ATLANTA — Galen Rupp reclaimed his status as the nation’s top distance runner Saturday, winning his second straight US Olympic marathon trials and earning a spot for the Tokyo Games.
Rupp pulled away in the final miles for a dominant victory. Carrying a US flag in his right hand, Rupp was all alone as he crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 20 seconds, almost 43 seconds ahead of Jacob Riley. Abdi Abdirahman also earned a spot on the US team.
“It’s incredible, I feel relief almost more than anything,” said Rupp, who completed his comeback from heel surgery.
Aliphine Tuliamuk won in 2:27:23, edging Molly Seidel by seven seconds in the closest women’s finish in the trials. Seidel became the first woman to make the US Olympic team while running in her first marathon. Sally Kipyego was third.
The 25-year-old Seidel, a four-time NCAA champion while at Notre Dame, lives in Boston and has run for the Saucony-sponsored Freedom Track Club.
Tuliamuk and Kipyego are from Kenya and have become US citizens. Kipyego won the silver medal in the 10,000 meters for Kenya.
The 33-year-old Rupp qualified for his fourth Olympics. He won the bronze in the marathon at the 2016 Rio Games.
He’s only the second man, after Frank Shorter in 1972 and 1976, to win two US trials. Shorter tied for the 1972 win with Kenny Moore.
Rupp earned the win with his new coach, Mike Smith, after former coach Alberto Salazar received a four-year doping ban in 2019.
Riley is a first-time Olympian. The 43-year-old Abdirahman became a five-time Olympian and the oldest man to make the US marathon team. He finished third in the 2012 trials but missed the ’16 trials with a calf injury.
UMass cross-country coach Tim Ritchie finished 53rd in 2:19:34.
The trials were run amid the uncertainty about the Olympics and the coronavirus. IOC member Dick Pound said this past week there is a window of two to three months to decide if conditions are too dangerous to hold the Olympics in Tokyo.
The Olympic marathon is to be held in Sapporo, more than 500 miles from Tokyo. The event was moved to protect runners from the heat in the capital.
Heat was no issue Saturday. Brisk winds made the temperature of 48 degrees at the race start feel more like 41. The chilly day was ideal for distance runners, but the city’s 26.2-mile course, with combined uphill climbs of 1,389 feet, posed a challenge.
Brian Shrader set the men’s pace for much of the first half of the race but dropped out soon after he was passed by Rupp and others on the 16th mile.
More than 700 runners qualified for the trials. The women’s field was twice as large as the one in 2016, when Amy Cragg was the winner.
Cragg withdrew last week because of illness. Parker Stinson withdrew from the men’s field because of injuries.
The course took the runners past the Olympic cauldron used for the Atlanta Games. The cauldron was lit Saturday for the first time since Muhammad Ali lowered the torch during the opening ceremony in 1996.
1. Galen Rupp — 2:09:20
2. Jacob Riley — 2:10:02
3. Abdi Abdirahman — 2:10:03
4. Leonard Korir — 2:10:06
5. Augustus Maiyo — 2:10:47
6. Martin Hehir — 2:11:29
7. Clayton Albertson — 2:11:49
8. Jonas Hampton — 2:12:10
9. Colin Bennie — 2:12:14
10. Matt McDonald — 2:12:19
1. Aliphine Tuliamuk — 2:27:23
2. Molly Seidel — 2:27:31
3. Sally Kipyego — 2:28:52
4. Des Linden — 2:29:03
5. Laura Thweatt — 2:29:08
6. Stephanie Bruce — 2:29:11
7. Emma Bates — 2:29:35
8. Kellyn Taylor — 2:29:55
9. Nell Rojas — 2:30:29
10. Julie Kohnen — 2:30:43