Hall puts on stunning display, wins Olympic Trials in men's marathon

11-03-2007

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Jill Geer
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NEW YORK - All the chatter about the resurgence of American distance running came to fruition in powerful fashion Saturday, with Ryan Hall leading Dathan Ritzenhein and Brian Sell onto the 2008 Olympic Team. Competing at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon in Central Park, Hall tamed what had been thought of as a slow and very difficult course, breaking the Olympic Trials record with his winning time of 2:09:02. Ritzenhein was second in a personal-best time of 2:11:07, with Sell third in 2:11:40.

A 25-year-old Californian, Hall has been looked to as a future star since he was in high school, and in 2007 he broke the American record in the half-marathon (59:43) and posted the fastest American debut marathon in history in placing eighth at the Flora London Marathon (2:08:24).

But Hall on Saturday served notice to the world that he is not just a star of American distance running, he has the capacity to be a major player on the global scene. After leisurely opening miles in which the main pack came through 2 miles in 11:00, the pack finally caught up with earlier leader Michael Wardian at 7 miles, after a 5:19 mile split. From that point on, however, the hammer was down, and Hall made it look frighteningly easy.

In the lead

A lead pack of Hall, Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi, Ritzenhein, two-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman and, for a short time, 2006 USA marathon champ Fasil Bizuneh then began to click off sub-5:00 miles. After the 7-mile mark, mile splits were 4:56, 4:54 and 4:45 as Hall, Meb, Abdi, Ritz and Dan Browne came through 10 miles as the leaders in 51:04. 2004 Olympic Trials champion Alan Culpepper led the chase back, but he was to drop out a few miles later.

After a 4:55 11th mile, American record holder Khalid Khannouchi left the chase pack to take off after the leaders, but he never was to close the gap. After a 12th mile in 4:59, Hall began to up the pace. At the 20km mark, passed in 1:03:02, Hall doffed the cap he had been wearing for warmth on this cool, overcast day, and he began his stunning display of what looked like an easy run in the park.

Hall tamed a Central Park course that has virtually no flat stretch and is a constant stream of bends and curves. His mile splits tell the story once he left the pack. Starting with the 13th mile, they were 4:44, 4:53, 4:53, 4:59, 4:56, 4:32, 4:41, 4:34, 4:40, 4:51, 4:42, 4:52, 4:47 and 4:49, before he crossed the finish line in 2:09:02. He ran the first half of the race in 1:06:17 and the second half in 1:02:45.

The race for third

The race for second also was fairly quickly resolved after the break. A 2004 Olympian at 10,000m with just one marathon under his belt, 24-year-old Dathan Ritzenhein ran with Hall when he started to move at 13 miles. At 25km, just past 15 miles, Browne briefly took the lead. By 17 miles it was Hall's race as he strode effortlessly through the 5-loop course. Rizenhein separated himself from Browne and moved permanently into second, leaving Browne and Keflezighi in an apparent battle for the coveted third spot.

Therein lay the drama. Keflezighi began to drop back, leaving Browne, a 2004 Olympian in the marathon and 10,000m, apparently alone and in control of third. But 1:42:05 into the race, Browne suddenly pulled up with an apparent calf cramp and stopped very briefly to stretch his leg. A little more than a minute later, Sell starting making his climb into third.

Sell was 40 seconds back of Browne, then 17, and then 15 seconds back, all in short order. The 2007 USA 25 km champion, 29-year-old Sell passed Browne 1:51:45 into the race, with Khannouchi also moving closer to the front.

Ritzenhein crossed the finish line second in a personal-best time of 2:11:06, followed by Sell in 2:11:40. Having boldly taken the lead at the 2004 Olympic Trials only to fall out of contention, Sell has always been known for his tenacity and guts. On Saturday, he also became known for making the 2008 Olympic Team.

Deep field

Khannouchi finished fourth in 2:12:33, with Jason Lehmkuhle 5th in 2:12:54PR, Browne sixth in 2:13:23, Nathaniel Jenkins seventh in 2:14:56PR, and Keflezighi eighth in 2:15:09. Josh Rohatinsky was ninth in his marathon debut in 2:15:22, with Jason Hartmann 10th in 2:15:27PR. It was the deepest top 10 in the Olympic Trials since 1980 and also the most sub-2:20 performances (39) in the race since 1980.

Shortly after the conclusion of the race, officials confirmed that 5-time USA road champion Ryan Shay, who collapsed shortly after the 5-mile mark, had died. For more information on Shay's tragic death, visit http://www.usatf.org/news/view.aspx?duid=USATF_2007_11_03_08_38_06

For complete race coverage of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon, including full results and athlete quotes, visit www.usatf.org