July 11, 2019
With the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials 223 days away, the clock is ticking for Americans to hit the Olympic standard before the big day in Atlanta on February 29. One of the last, best chances to hit the 2:11:30/2:29:30 Olympic standards comes at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, which will be held on October 13, and several top Americans will be trying to make the most of that opportunity (a top-10 finish also earns the Olympic standard).
Chicago announced its US elite fields for on Thursday, with Amy Cragg, Dathan Ritzenhein, and Chris Derrick the biggest additions to a field that included previously-announced Nike Oregon Project stars Galen Rupp and Jordan Hasay.
Chicago will be Cragg’s first marathon in 18 months, since she ran her PR of 2:21:42 in Tokyo in February 2018 (she was slated to run Chicago last year but withdrew after a hamstring injury). She’ll be joined on the start line by US marathon champion Emma Bates and US half marathon champion Stephanie Bruce. None of those women have the Olympic standard. Hasay does, and she has her sights set on bigger goals: Deena Kastor’s 13-year-old American record of 2:19:36.
|2019 Chicago Marathon
Elite American Elite Field
Jordan Hasay 2:20:57
Amy Cragg 2:21:42
Emma Bates 2:28:19
Stephanie Bruce 2:29:20
Lindsay Flanagan 2:29:25
Taylor Ward 2:32:42
Maegan Krifchin 2:32:47
Lauren Martin-Masterson 2:33:25
Christina Vergara Aleshire 2:34:24
Lindsey Anderson 2:34:45
Sarah Sellers 2:36:37
Kristen Heckert 2:38:54
Alyssa Schneider 2:39:11
On the men’s side, Ritzenhein returns to the site of his 2:07:47 pb from 2012 (#4 all-time US). He’ll be looking to rebound from his 2:16:19, 19th-place showing in Boston in April, his first marathon finish in four years. Derrick has finished in the top 10 at his two career marathons so far (9th, 2017 Chicago; 10th, 2018 New York); another top-10 finish in October would grant him the Olympic standard. US marathon champion Brogan Austin of Tinman Elite, NAZ Elite’s Scott Smith, and US 25k champ Parker Stinson are also entered.
Below, a few takeaways now that we know which Americans will be in the Windy City this October.
1) It’s a disservice to the athletes that USATF still hasn’t announced its Olympic selection policy
We’re now at the point that the fall World Marathon Majors are announcing their elite fields, and USATF has yet to announce its selection policy for the 2020 Olympic marathon team. That’s not right. Athletes don’t have many opportunities to hit the Olympic standard, and they 100% need to know how things stand seven months out from the Trials.
Not all of this is within USATF’s powers. They are trying to lobby the IAAF to let them automatically send the top three at the US Olympic Marathon Trials for the Olympics, which takes time. But at a minimum, USATF should have already announced some sort of policy. They should have said a long time ago, “We’re working on getting the top 3 at the Trials accepted as auto qualifiers but if someone finishes top 3 at the Trials and doesn’t have the standard, we will at a minimum try to get them into the Olympics based on their world ranking.” That’s essentially what USATF told us earlier this week; we hope they passed that message along to the athletes long ago.
The IAAF isn’t totally blameless here, either. They are the ones that created this problem by drastically changing the way the Olympic qualification works after the qualifying window had already begun and, more importantly, after USATF had already picked a hilly and hot city to host the 2020 Trials.
We understand why the IAAF doesn’t want to make an exception for one country, but the reality is they drastically changed the rules of the game in the middle of the game.
Thus we don’t think a statement along the lines of, “Since Japan and the US had already scheduled their Olympic Trials races before the new rules were announced, and since it’s clear from the world rankings that both countries will be sending 3 men and 3 women to the Olympic marathon, they can send anyone that finishes top 3 at their Trials to the Olympics,” would outrage the rest of the world.
If that’s too “pro-US,” then make it time- or world ranking-based. Something like this:
Any country that holds a marathon trials race with 10 or more competitors that have run under 2:15 for the men or 2:33 for the women (within 3:30 of the auto standard) in the previous two years is granted auto qualifying status for the top three finishers of the trials.
For the men, only Eritrea, Ethiopia, Japan, Kenya, Morocco, and the US had 10 guys under 2:15 last year (Uganda had 9). For the women, Ethiopia, Japan, Kenya, and the US would have all met the criteria using only 2018 times (North Korea had 7, Bahrain had 8).
Or add similar rule based on the number of competitors ranked in the top 400 in the world.
2) That said, the American women should be fine for the Trials even if they don’t hit the standard in Chicago
Based on what we’ve heard from the IAAF and USATF, the women’s race at the Olympic Trials should be granted Gold Label status, which means that the top three finishers will automatically earn the Olympic standard. If she’s healthy, Cragg — who does not currently have the standard — should easily run under 2:29:30 and/or finish in the top 10 in Chicago. But if disaster strikes, it won’t be the end of the world. Likewise for Bates and Bruce, neither of whom have the standard.
Of course, those women will be shooting higher than just hitting the standard in Chicago. Cragg, 35, the reigning Trials champion and World Championship bronze medalist, will be looking to prove that she’s still among the country’s elite in her first marathon for 18 months.
Meanwhile Bates and Bruce (and the rest of the US women in Chicago) will be looking to be competitive with Cragg. If Cragg & Hasay crush them in Chicago, there isn’t realistically much hope of Bates or Bruce contending in Atlanta four months later, where they’ll have to face the likes of Des Linden, Emily Sisson, and Molly Huddle as well.
3) Many American men are (rightfully) going for the standard in Chicago — but is Berlin the better option?
Given the uncertainty still surrounding the US Olympic selection process, if we were an elite US men’s marathoner without the standard (only Scott Fauble and Jared Ward have the standard) we would definitely run a fall marathon. Yes, USATF seems willing to incorporate world rankings into its selection policy, which helps Americans who don’t have the standard, but given that the policy still hasn’t been officially announced yet, we wouldn’t want to leave anything to chance.
Chicago is one of the best options for an American man — a fast, flat course where you can still hit the time standard even if you don’t finish in the top 10. Plus it pays out bigger appearance fees to 2:12/2:13 Americans than what you could get in a European marathon. Another advantage to Chicago is that it’s earlier in the season than New York, giving more time to recover before the Trials (there are 17 weeks between NYC and the Trials, compared to 20 between Chicago and the Trials).
But there may be an even better option for Americans chasing the standard: Berlin. It’s a faster course, it’s two weeks before Chicago (September 29), and it is way easier to finish in the top 10: last year, it only took 2:13:09 to finish in the top 10 in Berlin compared to 2:08:41 to finish in the top 10 in Chicago. We haven’t seen the Berlin elite fields but wonder if any Americans have signed up. It won’t pay the same appearance fee as Chicago or NYC, but it’s a much better opportunity to hit the Olympic standard.
4) The student takes on the master: Parker Stinson vs. Dathan Ritzenhein
Ritzenhein, 36, has been coaching Stinson, 27, since last fall and will now face each other in a marathon for the first time since becoming coach and athlete (they faced each other at the 8-mile Olympic Trials test event in Atlanta in March, with Stinson prevailing).
Could you imagine the two of them battling it out for 10th place in Chicago, with the final Olympic standard on the line? Given Stinson’s progress this year (a US 25k record of 1:13:48 in May, a race in which he passed 13.1 miles in 62:02), it’s not out of the question.
Talk about the 2019 BOA Chicago Marathon field on our messageboard / fan forum: MB: 2019 Chicago Marathon US field is out: Cragg, Derrick, Ritz Join Rupp & Hasay