San Diego’s Meb Keflezighi, three months shy of 41, took second to rookie marathoner Galen Rupp to qualify for his fourth Olympic Games.
Joining him at the Rio de Janeiro Games in August will be Chula Vista-born Desiree “Desi” Linden, who took second to Amy Cragg in the women’s race up and down Figueroa Street in Los Angeles.
Linden, 32, starred all four years at Hilltop High School and now lives in Michigan.
Cragg broke away from training partner Shalane Flanagan to win in 2:28:20 — four years after failing to make the team by one spot. Linden was runner-up in 2:28:54, ahead of Flanagan’s 2:29:19.
Rupp, who broke Keflezighi’s American record record for 10,000 meters on the track, won going away in 2 hours, 11 minutes, 12 seconds. Cheered by dozens of friends and family members, a flag-waving Meb finished in 2:12:20.
Unheralded Jared Ward, 27, of Provo, Utah, the 12th seed, claimed the third Olympic spot in 2:13:00, and fourth place went to Luke Puskedra, 26, of Eugene, Oregon, who can hold out hope of making the Rio team if Rupp opts for other races after the July track and field trials in Eugene.
The Rio de Janeiro Games will contest the men’s marathon on its last day (Aug. 21) and the women’s race on Aug. 14.
Keflezighi surprised the world by winning the 2014 Boston Marathon — a year after the bombing tragedy. His status as a favorite post-40 was equally stunning. The oldest American Olympian in the marathon previously was William Churchill, who was 38 when he ran in the 1924 Paris Games.
Former Grossmont College coach Bob Larsen, longtime coach of the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, told Runner’s World: “I keep telling people that I am too old to coach (at 77) and he is too old to run. But somehow we muddle through.”
Keflezighi wasn’t the only San Diego County men’s runner with dreams. Also entered were Ethan Shaw, 25, of San Diego, with a qualifying time of 2 hours, 17 minutes, 26 seconds.
On the women’s side, the county was represented by Claire Rethmeier, 29, of Carlsbad (2:42:31 qualifying time); Sabina Piras, 26, of San Diego (2:43:23); and Bonnie Keating, 31, of Imperial Beach (2:44:05).
But Linden, 32, of Washington Township, Michigan, was the second-fastest qualifier behind fellow Olympian Flanagan.
Linden graduated from Hilltop in 2001 after being a CIF state meet finalist in the 800, 1500 or 3200 during her four years. Her hobbies includes collecting whiskey and tapestries.
Saturday’s marathon had challenging temperatures — mid 70s by the finish. But little wind impeded the runners.
The race, thanks to television needs, began at 10:06 a.m. for men and 10:22 for women and was televised live by NBC.
In 2004, Keflezighi became the first American man to win an Olympic medal in the marathon since Frank Shorter in 1976. Keflezighi finished fourth in the 2012 Olympic marathon, the highest finish by an American since his third-place performance in 2004.
The race began at Gilbert Lindsay Plaza, in front of the Los Angeles Convention Center, then started a 2.2-mile loop which took runners north, mainly on Flower Street, to between Fifth and Sixth streets, then back south to Gilbert Lindsay Plaza for the first of four runs on a six-mile loop.
The six-mile loop took the field south on Figueroa Street to USC, where it passed the Tommy Trojan statue.
The runners then headed into Exposition Park, passing the Rose Garden, California Science Center and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, before returning to Figueroa bound for 11th Street, in front of Staples Center.
The runners completed the six-mile loop four times. The race concluded at Gilbert Lindsay Plaza.
This was the first time the U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials were held in Los Angeles, which was awarded the race by USA Track & Field, the sport’s national governing body, over Cincinnati and Houston in 2014.
The 2016 Summer Olympic marathons in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will be run on a course with a loop being run multiple times and “we wanted to create something similar,” said Tracey Russell, the CEO of Conqur Endurance Group, the trials’ local organizing committee.
The course benefits runners “who are tactical on the turns” and “know how to run the race tactically,” Russell said.
The marathons in London’s 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials, held in Houston, were also run on courses with a loop being run multiple times.
The race had a record purse of $600,000, with equal prize money for men and women. The top 10 finishers among both the men and women received prize money.
The winners each received $80,000, runners-up $65,000 and 10th-place finishers $7,000.
— City News Service contributed to this report.