By Tim Hipps, IMCOM Public Affairs
HOUSTON – Capt. Kelly Calway carved five minutes off her personal best and led all military runners with a 25th-place finish in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials Jan. 14.
Calway, 27, a U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program runner and Bronze Star Medal recipient stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., completed the 26.2-mile course along the streets of downtown Houston in 2 hours, 37 minutes, 10 seconds.
“It was a perfect, perfect day,” said Calway, daughter of Maj. Gen. Robert B. Brown, the commanding general of Fort Benning, Ga. “Everything leading up to it went really well — the best training I’ve ever had for a marathon: carb-loading, tapering, everything felt great, so I just went out there and executed the plan my coach set.
“First lap, stay in control,” she explained. “Second lap, pick it up a bit. Third lap, it’s race time. I hung in there. It was tough. It turns into all guts out there at mile 18 or 20.”
U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program runner Maj. Emily Potter, 32, of Fort Bragg, N.C., finished 40th in a personal-best 2:39:55, almost six minutes faster than her previous best marathon.
“You always set several goals — best-case, worst-case, be happy with — and my biggest goal was to break 2:40 and I did,” Potter said. “I wanted to start out slow and conservative and finish strong. The first mile was pretty slow, but then I picked it up and fell into a small group running a 5:55 pace. I wanted to be more around 6 minutes or 6:10, but I hung in there with them.”
Potter, who also ran the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2008, cherished the thrill of being in the inaugural field of men and women running together at the Trials. The men started at 8 a.m. on a cold, windy day in Houston, followed by the women at 8:15 on the same course.
“It was great having the men and the women together because you could tell there were a lot more people,” said Potter, who has completed 10 marathons. “It was just an amazing experience.”
“I came in seeded 151 and I finished 40th, so yeah, I’m happy with my time and happy I could do it today,” she continued. “Finishing was the best part. That’s a pretty cool feeling to be running under the Olympic Trials banner.”
In only her second marathon, Shalane Flanagan, 30, of Portland, Ore., was the first woman to run beneath the banner with a winning time of 2:25:38, the fastest in U.S. Championship and Olympic Trials history. Desiree Davila, 28, of Rochester Hills, Mich., and runner-up in the 2011 Boston Marathon, was second in 2:25:55. Kara Goucher, the 2007 World Championships bronze medalist at 10,000 meters, finished third in 2:26:06.
That trio will compete Aug. 5 for Team USA on The Mall in London at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
“It was a huge day — I think one that all of us will remember,” Flanagan said. “The last mile was a cross between savoring the moment and just being really grateful that I was almost done.”
Two-time Olympian Meb Keflezighi, 36, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., won the men’s race in 2:09:08. U.S. marathon record-holder and defending U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials champion Ryan Hall, 29, of Flagstaff, Ariz., finished second in 2:09:30. Three-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman, 34, of Tucson, Ariz., was third in 2:09:47, completing the U.S. men’s squad that will run Aug. 12 in London.
“With three guys with four or five miles to go, it was all about being on the team,” Keflezighi said. “It’s not about being first, second or third. I’m just delighted to be part of these guys to go to London. I’m honored to win this race, but a lot of guys would be glad to be in our shoes and be on this team.”
“Meb and I said, ‘Let’s work together and make this team,’” Abdirahman added.
With an average age of 33, this is Team USA’s oldest Olympic-bound trio of men with a combined nine Olympic appearances among them.
“I was telling them after the race, ‘I watched you guys making the 10K team when I was in high school,’” Hall said. “They make me feel very young, and I’m 29. You realize what an honor it is to be on this team and what it takes to get there. The potential we have to go win medals is great.”
Dathan Ritzenhein finished fourth in 2:09:55, marking the first time four runners broke the 2:10 barrier at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program runner Spc. Joseph Chirlee was running with the lead pack until he twisted his left ankle maneuvering around a curb near the eight-mile mark. He dropped from the chase during the 22nd mile.
“It bothered me for some time,” said Chirlee, 31, of Fort Carson. “I was trying to catch back up, but after 21 miles it got worse, and I had to stop.”
“Before I twisted my ankle, I was with the guys for the first nine miles,” he explained. “My plan was perfect, until I stepped on a curb. I wanted to be among the top three, and I was right there. I wanted it today, but I twisted my ankle, so I’m thinking now about the 10,000 meters because I missed this one.”
HANGING UP JERSY
U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program Maj. Dan Browne, a 2004 Olympian in the marathon and 10,000 meters from Chula Vista, Calif., finished 85th in 2:42:21.
“That was my last race,” said Browne, 36, who entered the race with 17 USA road racing, cross country and track and field titles, second only to Keflezighi’s 20. “It was a tough day for me, but I came here to give it my very best and my very best today was finishing where I did. It’s not an easy thing finishing last, but it’s a harder thing to not finish. People were really, really supportive.”
Browne battled Osteoarthritis in his hip that hampered his training for several months before the Trials.
“There actually are positive things that I take away from today, one of them being that I know that I put my heart and soul out there,” he said. “I can walk away from that for the years to come and say, ‘Hey, I gave it my best. I could have dropped out at any point, didn’t do it.’ Given my circumstances health-wise, I’m proud of what I did here today. On paper, it doesn’t look all that great, but I tried really hard.”
Air Force 1st Lt. Sean Houseworth also had a strong run but did not finish the race.
Back to the women, Calway felt like she won a race within a race.
“It was great to lead the Armed Forces women today,” Calway said. “It was a competition within a competition. It was time-focused goals, people-focused goals, place-focused goals, and I felt like I just knocked them all out.”
Air Force 1st Lt. Caroline White finished 34th in 2:38:43. Navy Lt. Amanda Rice was 50th in 2:41:06. Air Force Airman 1st Class Emily Shertzer finished 117th in 2:49:24. Navy Lt. Gina Slaby was 139th in 2:55:34. Air Force Maj. Jaymee Marty was the last women’s finisher in 152nd place with a time of 3:07:32.
“It was every man for himself out there for the last 10 kilometers,” Calway said. “I knew I was feeling good and I was just ready to get after it. I felt great. It’s tough at the end, but this is the best last 10K that I’ve ever run. My head was there. I didn’t have any negative doubts.”
“I’ve been working with the Army Center for Enhancement Performance at West Point and they have helped me so much to believe in myself, have that confidence, and create a mantra so every lap I was thinking certain things that were pushing me forward,” she continued. “I just felt fantastic.”
The patriotic crowds lining the streets also helped keep Calway running strong.
“It was better than Boston, having people out there with American flags cheering for us,” she said. “My whole family: my daughter, my parents, my in-laws, my husband — everybody was out there, and I’ve never had that experience. It was really cool to have that much support. Even the other Armed Forces coaches were cheering for me. It was amazing — such a cool experience.”
Looking ahead to 2016, Calway, who deployed to Iraq in 2009-10, realized that she can compete with the best on America’s roads.
“I’ve run enough races in WCAP that I’ve had the experience of lining up with people now that I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh, they’re amazing.’ But now I’m in the mindset of I’m amazing, too, and I can get out there and race with these women,” she said. “I passed Zoila Gomez out there and she got fourth at the Trials last time, so I know that I can compete.”
“I beat Colleen De Reuck, and she’s an Olympian,” Calway said. “It was amazing to be out there with them, but at the end of the day, we’re all out there competing, and I think I competed really well.”