Galen Rupp Winning In Orlando? Our Hot Takes And Predictions For The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

This week on The Running Conversation we share our bold predictions for who will make Team USA

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Jessy: Alright, Michael, it’s a big weekend; we’ve got Olympic trials on tap this Saturday.

So I think the obvious favorites coming in the men’s race are Conner Mantz and Clayton Young, the only two who have run the A standard, and on the women’s side, we’ve got Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato, who are coming in well over two minutes ahead of the rest of the field.

We’ll be on-site at the 2024 US Olympic Marathon Trials to bring you live updates beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, February 3. Find our live updates here on race morning.

Let’s just dive right in with what your thoughts are on these four athletes.

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Women’s Race Predictions

Michael: I’ll start with the women’s race. There are 14 athletes that have already made the Olympic A standard of 2:26:50. So I think it’s gonna be a really tactical event with a huge lead group at the front, at least through the halfway mark.

It’s Emily Sisson’s race to lose. 

I think she’s the clear favorite here. She’s the American record holder. She’s in her prime. And I think that she will, in fact, make it to Paris.

After that, it’s a big question mark.

I think there are probably about 35 women in this race who could make it onto the podium in Orlando.

And I’ll say that Betsy Saina who comes in with a 2:21 personal best from Tokyo last year, wins the Trials, with Sisson in second.

And I’m gonna go further down the list and select somebody: Lindsay Flanagan will come out of the pack and take the final podium spot.

I think it’s gonna be a very exciting race. I think it’s actually going to mirror the fit and feel of an Olympic-type marathon, in Orlando.  

How do you think it’s going to play out? Who do you have in your top three for the women?

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Jessy: So I agree with you that it’s Emily Sisson’s race to lose. She’s coming in with almost 45 seconds ahead of the second-fastest qualifier, Keira D’Amato, and over three minutes to the rest of the field. She’s in good form, and I agree, she’s a clear favorite.

So, the women already have three guaranteed spots on the start line in Paris. So it’ll definitely just be a tactical race instead of people just dropping the hammer right away.

I have a really soft spot for Molly Seidel.

I’ve always looked up to her; she’s always been an idol of mine, and so I was devastated to learn she’s scratched due to injury.

Now, I feel like I’ve got to say something about Sara Hall since we haven’t brought her name up yet.

I don’t think we can discount Sara Hall just yet. Sure, there’s a lot of young guns, and she’s not coming in with the fastest qualification time, but she’s just such a veteran in the American running world that, yes, I think she could still find a way to pull it off.

Especially if we see it as a tactical race.

I think she has the fitness to easily stay up with the leaders in a tactical race since it won’t bring home any record times, but with her depth of experience, that could well play to her advantage, having been in so many different race scenarios in her career. 

Editor’s Note: The Running Conversation took place prior to Molly Seidel announcing she would withdraw from the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

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Men’s Race Predictions

Jessy: In the men’s race right away, I’m going say something that’s been on my mind for a while but might be quite the hot take.

Galen Rupp. He’s either winning the race and punching his ticket to Paris, or he’s placing fourth, just off the podium, with no chance of making it, even if Team USA ends up getting that third spot.

There’s no particular reason why I just feel like it’s either gonna be a show-stopping run for him, or it’s gonna be like a super heartbreaking day where he’s just off the podium. Either way, there will be some sort of drama with Rupp; I can feel it.

That’s where my mind is at right now, probably just because I want some sort of drama even though it’s already going be a very eventful race.

But realistically, I think Conner Mantz will definitely be in the top two.

And then I think it’s between (if we’re not talking Galen Rupp) Clayton Young and Sam Chelanga for the 2nd and 3rd spot.

So I think it’s between those top four, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a dark horse comes out of left field.

I feel like we’re gonna see a lot of the men with not-so-fast qualification times going for it. Some of them will have to because not everyone has run even the Olympic B standard.

We might even see some people try to hit that Olympic A standard to get that third spot right then and there. But I don’t think that will happen.

