Mayor Jo Bacon, left, presents Meb Keflezighi with a proclamation congratulating him on his big win in the Marathon Olympics Trial. Photo/Jesse Barlet
Meb Keflezighi of the Mammoth Track Club won the U.S. National Marathon Olympic Trial Saturday in Houston, setting a personal record along the way.
But that alone was not enough for Mammoth itself.
The town turned out Tuesday evening for a “Welcome Home” party in the Village, put together at the last minute by John Urdi of the Mammoth Lakes Visitors Bureau.
Ryan Hall, a former Mammoth runner who split away from the Mammoth Track Club more than a year ago, placed second.
In addition, the Mammoth Track Club won a top award from distance running’s governing body. Even Mammoth attorney and town councilman Rick Wood got into the act, finishing first in his age group in the following day’s Houston Marathon.
“This was huge news [for Mammoth at the] 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston,” wrote Urdi in an email from Texas on Saturday evening.
On the women’s side, Amy Hastings and Deena Kastor of the Mammoth Track Club finished fourth and sixth, respectively. With only three spots available to qualify for the team, both finished just barely out of the money.
“I gave everything I had to make this Olympic team and fell short of reaching this goal,” said Kastor on Facebook.
“Thanks to the organizing committee, all the spectators and volunteers who made it a Trials to remember for so many.”
Shalane Flanagan, an Oregon runner who trained in Mammoth last summer, broke free of her final challenger, Desiree Davila, and won the women’s race.
Flanagan, a native of Marblehead, Mass., finished in 2:25:38 to earn a third trip to the Olympics. She won a bronze medal in Beijing in 2008 in the 10,000 meters after running the 5,000 meters in Athens in 2004.
The 30-year-old Flanagan’s winning time was more than three minutes quicker than her previous personal best, a 2:28:40 in her debut marathon in New York in 2010. Flanagan, Davila (2:25:55) and third-place finisher Kara Goucher (2:26:06) will represent the U.S. in the marathon in London on Aug. 5.
All three women ran faster than the previous record—Colleen De Reuck’s 2:28:25 in 2004.
Kastor ran with the lead pack most of the way but fell back near the end.
With the victories, both Keflezighi and Hall made the three-man U.S. Olympic Team Men’s team that will represent the U.S. this summer at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Keflezighi, 36, covered the course in 2:09:08. At 36, he is the oldest Men’s Olympic Trial Marathon champion. He will be 37 at the Olympics.
“I am incredibly excited and proud to be representing the United States in London next summer,” said Keflezighi. “And to come in first while setting a new personal record at the Trials is icing on the cake. New York was only 69 days ago and in that short time I did what I could to maintain focus on today’s race while training at high altitudes.”
Afterward, Keflezighi celebrated, in his way, until finally arriving back in his hotel room after midnight.
“I just got back to my room after a delicious home-cooked meal and fun with my parents, Yordanos and the kids,” he tweeted.
A resident of Mammoth and a former UCLA distance champion, Keflezighi set a personal best Saturday. He won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Hall, a fixture in the Mammoth running scene, won the 2008 Olympic trial in a record 2:09:02.
Placing third on Saturday was Olympic veteran Abdi Abdirahman.
Among other notable Mammoth Track Club athletes, Josh Cox placed 14th, Patrick Smyth 22nd and Jen Rhines 64th.
“This is huge news for us and we need to celebrate it,” Urdi said in an email. “Meb is the oldest man, at 36, to ever win the Olympic Marathon Trials and with him winning Silver in Athens, he will surely be a human interest story as we approach the Olympics in London this summer.”
By finishing fourth among the women, Hastings became the alternate, should any of the top three falter or choose not to go.
Said Urdi after the race: “After speaking with the women’s distance coach for the Olympics, she thinks there is a very good chance one of the other women in the top three will choose to compete in another event (10,000 meters), leaving a spot for Amy on the women’s Olympic Marathon team. We won’t know about this until after the track trials in Eugene at the end of June, but it looks promising.”
Meanwhile, the Mammoth Track Club won the Allan Steinfeld Development Award.
The development award was named after Allan Steinfeld, a long-time leader in the sport, who jump-started the U.S. distance running resurgence (when as head of the New York Road Runners) allocated $20,000 seed money ($1 per U.S. entry at the 2000 New York City Marathon) for the development program Team USA Distance Running.
The team, launched in November 2000, produced training groups such as Team Running USA (two Olympic medals in 2004 and major marathon wins) and Team USA Minnesota (winner of the inaugural development award), among others.
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