A surprised Meb was welcomed home by the community of Mammoth last Tuesday night. (Photo: Shaw)
Keflezighi, Hall run 1-2 in U.S. Olympic Marathon trials, will run in summer London games
London was calling, and two of the elite athletes who train in Mammoth Lakes answered and are headed to the 2012 Olympics Games in London this summer.
Marathoners Meb Keflezighi, 36, and Ryan Hall, 29, both of whom train extensively in Mammoth, topped the field of competitors to become two of the three men on the U.S. Marathon Team.
Going into the last four miles of Saturday’s Olympic Marathon trials in Houston, Texas, Mammoth Lakes resident Keflezighi made his move. Keflezhighi, part of a three-man lead pack to that point, along with Hall and Abdi Abdirahman, 33, put the hammer down and never looked back. The 2004 Olympic Silver medalist opened up a sizable lead on Hall, who more than held his own in second, as Abdirahman worked to fend off a last-minute challenge from Dathan Ritzenhein for third place.
In the last mile or so, a spectator handed an American flag to Keflezighi, who waved it to applause and cheers all the way to the finish line.
Keflezighi ran a personal best time of 2:09:08. Just 69 days prior, he ran a then-personal best of 2:09:13, though that was only good enough for sixth place in the New York City Marathon. At 36, Keflezighi is now the oldest man to win the U.S. Olympic Marathon trials; he’ll be 37 when he competes in his third Olympics during the London games. All top three runners finished sub-2:10:00 races, with Hall turning in a 2:09:30, and Abdirahman coming in with a 2:09:47.
An elated Keflezighi celebrated the win with his wife and daughter at the finish line; his family, including his parents, were on hand to witness the win.
Of his fellow U.S. Marathon teammates, Hall quipped to USA Today Sports, “I was watching you guys [Keflezighi and Abdirahman] make the 10K Olympic team when I was in high school. They make me feel young!”
Mammoth’s women, however, had a much harder day of it. Olympic Bronze medalist Deena Kastor, 38, from Mammoth Lakes, was part of a lead group of 8 runners going into the last 1/3 of the race. As the group of 8 broke apart, however, Kastor found herself fading a bit, and a four-pack of women took over the lead. One of those, Amy Hastings, 27, of Mammoth Lakes, “telescoped,” falling back a bit and then surging to rejoin the other three.
At one point, she had taken over the lead, but going into the final three miles, had dropped off the pace by more than one minute. Hastings battled back, but it wasn’t enough to catch the three final Women’s U.S. Marathon Team members, Shalane Flanagan, 30, Desiree Davila, 28, and Kara Goucher, 33. Hastings did, however, come in under the previous 2:28:00 trials record time with a 2:27:17. Kastor, who stayed with the leaders early on, before dropping back into 8th place, bettered her position by the finish, coming in 6th with a 2:30:40.
Upon his return home to Mammoth, Keflezighi was the guest of honor at a surprise “Welcome Home” celebration in the Village on Tuesday evening. With his family by his side, who were in on the surprise and helped steer him to the event, Meb was introduced by Mayor Jo Bacon and joined onstage by fellow marathoner, Councilmember Rick Wood. Keflezighi signed custom celebratory posters brought in special for the event.
He thanked the town for being so supportive of its runners and was presented with a proclamation from the town celebrating his accomplishments.
In other local running news, Mammoth attorney and Town Council member Rick Wood turned in a age group-winning time of 3:09.35 during Sunday’s running of the 40th annual Chevron Houston Marathon. Wood topped the 60-64 division and, according to Mammoth Lakes Tourism’s John Urdi, bettered his previous time by a whopping 18 minutes. -Add’l source: NBC Sports