Women's Olympic Marathon Trials Preview: Shalane, Desi Co-Favorites

The 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are fast approaching, and three women will soon earn spots to compete for Team USA on the biggest stage in running, the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. After careful consideration, six members of the FloTrack staff took a vote to determine our picks for the favorite, contenders, and dark horse set to toe the line in the women’s race. Check out our picks for the top contenders heading into the Trials this Saturday in Los Angeles.

The Favorite(s) 

The FloTrack staff votes were divided on the women's favorite heading into the race (three for Flanagan and three for Linden).

Shalane Flanagan

With the fastest time entered in the race and the most consistent running resume in the field, Shalane Flanagan stands as one of the favorites heading into the Trials this weekend. Her Trials qualifier of 2:21:14 from the 2014 Berlin Marathon stands as her personal best in the event, and was the precursor to a year that included a sixth-place finish in the 10K at the 2015 World Championships and an American record in the road 10K (31:03). Although she suffered a stress reaction following Worlds in Beijing last August, the two-time Olympian and 10K bronze medalist has shown time and time again that she has the guts and the will to make teams. 2016 should be no different. 

Desi Linden

A formidable opponent in any race, Desi Linden can always be counted on to shake things up when it comes to a competitive marathon. This weekend’s race will be the first step on her road to redemption at the Olympic Games.Linden finished second in the 2012 Trials to Flanagan, but unfortunately had to drop out of the Olympic Games due to injury. Four years later, Linden has built a consistent base of racing that has shown her strength heading into this championship. Her gutsy 2015 Boston Marathon performance proved just that when she assumed the lead eight miles into the race and maintained until mile 20, ultimately finishing fourth with a time of 2:25:39. It was her best finish at a major marathon since claiming runner-up at Boston in 2011. She also beat Flanagan handily by more than two minutes.

The Contenders

Amy Cragg

The third-fastest marathoner in the field, Amy Cragg will be returning to the Trials looking to improve upon her heart-breaking fourth-place finish at the 2012 Championships. Cragg showed her tenacity just a few months later when she returned to run the track Trials where she won the 10K and earned her spot on Team USA. Four years later, Cragg has notched a qualifier in the 2014 Chicago Marathon that tied her personal best of 2:27:03, and made a training move that could help push her even further towards top three — she moved to Portland to train with defending Trials champion Shalane Flanagan. The decision could potentially assist both athletes very well as former training partners Flanagan and Kara Goucher both managed to notch top three finishes at the 2012 Olympic Trials. 

Kara Goucher

Although Goucher’s qualifying time of 2:37 does not rank in the top list of contenders, the two-time Olympian and World bronze medalist should never be counted out when it comes to making a marathon team. A lot has happened since her third-place finish at the 2012 Marathon Trials. She switched sponsors, coaches, returned from injury, and all the while, Goucher has maintained her passion for the sport, even in low moments. 

In the last several months, fans have seen glimpses of her top 10 Olympic finish-self when she won two half marathons in a row in November and December, which showed that she is fit and healthy heading into Los Angeles. 

The Dark Horse

Serena Burla

Although Serena Burla has never made an Olympic team, the mother and cancer survivor showed just how competitive she can be in an international championship when she finished 10th at the 2015 World Championships last August. In hot, humid conditions on the streets of Beijing, Burla managed to finish top 10 in her first international championship and as the first American in the field. At the 2012 Trials, Burla was unable to finish the race and had to drop out at mile 18, but since her first Trials experience, Burla has posted a personal best of 2:28 in Amsterdam, won the 2014 USATF Half Marathon Championships, and finished top 10 at Worlds. With the fourth-fastest time entered in the field and recent championship experience on her resume, Burla is a definite threat for a top three finish on Saturday.

FloTrack’s Picks for Trials Top 3

Gordon Mack - 1. Shalane Flanagan 2. Desi Linden 3. Amy Cragg

Meg Bellino - 1. Desi Linden 2. Shalane Flanagan 3. Amy Cragg

Lincoln Shryack - 1. Desi Linden 2. Shalane Flanagan 3. Amy Cragg

Taylor Dutch - 1. Shalane Flanagan 2. Desi Linden 3. Amy Cragg

Ryan Fenton - 1. Desi Linden 2. Amy Cragg 3. Shalane Flanagan

Joe Battaglia - 1. Shalane Flanagan 2. Amy Cragg 3. Desi Linden.

The Olympic Trials Marathon will be live on NBC.

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