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One outcome from the results of The Marathon Project on Sunday was the crowding of the Canadian marathon picture. For the women and for Athletics Canada (AC) the story is not over yet. Natasha Wodak needs to be added to the list of athletes to consider nominating to the marathon team.

AC now has the unenviable task of informing at least two talented Canadian marathon runners that they are not going to the Tokyo Olympics. The decision, however, isn’t announced until June 3, 2021. Until then the athletes need to make sure their performances are not going to be bettered by someone else.

Wodak finished fifth at The Marathon Project Sunday in Chandler, AZ in the time of 2:26:19. It is the second-fastest Canadian performance all-time behind only Malindi Elmore’s 2:24:50 from the 2020 Houston Marathon in January.

Malindi Elmore at the 2020 Houston Marathon where she broke the Canadian record running 2:24:50

Elmore broke Rachel Cliff’s national record of 2:26:56 from her race in Nagoya, Japan in March of 2019. If the qualification process was simply based on time, the top-three women within the split qualification periods (thanks to the coronavirus pandemic): Jan. 1, 2019 – April 5, 2020, and Dec. 1, 2020 – May 31, 2021, would be:

1. Malindi Elmore — 2:24:50
2. Natasha Wodak — 2:26:19
3. Rachel Cliff — 2:26:54

But it is never that simple.

As Athletics Canada has published, finishing top-10 at the Doha World Athletics Championships marathon regardless of time would be considered a qualifying performance. Lyndsey Tessier, an excellent runner who toils just a minute outside of the standard of 2:29:30 was in luck. The Doha race was so hot, her competitors dropped like flies and ended up in ambulances and aid stations. At the race start, the temperature was 32C (90F) and humid. It was a race of attrition and Tessier ran tough. She finished ninth in the time of 2:42:03.

Her personal best is 2:30:47 from the 2018 running of the Berlin Marathon. She ran 1:17 outside of the qualifying standard and four months prior to the first qualifying window opening. She likely has the ability to run sub-2:29:30 on the right day but simply hasn’t done it yet.

Dayna Pidhoresky is already named to the team, as is Trevor Hofbauer. They are the winners of the Canadian National Championships. When winning the championships, the athletes must also run faster than their respective qualifying standards of 2:29:30 for the women and 2:11:30 for the men.

Dayna Pidhoresky

Pidhoresky clocked a 2:29:03 (pb) and Hofbauer ran the second-fastest Canadian performance all-time at 2:09:51. Only Cam Levins has run faster, which he accomplished in Toronto the year prior at 2:09:25 — outside of the qualification window.

On the outside looking in, and with only a few race opportunities available are, Emily Setlack who has run as fast as 2:29:48, and Kinsey Middleton with her 2:32:09 from Toronto 2018. Middleton put it on the line in Arizona on Sunday but retired early. So, as it stands it appears that the team is currently Pidhoresky, Elmore and Wodak. Cliff will need to race in the spring of 2021 and may force another marathon out of Elmore or Wodak before the qualification window closes on May 31.

SHOESTRINGS: The American system of an all or nothing Olympic Trials is simple: finish top-three during the Trials, make the team. Alternates are also named in case of injury.

The benefit of the Trials is that there is no ambiguity. The athletes just need to race, place and get named.

The negative side to the Trials is talented athletes get left off the team, for example, Martin Hehir ran a 2:08:59. Noah Droddy finished second in 2:09:09. More glaring is the story of Sara Hall who has twice run faster than Aliphine Tuliamuk this autumn capped Sunday with the second-fastest American performance all-time at 2:20:32. It is about being prepared to run on the day.

The top-three from the 2020 Olympic Trials in Atlanta, GA were:

Men:
Galen Rupp — 2:09:20
Jacob Riley — 2:10:02
Abdi Abdirahman — 2:10:03

Women:
Aliphine Tuliamuk — 2:27:23
Molly Seidel — 2:27:31
Sally Kipyego — 2:28:52

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