I think it’s going be a crazy race to watch. Absolutely crazy.

It’s almost going be like a bike race. I can see it like that with people attacking the field left, right, and center, just trying always to push the pace.

What are your thoughts on Galen Rupp here and the men’s race in general?

Do you think he might really just blow us out of the water, or do you think he will just completely go off the podium?

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Michael: The men’s race will be a totally different story. It’s going to be a complete gong show. I think the top two athletes going in, Connor Mantz and Clayton Young, are in a lot of trouble.

I think that this race is going to see a small group or an individual go out really hard and gap the big chase pack. I’m looking at you, CJ Albertson, to set the tone here, to go for it, and to challenge the larger field to respond at some point.

I think either Mantz or Young will end up fighting their way into a position to go to the Olympics. I think it’s likely going to be Connor Mantz.

I also like Scott Fauble, who races really well. He’s run well in Boston over the years, which is a similar type of race in terms of no pacers, and you have to be quite gritty to perform well.

I think that he’s going to position himself well and find himself on the podium. Whether or not he gets selected for the Olympic team is another big question mark altogether. 

And then there’s Mr. Galen Rupp. I agree with what you said.

The veteran is going to find a way, as I said before. I think he will end up on the podium. I think you’re cruel to suggest that he would end up fourth.

However, he is kind of at the end of the line here in terms of his career and it’s beginning to feel that way. This might be the Swan song, but I put him on the podium, and I think that Galen is going to find his way to Paris.

I don’t know exactly how it’s going to work out because it’s such a complicated process to qualify for the games for the US team on the men’s side. But I think Galen ends up running on the Champs Elysees.

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Orlando Heating Up

Michael: Weather. It’s going to be a huge issue.

Orlando, Florida. 10 a.m. Yes, it is February. However, we’re looking at the forecast right now, and it’s gonna be like 70-something degrees midday.

That sounds like a really lovely pool day at the race hotel after the event. But not so much for running a marathon.

I mean, the science states that you want something significantly cooler and low to no humidity in order to perform well in the marathon.

I think this is going be a big factor, particularly in the men’s race, where you could potentially see very aggressive racing from the front.

What do you think?

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Jessy: I definitely feel for the athletes in this case because 10 a.m. is a late start, and they’re in Florida, which is not the coolest place on earth to be running a marathon.

I can sympathize with the athletes because I know how hard it is to compete in heat like that when it’s over about 65 F. 

Even for me, when I’m racing (I mean, I’m talking bike racing here, but it is still an endurance sport, and we’re out for three to four hours), anything over 65 F, honestly, anything over 55 F really just totally changes the game and it’s a whole other beast that you’re trying to take on while still trying to push your body to the limit.

So, I definitely feel for them. I think it’s going have a huge impact on the race.

That’s why I don’t think we’re going see any men running A standard just because I think that’s already something that’s hard enough to do, and in Florida’s non-ideal conditions, I think it’s gonna be pretty close to impossible.

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Finish Time Predictions

Jessy: Are you predicting any of the men going out for A standard and potentially getting it this weekend?

Michael: I actually will predict that the 1st 10 kilometers of the race, we will see around 2:08 pace from the leader or leaders, and then they will fade badly.

I think the winning time in the men’s race will be 2:11:02, and the women’s race will be a much more tactical affair.

I foresee the winner coming in and around 2:29 and change.

What do you got?

Jessy: I think the men’s race is going be 2:11:48. And I think the women’s race is going to be 2:25:04. I mean, the women’s race will be tactical, but I still think it will be pretty fast.

Michael: In the last couple of Olympic cycles, the US Olympic Trials marathons have actually, in many ways, been more intriguing and exciting races to watch than their Olympic counterpart themselves.

And I think that this year in Orlando, it’s going be no different, and I’m going to be there to cover it. You and I are both going to do a live blog throughout the race, and I think there’s going to be a lot of drama and exciting finishes. I am looking forward to it.

It’s going be one of the highlights of the year in marathon running.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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