Shalane Flanagan Leads US Women at 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials

Wed, 8 Feb. 2012 - 7:18 p.m. MT
Credit: Steve Nearman - American Running Association

Steve Nearman
American Running Special Correspondent

HOUSTON -  Four months after a brilliant bronze-medal performance in the 2008
Olympic 10,000 meters, Shalane Flanagan made a risky career move. She quit a
very successful training program which took her from recovery from foot surgery
in 2006 to the podium in Beijing and announced her intention to pursue
greatness in the marathon, the very event in which her mother Cheryl Treworgy
(nee Bridges) once owned the world record of 2:49:40.

She took some time to choose her coach, eventually selecting Gerry Schumacher
at Nike in Portland.

A year later, she nailed her first test by setting the course record at the
2010 USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston here in an impressive
course-record- setting 1:09:41.

That set the stage for an exciting New York City Marathon debut in November of
2010. Again, Flanagan nailed it, gunning for the victory for most of the race
before ending second in 2:28:40 in a highly-competitive field.

That race was just a stepping stone for her ultimate goal – to go back to the
Olympics for a third time, this time in the 2012 Olympic Marathon.

On Saturday in Houston, where her road to the Olympic marathon began two years
prior, Flanagan was the most likely candidate in the deepest women’s field in
Trials history to score a trip to the Olympics.

“The princess stands poised to claim her crown in Houston,” were the final
words on Flanagan’s profile in the U.S. Olympic Trials race program.

And she did not disappoint.

In just her second marathon, Flanagan controlled the lead pack from the
beginning to the end, not only securing a spot on the Olympic Marathon team but
winning the 26.2-mile race in a personal-best 2:25:38.

The time also was an Olympic trials and USA Championship record, set on a flat
course and on a morning when the weather was about as perfect as it could be
for a marathon – mid-40s, clear and a light wind.

Colleen De Reuck set the previous Olympic Trials mark of 2:28:25 eight years
before at the 2004 Trials in St. Louis while 2004 Olympic marathon bronze
medalist Deena (Drossin) Kastor set the previous Championships record of
2:26:58 at the 2001 New York City Marathon.  Close behind were runner-up
Desiree Davila in 2:25:55 and third-place Kara Goucher in 2:26:06.

“It was a huge day, I think one that all of us will remember,” said the
30-year-old Flanagan, who entered the race with just the fifth-fastest time.
“The last mile was a cross between savoring the moment and just being really
grateful that I was almost done. I knew Desi was charging hard and I told
myself I had to have one last gear if she came up on me. I tried to view it as
a track race for the last mile. I didn’t really enjoy that last mile. It felt
really long. I’m just grateful to be on the same team with these women.”

While the men bolted like lightening over the first half marathon in their race
which began some 15 minutes before the women, Flanagan, Davila and Goucher took
the more conservative approach.

Desiree Davila leads pack after easy 6:11 first mile

After an opening pedestrian mile of 6:11, they led a group of nine through 10
kilometers in 35:23 and a pack of seven through the half marathon in 1:13:30.
Amy Hastings, Janet Cherobon-Bawcom, Kastor and Clara Grandt each fell out of
the main pack over the ensuing quickening miles and would finish in that order
behind Flanagan, Davila and Goucher.

Flanagan never committed to the lead until the 21st mile, once it was down to
Davila, Goucher and herself. Her surge at 24 miles was too much for Davila and
Goucher. Her second half was clocked in 1:12:08, with a couple of 5:24s thrown
down near the end.

Shalane Flanagan - US Olympic Trials Women's Champion

Although expected, the depth of the field was astounding. The top seven women
all ran faster than the first official men’s Olympic Trials in Alamosa, Colo.,
in 1968, where George Young took the title in 2:30:48.

Davila followed up her shattering performance in Boston last year – second in
2:22:38 – with her first berth on an Olympic team.

“Going into the last mile it was kind of this internal conflict where I really
wanted to make a push and see what I had left,” explained the 28-year-old
Davila, who was teammates with Hastings at Arizona State University but now
trains with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. “At the same time I knew Kara
was right behind me, and Amy had made huge surges throughout the race. I
couldn’t assume she had been dropped. My calves were just cramping up and
ultimately I was like, finish it off and get the job done. I didn’t have enough
confidence in being able to catch Shalane and I didn’t want to lose the spot I

The 2007 World Championships bronze medalist at 10,000 meters, Goucher claimed
her first spot on the Olympic Marathon squad.  After not competing in 2010 due
to maternity, this is Goucher’s second marathon in nine months after her
2:24:26 showing at the 2011 Boston Marathon.

But it was her first big race since a recent coaching change to Flanagan’s
coach Schumacher from her seven-year relationship with famed coach/marathoner
Alberto Salazar.

“I never really imagined myself winning this race based on my short period of
training,” said Goucher, who held son Colt in her arms after the race. “I
definitely ran outside of my fitness for a few miles trying to get away from
Amy. The last miles I was just hanging in there basically. I was really happy
with the slow start.”

Hastings, the youngest of the top five at 27, was relegated to the alternate
spot with her fourth-place completion.

“It was pretty solid through 20, then they just pulled away,” she said. “I
didn’t have quite enough left. I tried to fight back but it wasn’t there. It
was an emotional last mile for sure.”

TEAM USA Women's Marathon 2012:  Desi Davila, Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher

Hastings did not go home empty-handed, either. She earned $20,000 for fourth in
the Trials race and an additional $1,000 for fourth at the USA Championships.
Flanagan, a star at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, was top
earner with $50,000 for the win, another $20,000 if she runs the Olympic
Marathon and another $4,000 for the USA Champs. Davila pocketed $63,000 and
Goucher $52,000.

Of note, the 28th finisher from Arroyo Grande, CA, was Linda Somers Smith. The
50-year-old was the oldest entrant and was competing in her record seventh
Olympic Marathon trials. In fact, she was runner-up in Columbia, SC, in
2:30:06. On Saturday, she scored an age-group national record with a 2:37:36.

A day after Flanagan’s big victory, she got to watch the Aramco Houston Half
Marathon, where Belaynesh Oljira of Ethiopia recorded a winning time of 1:08:26
to shatter Flanagan’s 2010 mark.

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