for the half is equivalent to 2:11:59 for the full - not to say a runner who can run 62:01 can automatically run sub-2:12 even with perfect execution, but it illustrates how good that HM performance really is.
6. Max King - 2:15:34 Marathon. King has been a national-level steepler and has competed in World XC. Most people know of King's exploits as a trail runner - he won his 4th consecutive XTERRA Trail Run world title over a challenging 21.9k course in December of 2011 - but he is also pretty accomplished in international cross-country, having made 4 US teams for World Cross (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011) and recording his highest-ever finish this past year with a 39th-place showing. Very solid credentials. Although not having one of the better marathon PRs, King is consistent at putting up national-class performances whether the venue is the road, traditional cross-country or grueling trails, and there's no reason to believe he can't challenge for a pretty high spot in the OT Marathon. And oh yeah - he went to Cornell (but graduated before Rojo got there).
7. Brent Vaughn - 62:04 Half / 28:05 10,000. Vaughn was the national cross-country champion in 2011. His 62:04 HM best came in a 3rd-place effort at the US Half in Houston in 2010. Most recently, he has reportedly been giving training partner and 27:28 10ker Tim Nelson all he can handle in workouts while preparing for the Trials. Nelson has scratched, but if Vaughn really can beat the 27:28 guy during marathon workouts, he is surely a runner to watch. Vaughn also ran 13:18 while at the University of Colorado.
8. Jeff Eggleston - 2:13:12 Marathon. We like this guy's style because he took a page out of the LetsRun.com playbook by moving to Flagstaff without a sponsor a few years ago. His PR came at Grandma's last year, giving him the 8th-fastest time among starters within the qualifying window. We do think he might have raced marathons too often (started 4 in the last year), and he dropped out at the Pan Am Games in October, so we've moved him down from where his seed time might indicate. Still, a 2:13 guy can't be discounted if he's healthy.
9. Ryan Vail - 62:51 Half / 27:57 10,000. The former OSU Cowboy has enjoyed some nice PRs and fairly high places on the roads in the past year (as well as a big track PR of 27:57) and is still on the way up as a roadie. He has also represented the US at World Cross once in the junior race and twice in the senior race, with a best finish of 33rd in 2009, when he led the US contingent. Vail's road PRs (47:13 10 miles, 62:51 half) indicate an equivalent marathon of around 2:14-flat - decent enough to be considered a darkhorse - but his 27:57 equates to 2:11:39, so if he runs to that potential, he could make some real noise. This is his debut marathon. For more on his preparations, see the following links:
10. Brian Olinger - 28:07 10,000. Best known as a steepler (8:19 PR). Like Max King, Olinger also represented the US at World Cross in 2011. He qualified for the Trials by virtue of his 10,000 at Mt. SAC and decided to toe the line despite having never raced longer than 7 miles. If there was ever a total unknown factor in a Trials race, Olinger is it. We'd be remiss not to point him out if only because the distance is nearly 4 times longer than anything he's ever raced and he represents perhaps the biggest potential surprise in the field if he nails it.
We were originally going to list Chris Barnicle (62:45 Half / 28:10 10,000) as a long shot, as we know him to be a real talent. And like Deena Kastor, he seems to be getting his act together after getting out of Arkansas. However, sources have informed us that Barnicle went to Kenya, got sick, missed 2 weeks of training and was convinced by Renato Canova to skip the Trials. He just ran a 7:55 3k a couple of weeks ago, so he's in shape (or just plain talented or both), but apparently not in the marathon shape he'd like to have.