Chula Vista native Desiree “Des” Linden, runner-up in the 2016 Olympic marathon trials in Los Angeles, later took seventh in the Rio Games. Photo by Ken Stone

Desiree “Des” Linden of Chula Vista is being tapped as a favorite at the U.S. Olympic Trials Saturday when she competes in the marathon, seeking a ticket to the Tokyo Games.

The 2001 Hilltop High School graduate, now 36, joins at least 13 other runners with San Diego County connections at the Atlanta race starting at 9 a.m. Pacific.

Linden’s most famous 26.2-mile finish was at Boston on 2018, when she won in 2 hours, 39 minutes, 55 seconds amid cold, wet weather. She boasts a best of 2:22:38.

At least six San Diego watch parties are planned — at Milestone Running in Pacific Beach, Kinetik Performance Co., Road Runner Sports, Just Run in Del Sur, Redline Athletics in 4s Ranch and Fleet Feet San Diego.

Linden is forecast to finish in the top three by Letsrun.co, columnist Jonathan Gault, who wrote: “I’m picking Linden because her consistency has earned her ‘Meb’ status at this point: keep picking her until she proves you wrong.”

Meb is a reference to Olympic medalist and fellow Boston winner Mebrahtom “Meb” Keflezighi, the San Diego High School grad who made the 2016 Olympic team at age 40.

“I’m not going to the Trials to have a good experience and have some fun,” Linden told Erin Strout of Women’s Running. “I’m going there to make a team.”

Four San Diego native or resident men will compete Saturday, but their chances of making the team are slim.

They are:

Besides Linden, nine other San Diego-connected women are entered:

  • Meriah Earle, 41, of Escondido and the San Diego Track Club (2:34:35, 50th)
  • Bonnie Keating, 35, of San Diego and SDSU graduate, who is a strength and conditioning coach at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego (2:40:12, 135th)
  • Mary Schneider, 32, of San Diego, a former trial attorney, whose race Saturday will be her fifth marathon in 14 months. (2:42:01, 211th)
  • Hilary Corno, 44, of Encinitas (2:42:13, 218th)
  • Elizabeth Ryan, 29, of San Diego, a doctoral student at UC San Diego, researching plant responses to climate change (2:42:37, 247th)
  • Kimberly Hicks, 42, of Vista, who attended Palomar College (2:42:42, 256th)
  • Erin Menefee, 27, of San Diego, an orthopedic physical therapist with Kaiser Permanente who had open heart surgery to correct a congenital defect in 2017.
  • Angela Moll, 42, of San Diego, a physician at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego married to a helicopter pilot with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (2:43:18, 307)
  • Marie (Schaper) Zanderson, 31, of Encinitas who attended UC San Diego (2:44:38, 458th)

On Letsrun.com, Gault added: “Linden has risen to the occasion time and again, and the challenging Atlanta course can only help her as Linden rarely makes tactical blunders and always paces herself well (see: 2016 Olympic Trials).

“But age catches up to us all at some point, and the competition at the 2020 Trials is deeper than ever. Can Linden’s experience carry her to a top-three finish on Saturday? If she does it, she’ll make history: no American woman has ever made three Olympic marathon teams.”