O'Keeffe, who had qualified with a half marathon time, became the first woman in history to win the race in their debut and broke the Trials record
Fiona O'Keeffe was breaking records every step of her 26.2 miles to the finish at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on Saturday.
The 25-year-old — running a marathon for the first time — was a surprise winner. O'Keeffe, who had qualified for the Trials with a half marathon time, blazed ahead of more experienced women in the field, breaking away around mile 19 to finish in 2:22:10, a Trials record.
And O'Keeffe not only broke the Olympic Trials record, she also became the first woman to win the Trials in a marathon debut and the youngest to win since Joan Benoit Samuelson in 1984.
Despite leading for nearly half the race, the Puma runner said she didn't feel like her win was a done deal.
“I started to hear people saying, ‘You’re going to Paris! You’re going to Paris!’ ” she said in the post-race press conference. “But I knew there were so many strong women behind me, and I was running scared a little bit.”
Finishing second behind her was Emily Sisson, the current American marathon record-holder and a favorite coming into the Trials. She came in 32 seconds after O'Keeffe in 2:22:42 on the warm day in Orlando. Taking third was an overjoyed Dakotah Lindwurm, 2 minutes and 49 seconds behind Sisson. The three women will represent the U.S. in Paris at the 2024 Olympic Games.
While O'Keeffe and Sisson weren't challenged late in the race, Lindwurm had to fight her competitors for that final Olympic spot.
“If I’ve dreamed of this once, I’ve dreamed of it a thousand times,” she said of making the Paris team. “It almost doesn’t feel real.”
On the men's side, training partners Conner Mantz and Clayton Young took first and second, respectively, after running together the entirety of the race. Less than 200 meters from the finish line the two were still step-in-step, and appeared unsure who would cross first before Mantz pushed ahead, seemingly encouraged by Young. Mantz, who runs for Nike, won in 2:09:05, with Young coming in one second later.
"It’s almost as close to a marriage as it can be,” Young said of his relationship with Mantz. “We have our disagreements sometimes. We’re very, very competitive, but not today."
“Conner and I are better when we work together.”
Finishing third was Leonard Korir, an Army staff sergeant who missed making the Tokyo Olympics marathon team by 3 seconds in 2020. He's likely to join Mantz and Young in Paris, but will have to wait until May to find out if the U.S. has earned that third spot for the Olympics. While the U.S. women have run fast enough qualifying times to unlock all three spots for the race, the men have only opened two, and will need to see if they finish high enough in international rankings to earn that third slot.
All six would be running in the Olympic marathon for the first time.
"I was not expecting this performance," O'Keeffe told NBC after her win. "I had to pinch myself with eight miles to go and say 'stay calm, don't freak out.' "
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