Stanford runners have a history in the Olympic marathon. In 1976, Don Kardong (Class of '71) closed within steps of Belgium's Karel Lismont, but just short of a bronze medal in Montreal. Though, in retrospect, indications of doping from East German winner Waldemar Cierpinski suggest that Kardong indeed deserved a medal.
In 2008, Ryan Hall ('05) shrewdly improved from 21st place to 10th over 26.2 miles on the streets of Beijing, finishing second among Americans. However, his attempt to better that place in London in 2012 ended midway through the race with a hamstring injury.
Hall's recent retirement caught many by surprise. Because of his status as the fastest American of all-time, even his lack of notable performances in recent years didn't prevent him from being considered a contender for a third Olympic berth.
Instead, the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles will go on without him on Saturday, but not without 10 Stanford alumni, who will compete for passage to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Games.
The men's 26.2-mile race gets under way at 10:06 a.m., and includes Stanford alums Brett Gotcher ('06), Brendan Gregg ('11), Kevin Havel ('12) and Jacob Riley ('11). The women's race starts at 10:22 a.m., and includes ex-Stanford runners Stephanie Marcy Dinius ('11), Madeline Duohn ('11), Shaluinn Fullove ('00), Sara (Bei) Hall ('05), Heather Tanner ('01) and Teresa McWalters ('07).
The course features 2.2 miles through downtown LA, followed by four six-mile loops from the Los Angeles Convention Center around Exposition Park. The top three finishers in each race qualify for the Summer Olympics. From the $300,000 in total prize money, each winner gets $80,000. The event will be televised by NBC.
Gotcher ran the 2010 Houston Marathon in 2:10:36, the fourth-fastest debut marathon in U.S. history. Since then, Gotcher has been trying to chase that time, and fulfill what he feels is his greater potential. He was fifth at the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon and appears fit heading into Saturday's race.
Gotcher grew up on the Santa Cruz County coast in Watsonville, starred at Aptos High, and still lives in the area in the small community of La Selva Beach. Gotcher, a psychology major, was at Stanford during a period of transition, training under three coaches in five years. He placed 12th in the 10,000 meters at the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Championships, and was among the Cardinal's top five on a fourth-place team (2006) and a pair of sixth-place teams at the NCAA cross-country championships. Gotcher, 31, is coached by Greg McMillan.
A three-time All-America at Stanford, Gregg is flourishing with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, based in Rochester, Minn., setting personal records in the 5,000, 10,000, and marathon in the past two years. Gregg had a best NCAA finish at Stanford of 13th in the 2012 NCAA outdoor 5,000 and ran on Stanford's third-place cross-country team in 2008.
The Davis native majored in human biology at Stanford. In 2014, he was seventh in the U.S. Championships in the 10,000 and earned a No. 8 spot on Track & Field News annual U.S. rankings in that event.
Havel qualified for the trials on Jan. 17 with a time of 1:04:27 at the Houston Half Marathon. A native of Arlington Heights, Ill., Havel represents New Balance Chicago. A management science and engineering major, Havel competed in three years of track at Stanford and was a two-time conference All-Academic selection. His best conference finishes were a pair of ninth places in the 10,000, in the Pac-10 and Pac-12 meets in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Havel has persevered to reach an elite level, winning the 2013 Orange County Marathon among other accomplishments.
An eight-time All-America at Stanford, Riley has been an integral part of the U.S. distance scene, winning the 2012 U.S. Club Cross Country Championships and annually competing in the top U.S. races on the track and in cross country. Riley had a strong 2014, earning top-10 U.S. rankings by Track & Field News in the marathon (No. 8) and 10,000 (No. 10). His year was highlighted by an 11-place finish at the ultra-competitive Chicago Marathon, running his personal best 2:13.16.
Riley finished sixth at the 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championships and teamed with Chris Derrick and Elliott Heath for a 1-2-3 Pac-10 finish and team title the same season. He also finished third and fifth in the NCAA 10,000 in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The Bellingham, Wash., native runs for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project in Rochester, Minn.
A five-time All-America at Stanford, the former Stephanie Marcy will be making her marathon debut at the Trials. Dinius qualified by running a 1:13:28 at the 2014 U.S. Half Marathon Championships and followed with a victory at the Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon last month. Dinius missed the 2012 Olympic trials in the 10,000 with a torn labrum in her hip that caused her to miss nearly six months of training.
A native of Sequim, on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, Dinius was a classics major at Stanford. Among her collegiate highlights, Dinius won the 2011 Pac-10 title in the 10,000, and had three top-10 NCAA track finishes, with a best of sixth in the 10,000 in 2011. Dinius, who is coached by former Stanford cross country coach Dena Evans, now runs for Brooks and is a graduate student at Boston University.
A 1,500 specialist at Stanford, Duhon qualified for the trials by running 2:40:10 to finish fifth at Sacramento's California International Marathon in December, beating the qualifying standard of 2:45:00. Duhon is a native of Houston who spent her high school years in the Netherlands before coming to Stanford and majoring in public policy. She won numerous scholar-athlete honors and now lives in Somerville, Mass., and works as a research analyst for the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab and runs for the Boston Athletic Association. Duhon was a four-time Pac-10 1,500 finalist with a high finish of fifth in 2011. Her best time was 4:21.61.
Fullove, 38, qualified for the trials by finishing 11th at Sacramento's California International Marathon in a personal-best 2:41:57. Her accomplishments are even more impressive considering that she is a cancer survivor. In 2005, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, underwent a full thyroidectomy and radiation treatment, before taking additional time off. The Woodland Hills (Calif.) native majored in American studies and later earned her master's in management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Fullove was a middle distance specialist at Stanford, and won four Pac-10 and one NCAA team titles. She lives in Palo Alto, is the cross country coach at Castilleja School.
The former Sara Bei, 32, continues to excel and reinvent herself. She's been a miler, a national champion in cross country and came closest to making the Olympics as a steeplechaser. She didn't attempt her first marathon until March and it didn't go well, struggling in hot temperatures in Los Angeles. However, she ran a 2:31:14 to finish 10th at Chicago in October shortly after adopting four girls from Ethiopia. Next, she will run her third marathon in less than a year.
Hall, a six-time All-American, was a four-time NCAA track runner-up. She was a two-time Pac-10 cross country champ, Stanford's No. 1 runner on the 2003 NCAA champion cross country team, and a two-time qualifier for the World Cross Country Championships, including last spring when she finished as the top American. Hall's husband, Ryan, has retired, but Sara will attempt to give the family its third consecutive Olympic berth. Hall, who runs for Asics, is a native of Santa Rosa and lives in Redding.
A graduate transfer from North Carolina, Tanner competed for Stanford in 2001 while studying epidemiology. Tanner, a native of Huntsville, Ala., earned All-America honors in the 10,000 for UNC in 2000, finishing 10th at NCAA's. She went on to compete for the Stanford-based Farm Team and made the U.S. squad for the World Half Marathon Championships in 2004. She qualified for the trials by running a personal-best 2:42:19 to finish ninth at the 2014 Houston Marathon, Now 37, Tanner lives in Menlo Park and works in the medical device field. She is running in her fourth Olympic trials marathon.
McWalters is a five-time All-American who grew up in San Francisco where she was home-schooled through high school. Her early training came with the Impala Racing Team for women and she continues to run with the Impalas. At Stanford, McWalters earned three top-5 NCAA individual finishes, with a best of third in the 2005 NCAA outdoor 5,000. She was the 2007 Pac-10 champ in the 10,000.