Kastor rallies to win U.S. Olympic...

Kastor rallies to win U.S. Olympic...

Kastor rallies to win U.S. Olympic...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Kastor rallies to win U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Women's Marathon

BOSTON - A nearly insurmountable deficit could not deter American record holder Deena Kastor as she led fellow Californians Magdalena Lewy Boulet and Blake Russell onto the Olympic Team, Sunday at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Women's Marathon.

With her American record personal best of 2:19:36 making her 12 minutes faster than the next-fastest Olympic Trials entrant, Kastor (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) was a heavy favorite coming into Sunday's race. But Lewy Boulet (Oakland, Calif.) ran far ahead of the pack for the first half of the race. Her lead at 14 miles was 1:55, but Kastor at that point truly began to pursue Lewy Boulet. A strong second half is what gave Kastor, also the American record holder at 10,000m and a two-time World Cross Country silver medalist, the Olympic bronze, and she again demonstrated strength and patience in Boston.

The 35-year-old Kastor began running mile splits of 5:30 to 5:34, quickly eating up Lewy Boulet's lead. When the Olympic bronze medalist strode past Lewy Boulet 2:14:50 into the race, she increased her pace even further, to 5:29 per mile, as she added an Olympic Trials marathon title to her storied resume by crossing the finish line in 2:29:35.

Lewy Boulet, 34, made her first Olympic Team, finishing second in a personal-best time of 2:30:19. The native of Poland and mother to a nearly 3-year-old boy, Lewy Boulet's time improved on her personal best of 2:30:50, which she ran in placing fifth at the 2004 Olympic Trials in St. Louis.

It was those 2004 Olympic Trials that had been bitter for Russell. After leading through the first portion of the race, she had faded to the most bitter of finishes - fourth - to miss an Olympic berth by one place. Sunday in Boston, Russell ran in third nearly the entire race. At 20 miles, she appeared to be laboring a bit but she easily held on for third in 2:32:40. Zoila Gomez (Alamosa, Colo.) was fourth in 2:33:53, with Tera Moody (Boulder, Colo.) fifth in 2:33:54.

14 miles of chasing

Lewy Boulet immediately took the lead as the race began, and by 25 minutes unto the race led by more than a minute. Between the fifth and sixth miles, the chase back began to thin out, led by Mary Akor, Kastor and Blake Russell.

Lewy Boulet passed six miles in 34:27 and led the pack by 1:05, and extended her advantage to 1:19 at 8 miles, which she passed in 45:49. She came through 14 miles at 1:19:43, with the pack, still led by Kastor, Russell and Akor, at 1:21:37.

Kastor began to quicken the chase pack's pace at that point as the race for the Olympic Team began in earnest. Kastor led a chase-pack 15th mile in 5:39, which cut into Lewy Boulet's lead by four seconds, and the Olympic medalist quickly and firmly put herself in second. She then began to set her sights on the victory. Kastor covered the 16th mile in 5:33 (1:32:48) and got another seven seconds closer to the leader (1:31:06).

During that same 16th mile, Russell, 32, took over third place, putting several seconds on Akor and remaining ahead of any other challenger. The position of the top three would not change, with Kastor reeling off mile splits in the 5:30s and Lewy Boulet and Russell holding steady.

At age 50, 1984 Olympic Trials champion and Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson finished 90th in 2:49:08, crossing the finish line in a Boston Red Sox cap. It was an American record for the women's 50-54 age group.

Enriching race

Athletes won a total prize-money purse of $220,000 at the Olympic Trials, hosted by the BAA. Kastor won $50,000, while Lewy Boulet took home $40,000; Russell $30,000; Gomez $20,000; and Moody $15,000. Prize money continued through $1500 for 15th place.

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

Athlete quotes, 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Women's Marathon

Deena Kastor, 1st place - I accomplished my two major goals coming in to this race. First, to make the team, that was the most important thing, and secondly to win. Blake and Magdalena both gave me a run for my money today. They both looked so great. I thought for many miles I may have misjudged (Lewy Boulet). I wanted to feel as comfortable as possible the first half of the race. In the middle miles I thought I might have misjudged Magdalena's strength. I tried to pick up the pace and I kept hearing a minute forty (that she was 1:40 behind Lewy Boulet). I tried not to dip anything under 5:20 to 5:25 pace (per mile) because I wanted to make sure I was staying in the right energy zones. The gap started shortening a bit. That fueled my fire and I started to gain confidence again going into the last loop. It was the second half of the last lap that I thought I could win the race... I think we can all attest to the crowds being amazing today. We were all inspired by it. The BAA put on a great show for us today.

The moment I was getting ready to pull into the lead I was getting ready to fulfill the second half of my dream for this race. I was maybe succumbing to second place in the middle of the race, but then rallying. My coach gave me some great advice coming into this race, as he always does. He told me right before the Chicago Marathon, he said to define myself. Today he said to draw on the strength of my teammates, and I did that today. My Running USA team in Mammoth Lakes together has, collectively all the strength in the world. Individually sometimes we have to help each other. The exhilaration of moving into the lead is what gets you to the finish line. It's exhilarating.

Magdalena Lewy Boulet, 2nd place - Just going into the race I knew that I had to stick to about 5:40s (mile pace), coming through 1:15 through the half and trying to duplicate the second half about the same. I had no idea that I was going to be by myself, but it worked this time. I was definitely a little bit uncomfortable, especially the first and second mile, a bit surprised that I was out there by myself. But the crowd just kind of took me through it. Right before the race, my husband and my coach said the race is not going to come to me, I would have to go get it. And that's what I did. ... the gap was between 1:40 and 2:00, and for a moment I thought I was going to win the race. In the back of my mind, I knew Deena was coming. That's the beauty of a criterium course is you can see where everyone is. Going into the fourth loop, I knew I had enough strength to maintain (the make the team). My pace slowed from 5:30s to some 5:50s. When she passed me I jumped in behind her to help pull me along and I ran 5:40. At that time I knew I had made the team.

I left Poland when I was about 16 and lived in Germany for three years. My parents left for political reasons. My country was still communist. We had relatives in Germany came here in 1991. (Lewy Boulet was sworn in as a U.S. citizen on 9/11/2001). I can't even explain how exciting this is. I've been working so hard toward it. Coming from a different country and having the opportunity to do whatever I wanted to do is amazing... Having my son three years ago has been probably the best thing that has ever been to me. He is an inspiration and I want to make him proud. Every mile I run is so one day he can look at me and be proud of me.

Blake Russell, 3rd place - Right now I don't think it's really sunk in. It's something that after the disaster in 2004 (placing fourth at the Olympic Trials), my coach and I said we've got to set up a plan to get me to this spot right here. I think later on tonight it's going to hit me but right now it seems surreal. I just couldn't be happier. It's funny, this is the team I picked going into it. ... (at 20 miles) I was hoping I wasn't in trouble. I knew she (Desiree Davila) was gaining a little bit and I thought she was really strong. I learned from 2004 that a lot can happen those last couple of miles, so I was telling myself to stay relaxed and not to panic. Then I threw in a couple of good miles to open it up a little bit more. I knew I just had to maintain it. They gave me a run for my money and I couldn't let up at all.

My race plan going into it was to sit through at least 17 miles, but if somebody went I was going to go with then. I totally respect Magdalena, but it didn't look like it was her. [She didn't realize it was Lewy Boulet in the lead]. If I had recognized her, I probably would have gone with her. She usually is in a ponytail, so I didn't recognize the braid.

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