Olympic Team berths at stake for top U.S. marathoners


Tom Surber
Media Information Manager
USA Track & Field

INDIANAPOLIS - America's top men's distance runners lead a declared field of 128 in Saturday's 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon. Perhaps the most anticipated Olympic Trials ever contested over the marathon distance, the race will be held Saturday morning in New York's Central Park.

Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi, 2004 Olympic Trials champion Alan Culpepper, American half-marathon record holder Ryan Hall, two-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman and 2004 Olympians Dan Browne and Dathan Ritzenhein are among those in a race to see who will become the first athletes named to the 2008 U.S. Olympic track and field team. 128 athletes of 134 entries have declared their intent to compete. Although declarations officially closed Monday afternoon, entrants who have yet to declare may do so by petition on Thursday, November 1, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Meb Keflezighi: The headliner of the Olympic Trials following his silver medal-winning performance at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Keflezighi has a marathon personal best time of 2:09:53, run at the 2004 ING New York City Marathon. Other top marathon placings for the Mammoth Lakes, Calif., resident include a third-place finish at New York in 2005 and also at the 2006 Boston Marathon.

Alan Culpepper: Lafayette, Colo., resident Alan Culpepper will look to qualify for his third Olympic team overall and second as a marathoner following his triumph at the 2004 Olympic Trials Marathon in Birmingham, Ala. Culpepper, who finished 12th in Athens, ran his personal best time of 2:09:41 in 2002, when he was sixth in the Chicago Marathon in his debut at the distance. He finished 4th in 2005 and 5th in 2006 at the Boston Marathon, and owns national titles in the 5,000 meters (2002) and 10,000m (1999, 2003).

Ryan Hall: Widely considered the start of the future, 2005 Stanford graduate Ryan Hall of Big Bear Lake, Calif., has recently taken U.S. road racing by storm. Last October he set the U.S. 20 km record with his time of 57 minutes, 54 seconds before setting the U.S. half marathon record in his debut at that distance in January when he stopped the clocks in 59:43. Hall enjoyed another amazing debut performance when he posted the fastest debut marathon in U.S. history in April with his time of 2:08:24 in London.

Abdi Abdirahman: Two-time Olympian and three-time World Outdoor Championships team member in the 10,000 meters Abdi Abdirahman enters the Olympic Trials looking to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team as a marathoner. A resident of Tucson, Ariz., Abdirahman placed fifth at the 2005 ING New York City Marathon in 2:11:24, but gained confidence in running the 26.2-mile distance with his 4th-place, personal-best performance of 2:08:56 at the 2006 Chicago Marathon.

Dan Browne: After qualifying for the 2004 Olympic Team in the 10,000m and the marathon, Dan Browne of Portland, Ore., has since been hampered by two knee surgeries and an emergency appendectomy. A tough competitor who is back in the mix, Browne won U.S. road race titles in September of this year at 20 km (59:19) in New Haven, Ct., and 5 km (13:47) in Providence, R.I. He posted his marathon PR of 2:11:35 in 2002.

Dathan Ritzenhein: Although he's only completed one marathon in his career, Dathan Ritzenhein of Eugene, Ore, is familiar with running in New York. "Ritz" looked impressive in running close to the lead group for 22 miles at the 2006 ING New York City Marathon before dropping to an 11th place finish in 2:14:01. A 2004 Olympian at 10,000m, Ritzenhein owns a number of U.S. cross country titles and was the winner in May of the 2007 Healthy Kidney 10K in Central Park, where he set the course record of 20 minutes, 8 seconds.

Other contenders in the field include 2003 USA champion Ryan Shay (Flagstaff, Ariz.), 2006 Boston Marathon fourth-place finisher Brian Sell (Rochester Hills, Mich.) and American record holder Khalid Khannouchi (Ossining, N.Y.)

About the race

The U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon will start in front of the famed Rockefeller Center on 50th Street near Fifth Avenue, with St. Patrick's Cathedral as the backdrop. Athletes will run past renowned New York City locations, including Radio City Music Hall, Times Square, and Carnegie Hall, and will enter Central Park at Seventh Avenue. From there, athletes will begin the course's criterium loops: one four-mile circuit followed by four identical five-mile circuits, and will finish on the park's west side at Tavern on the Green.

A media package featuring national broadcast coverage and live web streaming will bring the Olympic Trials Marathon action to marathon fans for the first time since 1996. The start will be shown live nationally on NBC's "Today Show" beginning at 7:35am and the race will be streamed in its entirety via the Web at www.NBCSports.com. In addition, a 30-minute highlight show will be broadcast nationally on NBC on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. EST.

Athletes in the Olympic Trials will be competing for $250,000 in prize money with $60,000 going to the champion. Included in the prize funds provided by NYRR will be an additional $20,000 training stipend (payable post-Beijing) for each of the three athletes who compete in the Olympic Games.

About USA Track & Field

USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world's oldest organized sports, the most-watched events of Olympic broadcasts, the #1 high school and junior high school participatory sport and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States.

USATF is a volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization with a staff of professional program administrators at the National Office in Indianapolis. The mission of USATF is to foster sustained competitive excellence, interest, and participation in the sports of track & field, long distance running, and race walking. For more information, visit www.usatf.org.

About New York Road Runners

New York Road Runners, soon to celebrate its 50th anniversary, is dedicated to promoting the sport of distance running, enhancing health and fitness for all, and responding to community needs. Our road races and other fitness programs draw upwards of 300,000 runners annually, and together with our magazine and website support and promote professional and recreational running. A staff of more than 100, assisted by thousands of volunteers, stages the ING New York City Marathon, as well as a road race nearly every weekend plus many track and cross country events. NYRR's home base in New York, and its lifelong identification with Central Park, have given many of its events iconic status, attracting the world's top professional runners. Our youth programs provide running to 30,000 schoolchildren in New York City and around the country who would otherwise have few or no fitness opportunities. For more information, visit www.nyrr.org.

For more information on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials-Men's Marathon, visit http://www.usatf.org/events/2008/OlympicTrials-Marathon-Men/