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U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials contenders established with fall majors finished

Conner Mantz, Clayton Young

Oct 8, 2023; Chicago, IL, USA; Connor Mantz and Clayton Young celebrate after finishing as the first and second Americans in the 2023 Chicago Marathon. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

With the fall major marathon season complete, every primary contender to make the 2024 U.S. Olympic team has raced their final marathon before the Feb. 3 Olympic Trials in Orlando.

At trials, the top three men and top three women are likely to make up the team for Paris.

The marathon is one of the most unpredictable Olympic events. The smallest problem can be magnified over a two-hour race. Plus athletes contest the distance just two or three times in a year and scatter among marathon courses of varying difficulty, making it hard to compare performances.

Take the 2020 Olympic Trials for example. Galen Rupp was the only one of the six Olympic qualifiers who was considered a favorite to make the team.

Those words of caution in mind, here’s a look at the current state of U.S. men’s and women’s marathoning:

Men: Conner Mantz separates from the pack

Similar to four years ago, the U.S. men do not have the depth of the women, but do have the single biggest favorite to make the Olympic team between both races.

That’s Conner Mantz, who last year made the move up to the marathon early (at age 25). In three races at the distance, he was the top American in Chicago each of the last two years (with the fastest time by an American in any marathon each year), plus the third American in Boston this past April.

Training partner Clayton Young was the breakout of the fall marathon season for American men. He finished just 13 seconds behind Mantz in Chicago, lowering his personal best by 3:51 to become the second-fastest American over the last two years. Young, 30, was 136th at the 2020 Olympic Trials.

Rupp, a two-time Olympic medalist, answered health questions in Chicago on Oct. 8 by completing his first marathon in two years as the third American behind Mantz and Young. The 37-year-old has never been beaten by three Americans in a marathon that he’s finished. He can become the first man or woman to win three Olympic marathon trials since it became a one-event race in 1968.

Then there’s a large group of sub-2:10 men. Sam Chelanga ran his personal best time at age 38 in Chicago. Leonard Korir was the fastest American marathoner in 2019, then placed fourth at the 2020 Olympic Trials, missing the team by three seconds. Futsum Zienasellassie made his marathon debut last December and was the top American in New York City. Scott Fauble is tied with Rupp for the most sub-2:10 marathons for American men since the start of 2019 (four).

2023 Fastest U.S. Men’s Marathons

Conner Mantz2:07:47Chicago
Clayton Young2:08:00Chicago
Galen Rupp2:08:48Chicago
Sam Chelanga2:08:50Chicago
Leonard Korir2:09:31Paris
Futsum Zienasellassie2:09:40Rotterdam
Scott Fauble2:09:44Boston
Brian Shrader2:09:46Chicago
Teshome Mekonen2:10:16Berlin
Matt McDonald2:10:17Boston

2022/2023 Fastest U.S. Men’s Marathons

Conner Mantz2:07:47Chicago 2023
Clayton Young2:08:00Chicago 2023
Conner Mantz2:08:16Chicago 2022
Galen Rupp2:08:48Chicago 2023
Sam Chelanga2:08:50Chicago 2023
Scott Fauble2:08:52Boston 2022
Elkanah Kibet2:09:07Boston 2022
Zach Panning2:09:28Chicago 2022
Leonard Korir2:09:31Paris 2023
Galen Rupp2:09:36World Championships 2022

Women: Fastest Olympic Trials Field Ever

The 2020 Olympic Trials field included one woman who had broken 2:22, and it was a strong group. Since, four American women have run 2:20:32 or faster, including two who broke the American record. On top of that, another two Americans had statement races this year.

Start with the American record holder. Emily Sisson dropped out of the 2020 Olympic Trials as arguably the pre-race favorite, saying her legs were “destroyed” on the hilly course. She ran two mass marathons since, breaking the American record in Chicago last year and again comfortably finishing as the top American in Chicago this year.

But Sisson is not the fastest American of 2023. That’s Betsy Saina, who went 34 months between completed races from 2019 to 2022, according to her World Athletics profile. During that time, the former Iowa State star switched nationality from Kenya to the U.S., then had son Kalya in December 2021. This past March, Saina was fifth in the Tokyo Marathon in 2:21:40 in her first completed 26.2-mile race since December 2019, becoming the ninth U.S. woman to ever break 2:20. Six months later, she won the Sydney Marathon in 2:26:47.

Emma Bates lowered her personal best each of the last three years. In 2021, she placed second in Chicago. In 2022, she was the second American at the world championships and in New York City. This year, she was the top American in Boston.

Last month in Chicago, Molly Seidel was the second American, re-establishing herself as an Olympic trials contender. Seidel, the Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist, completed her first marathon since November 2021.

Keira D’Amato broke a 15-year-old American marathon record in January 2022 and held it for nine months until Sisson’s day in Chicago. D’Amato, a 39-year-old who after college went eight years between races, didn’t run a spring 2023 marathon due to a knee injury. In her most recent marathon, she was 17th at the world championships on Aug. 26.

Aliphine Tuliamuk, the 2020 Olympic Trials winner, was the top American in New York City in 2022, then the second American in Boston in 2023. She withdrew before her planned fall marathon in Chicago, citing a hamstring injury.

Then there is Sara Hall, a 40-year-old bidding for her first Olympics. She has competed in six different Olympic Trials events -- the first in 2004 -- spanning the 1500m, 5000m, 10,000m, 3000m steeplechase and the marathon. She can become the oldest female U.S. Olympic runner in history, according to Hall was the top American at the 2022 Worlds. In 2023, she was the fourth American in Boston and did not contest a fall marathon.

2023 Fastest U.S. Women’s Marathons

Betsy Saina2:21:40Tokyo
Emily Sisson2:22:09Chicago
Emma Bates2:22:10Boston
Molly Seidel2:23:07Chicago
Sara Vaughn2:23:24Chicago
Susanna Sullivan2:24:27London
Gabriella Rooker2:24:35Chicago
Aliphine Tuliamuk2:24:37Boston
Dakotah Lindwurm2:24:40Chicago
Nell Rojas2:24:51Boston

2022/2023 Fastest U.S. Women’s Marathons

Emily Sisson2:18:29Chicago 2022
Keira D’Amato2:19:12Houston 2022
Betsy Saina2:21:40Tokyo 2023
Keira D’Amato2:21:48Berlin 2022
Emily Sisson2:22:09Chicago 2023
Sara Hall2:22:10World Championships 2022
Emma Bates2:22:10Boston 2023
Sara Hall2:22:56Tokyo 2022
Molly Seidel2:23:07Chicago 2023
Emma Bates2:23:18World Championships 2022