Join/Renew Now

Top three finishers in Birmingham make Olympic Team


Tom Surber
Media Information Manager
USA Track & Field
(317) 713-4690

INDIANAPOLIS - America’s finest long distance runners will battle it out for three spots on the 2004 United States Olympic Team at the USA Olympic Team Trials – Men’s Marathon on February 7 in Birmingham, Alabama.

Favorites to make the Team USA roster for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens include Alan Culpepper, Meb Keflezighi, Dan Browne, Ryan Shay and Eddy Hellebuyck among others. The Trials, which will begin at 9 a.m., on February 7, are presented by USA Track & Field, the Alabama Sports Foundation and Birmingham Marathon, Inc. The Birmingham course is slightly downhill with three loops downtown and designed for fast times. The average temperature in early February in Birmingham is 56 degrees Fahrenheit. The top three finishers in Birmingham will represent the U.S. in the men’s marathon August 29 at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

A look at the favorites:

Dan Browne: A gritty competitor throughout his career, Browne picked the 2002 USA Men’s Marathon Championship, at the Twin Cities Marathon, for his debut at that distance, in what proved to be an inspired choice. Browne won the 26.2-mile race from Minneapolis to St. Paul, Minn., in 2 hours, 11 minutes, 35 seconds, and also won the 2002 USA Running Circuit men’s title. The 1998 USA men’s cross country and 10,000m champion, Browne, and a number of U.S. marathon hopefuls, are part of the Nike Oregon Project under the supervision of American marathon legend Alberto Salazar in Portland, Ore., where they live in high altitudes and train in low altitudes, with some high-tech help. The five-bedroom house the athletes call home is at sea level, but the home features molecular filters inside that remove oxygen, leaving the athletes with the sensation that they are living in the thin air of 12,000 feet. Living at high altitude, which requires a person’s body to adapt to less oxygen in the air, thus increasing their oxygen-carrying efficiency, is believed to improve performance in endurance events. Browne, 28, is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Alan Culpepper: A consistent performer on the U.S. long distance running scene for nearly a decade, Culpepper enters his second career 26-miler after running an impressive 2:09:41 at the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon in 2002. Known for his versatility, Culpepper is the 2002 USA Outdoor 5,000m champion, the 1999 & 2003 U.S. 10,000m champ and the runner-up at 10,000m at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials. Also known for his success as a harrier, Culpepper is the 1999 and 2003 U.S. 12 km cross country champ. A 2000 Olympian at 10,000 meters and a 1996 graduate of the University of Colorado, Culpepper, 31, resides in Louisville, Colorado.

Meb Keflezighi: A member of Team USA California, in the last three years, Keflezighi, 28, has established himself as the top U.S. distance runner from 10 to 15 km, winning two U.S. cross country titles, two 10,000m championships and three U.S. 15 km road titles and setting the American record at 10,000m of 27:13.98 in 2001. Born in Eritrea, Keflezighi’s family moved to the U.S. when he was 12 and he became a U.S. citizen in 1998. Despite battling the flu, Keflezighi placed 12th in the men’s 10,000 meters at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He trains at altitude (7,000 feet) at Mammoth Lakes, Calif., running 80-100 miles a week, and sometimes trains with U.S. women’s distance ace Deena Kastor (formerly Drossin). A 1998 graduate of UCLA, where he was a four-time NCAA champion, Keflezighi’s career best in the marathon is 2:10:03 at Chicago in 2003.

Eddy Hellebuyck: An American citizen since 1999, Hellebuyck, who was born in Belgium and lives in Albuquerque, N.M., has seemingly turned back the clock of late in posting some of the best results of his career. At the age of 43, Hellebuyck was the winner of the 2003 Twin Cities Marathon in 2:12:46, a time just one minute slower than his personal best set nine years ago. The winner of 21 of the more than 90 marathons he’s completed in his career, Hellebuyck has finished in the top 10 in the Chicago Marathon on numerous occasions, and has top-10 placings in the London, New York, Boston, Rotterdam, Berlin and Fukuoka Marathons. A former lieutenant in the Belgian Army, Hellebuyck placed fifth at 2000 Olympic Marathon Trials at Pittsburgh in 2:18:30.

Ryan Shay: Just 24-years-old and a 2002 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Ryan Shay is considered a strong contender to make the Olympic Team after winning the 2003 USA Men’s Marathon title at Birmingham in the personal best time of 2:14:29, and also capturing the 2003 USA Half-Marathon crown in 1:04:13. The 2001 NCAA 10,000m champion, Shay is a former Big East Conference men’s cross country champion and a nine-time All-American (2 in cross country, 7 in track & field). Now a member of Team USA California, Shay trains under the tutelage of highly accomplished distance coach Joe Vigil.

Others expected to challenge for Olympic team spots include sixth-place finisher at the 1996 Olympic Marathon Trials and veteran Keith Dowling, Birmingham resident Scott Strand, who owns a personal best of 2:16:52, 2003 USA Marathon Championships runner-up Kevin Collins and 2001 USA Marathon Championships runner-up Clint Verran.

For more information on the 2004 USA Olympic Trials - Men’s Marathon, visit

Nike Hershey Garden of Life Chobani UCS Gatorade NCSA Phoenix KT St. Vincent Normatec