2024 US Olympic Trials Marathon

Fiona O'Keeffe Debuts With Win In Women's U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon

Fiona O'Keeffe Debuts With Win In Women's U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon

Fiona O'Keeffe made a spectacular marathon debut, winning the U.S. Olympic Trials women's race while Emily Sisson and Dakotah Lindwurm qualified for Paris.

Feb 3, 2024 by Joe Battaglia
Fiona O'Keeffe Debuts With Win In Women's U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon

Fiona O'Keeffe made the most spectacular marathon debut a runner could hope for -- earning a victory, a record and an Olympic berth.

The 25-year-old emerged from perhaps the deepest group of contenders ever to win the women's race at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, running a race-record 2:22:10 in Orlando. 

Emily Sisson, the American record holder at the distance, finished second in 2:22:42 and Dakotah Lindwurm placed third in 2:25:31to round out the team headed to the Paris Games.

For O'Keefe this performance was part revelation, part continuation of a brilliant emergence. She made her half-marathon debut two years ago in Houston in 67:42, which was the fastest American debut in history until Weini Kelati lowered that last month.

She led a pack of 13 contenders through the half marathon and then broke them seemingly effortlessly with each passing mile. By the 17 mile point, she was the clear leader and a mile and a half later she had gapped Sisson by five seconds. At the 20 mile mark, O'Keeffe had built an 11 second lead with confidence and poise that was apparently not going to fade.

O'Keefe's time obliterated the Olympic Trials women's marathon record of 2:25:38 set by Shalane Flanagan in Houston in 2012.

Sisson ran within herself throughout the race. While pre-race expectations, based on her blazing performances leading up to the Trials, may have been for her to be the front runner, she settled into a secure qualifying position and got to the finish line with her spot on the team locked.

For O'Keeffe and Sisson, their performances represent the culmination of a build back from disappointment.

O'Keeffe finished sixth in the 5000m at the 2022 USA Outdoor Championships, then missed USA Outdoors in 2023 due to an ankle infection that ultimately required surgery. Four years ago, Sisson entered the Olympic Trials marathon as one of the favorites, but was forced to drop out of the race in Atlanta and afterward said the course "destroyed" her legs.

Lindwurm is arguably a bigger surprise qualifier for that Games than O'Keeffe. 

The 28-year-old, a walk-on for Division 2 Northern State University in South Dakota, put herself in the lead group and ground out the miles. When things strung out late, she confidently battled for the third spot. Between Miles 20 and 21 she was able to overtake Betsy Saina, Sara Hall and Emily Durgin to move into fourth place. Over the next mile, she passed Caroline Rotich and was able to hold her position.

Jessica McClain climbed from eighth to fourth over the last two miles and finished in 2:25:46.

Hall, who was racing in her eight Olympic Trials between the track and roads, placed fifth in 2:26:06. Rotich was sixth in 2:26:10.

Des Linden, who was trying to make a third Olympic team at age 40, finished 11th in 2:28:04.

Keira D’Amato, among the pre-race favorites, was forced to drop out of the race around the 20-mile mark.

Jenny Simpson, who was also making her marathon debut, was forced to drop out of the race.

For complete results from the race, click here.

The Paris Olympic marathon is scheduled for August 11, and will follow a historic course.