|Joan Benoit Samuelson reaches out to fans after setting an American record for her age group. (Evan Richman/Globe Staff)|
With Elva Dryer and Kate O'Neill unable to finish the US Women's Marathon Trials yesterday, the field for the Olympic 10,000-meter team became a lot more competitive.
Dryer and O'Neill were considered top contenders going into yesterday's race. But after dropping out, the disappointment was visible as they talked with family and friends as the rest of the field completed the race.
With June's track trials in mind, both women plan to assess and restructure their training programs. Dryer and O'Neill represented the United States in the 10,000 meters at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
"My knee's been bothering me for the last month," said O'Neill. "I've been getting therapy and trying to stay positive, but it just got too bad around Mile 20. I've never dropped out before and never would have considered it, except that I worried about injuring it further. I'm just trying to get over the feeling of dropping out."
While adrenaline pushed the Milton-raised O'Neill through the first half of the marathon, she was in obvious pain heading into the fourth and final 6-mile core loop.
Dryer wasn't plagued by injury, just the nagging knowledge that it wouldn't be her day. She dropped out between miles 18 and 19.
"My body just didn't cooperate," said Dryer. "There was a very bad patch between miles 14 and 18 that I didn't recover from. So, I'll take the next week to regroup and lay out a plan for the Olympic trials in the 10,000."
You won't find many happier fourth-place finishers than Zoila Gomez. Even before learning she set a personal best by more than 90 seconds with a time of 2 hours 33 minutes 53 seconds, Gomez was beaming. She is the Olympic alternate.
"I wanted to do something great with my life, but I didn't know what it would be," said Gomez, who was born in Mexico and became a US citizen in September 2005. "It was a great day for me. I'm excited. I'm happy for finishing fourth."
During the race, Gomez thought frequently of family and friends who supported her, especially her father Arturo, who was killed when she was 6 years old and living in Mexico.
Fans cheer Samuelson
The top three finishers greeted women's marathon legend Joan Benoit Samuelson, 50, after she crossed the finish line in 2:49:08, which was good enough for 90th place and an American record for her age group. Samuelson finished wearing a Red Sox hat, just as she had when winning the Boston Marathon in 1979.
"It was spontaneous, just as it was in 1979," said Samuelson of donning the cap during the race. "There's been some great years in between and some not so great years in between for both the Red Sox and myself."
Winner Deena Kastor would "absolutely" support the Trials returning to Boston in four years.
"This race was well organized and to be part of the Boston tradition was the greatest link we could ask for as we try to elevate women's distance running," she said. "This was definitely a successful step. The crowds were marvelous. The course was great."
Kastor admitted, however, that the wind along the Charles River presented difficulties. "The wind was very challenging and wasn't very consistent," said Kastor. "It was challenging at different stretches, at different intensities and in different ways at different times. It was a hard thing to judge. I was planning to make some of my moves depending on what the wind was doing, but, because it was shifting around, it didn't play a factor into my strategy very much."
Thoughts of Beijing
With their tickets to Beijing now booked, Kastor, Magdalena Lewy Boulet, and Blake Russell can focus on the conditions they will face there. When asked if she was concerned about Beijing's pollution, Russell said, "I haven't given any thought to pollution, really figuring I'd cross that bridge later. I know that I'm prepared and the US team is working on how to prepare for these issues. I'm not as concerned about the pollution as I am about the heat." . . . Mary Akor, who was positioned through 16 miles to possibly claim an Olympic berth, clutched her right hamstring after finishing 19th in 2:39:34 and was wheeled to the medical tent . . . . . . Kasie Enman of Huntington, Vt., took 11th in 2:37:14 and was the top New England finisher . . . Brett Ely of Cambridge was the top Massachusetts finisher, coming in 34th in 2:41:54 . . . Kastor, Lewy-Boulet, and Russell will serve as grand marshals for today's Boston Marathon.
Shira Springer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.