Utah marathoners left out of Olympics after grueling U.S. trials

Competitors start the men's U.S. Olympic marathon trials, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Atlanta • BYU statistics teacher Jared Ward won’t be racing at the Olympics again this year. But don’t count the marathoner out for 2024, when at age 35, he might just be entering his prime.

Led by 2016 bronze medalist Galen Rupp, the top three men in the U.S. Olympic marathon trials Saturday — those who secured spots in the race in Tokyo this August — are ages 33, 32 and 43, respectively. They represent the first U.S. Olympic marathon squad with no men under age 30 since 1952, according to NBC Sports’ Nick Zaccardi.

Rupp reclaimed his status as the nation’s top distance runner by winning his second straight U.S. Olympic marathon trials. He was all alone as he crossed the finish line, almost 43 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Jacob Riley. Abdi Abdirahman placed third to qualify for his fifth Olympics and his third at the marathon distance.

“It’s incredible, I feel relief almost more than anything,” Rupp said.

No runner with close ties to Utah will represent the U.S. this summer in the men’s or women’s race. Sarah Sellers, who captured headlines and hearts in 2018 when she finished second at the Boston Marathon after training between her shifts as a nurse, fared the best. The former Weber State runner placed 11th in the women’s race in 2 hours, 31 minutes, 48 seconds. That put her about four minutes behind winner Alaphine Tuliamuk (2:27:23), age 30. Molly Seidel (2:27:31), 25, placed second and Sally Kipyego (2:28:52), 34, took third to round out the Olympic team.

Two other former Weber State athletes also finished in the top 50: Taylor Ward (29th, 2:38:11) and Lindsey Anderson (2:39:17). BYU’s Reyna Elmer (2:41:22) placed 53rd.

FILE - In this April 15, 2019, file photo, Jared Ward, center, of Mapleton, Utah, leads the pack in front as they run the course during the 123rd Boston Marathon in Natick, Mass. Footwear will be a the forefront at the U.S. Olympic marathon trials this weekend in Atlanta. No matter what time the marathoners turn in or how well they run, the they know their shoes will be the real headliner.(AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Products of the BYU men’s track and cross country program dominated among Utah-based entries but didn’t fare so well against the rest of the field. Nico Montez (2:15:02) led the way in 20th, followed by Conner McMillan and Ward, who crossed together in 26th and 27th in 2:15:55. The time was more than a six-minute drop off his qualifying time for Ward, who entered as one of the favorites after placing third at the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials and sixth at the Rio Olympics later that year.

BYU’s Danny Carney and Clayton Young both qualified via half marathons and blew away their seedings of 257 and 258 in the men’s field. They placed 77th and 136th respectively. Jason Lynch of UVU and Anthony Costales of Salt Lake City also finished within the top 100, taking 65th and 92nd.

Brisk winds made the temperature of 48 degrees for the start of the race feel more like 41. The chilly day was ideal for distance runners, but the city’s 26.2-mile course, with combined uphill climbs of 1,389 feet, posed a challenge.

Rupp qualified for his fourth Olympics with a winning time of 2:09:20. The 33-year-old runner won the bronze medal in the marathon at the 2016 Rio Games.

Rupp became only the second man, after Frank Shorter in 1972 and 1976, to win two U.S. trials. Shorter tied for the 1972 win with Kenny Moore.

Rupp completed his successful comeback from heel surgery. He earned the win with his new coach, Mike Smith, after his former coach, Alberto Salazar, drew a four-year doping ban in 2019.

Riley is a first-time Olympian.

Abdirahman, 43, became a five-time Olympian and the oldest man to make the U.S. marathon team. He finished third in the 2012 trials but missed the 2016 trials with a calf injury.

Runners competing for spots on the U.S. team dealt with uncertainty about the Olympics. IOC member Dick Pound said this week there is a window of two to three months to decide if conditions are too dangerous to hold the Olympics in Tokyo. Pound said if the coronavirus outbreak poses a threat too great to hold the Olympics in Tokyo, the games likely would be canceled instead of postponed or moved.

The Olympic marathon is to be staged in Sapporo, more than 500 miles from Tokyo. The event was moved to protect the runners from the heat in Tokyo.

Heat was no issue Saturday.

Brian Shrader set the men's pace for much of the first half of the race but dropped out soon after he was passed by Rupp and others on the 16th mile.

More than 700 runners qualified for the trials. The women's field was twice as large as in 2016, when Amy Cragg was the winner. Cragg withdrew last week because of illness. Parker Stinson withdrew from the men's field because of injuries.

The course took the runners past the Olympic cauldron used for the Atlanta Games. The cauldron was lit on Saturday for the first time since boxing great Muhammad Ali lowered the torch during the opening ceremony in 1996.

— Tribune reporter Julie Jag contributed to this story



Place, Name, Local association, Time

11. Sarah Sellers, Weber St., 2:31:48

29. Taylor Ward, Weber St., 2:38:11

38. Lindsey Anderson, Weber St., 2:39:17

53. Rena Elmer, BYU, 2:40:15

102. Phebe Ko, East High, 2:44:23

172. Sylvia Bedford, SUU, 2:47:53

341. Amber Green, St. George, 2:58:07

344. MerriLee Blackham, SUU, 2:58:46


Place, name, local association, time

20. Nico Montanez, BYU, 2:15:02

26. Connor McMillan, BYU, 2:15:55

27. Jared Ward, BYU, 2:15:55

65. Jason Lynch, UVU, 2:21:03

77. Danny Carney, BYU, 2:22:22 257

92. Anthony Costales, Salt Lake City, 2:24:21

136. Clayton Young, BYU, 2:29:46 258

158. Bryant Jensen, Weber St., 2:34:46