Meb Keflezighi
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U.S. Olympic marathon trials picture after New York City Marathon

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With the last major marathon of 2015 completed Sunday, it’s time to look ahead to the next big 26.2-mile race — the Olympic trials on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles.

The top three men’s and women’s finishers will be the first members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic track and field team. Here’s a look at the fastest American marathoners going into the race:

Men’s sub-2:12 marathons since 1/1/14
Meb Keflezighi: 2:08:37 (Boston 2014)
Luke Puskedra: 2:10:24 (Chicago 2015)
Jeffrey Eggleston: 2:10:52 (Gold Coast 2014)
Ryan Vail: 2:10:57 (London 2014)
Dathan Ritzenhein: 2:11:20 (Boston 2015)
Bobby Curtis: 2:11:20 (Chicago 2014)
Elkanah Kibet: 2:11:31 (Chicago 2015)
Fernando Cabada: 2:11:36 (Berlin 2014)
Nick Arciniaga: 2:11:47 (Boston 2014)

In 2012, the prohibitive trials favorites were Ryan Hall and Keflezighi, who both went sub-2:10 in both 2010 and 2011 and were the only Americans to do so those years. Keflezighi and Hall went one-two at the trials. The third-place trials finisher was the only other man in the field who had previously run sub-2:10 — three-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman, whose sub-2:10 came in 2006 and who had done very little in 2010 and 2011.

This time, Keflezighi and Ritzenhein are the favorites.

Keflezighi, who at 40 is attempting to become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history according to sports-reference, clocked a personal best to win Boston 2014. He was also the top American at the 2014 and 2015 New York City Marathons. In his only other marathon the last two years, he was the second-fastest American at Boston 2015 behind Ritzenhein.

Ritzenhein, a three-time Olympian, finished fourth at the 2012 trials, eight seconds behind Abdirahman, and ended up making the London team later in the 10,000m. Ritzenhein is seen as a favorite over Puskedra, Eggleston and Vail because of a bank of sub-2:12 marathons dating to 2007. He also owns the fastest U.S. marathon since the 2012 Olympics, a 2:07:47 at Chicago 2012. Unlike Keflezighi, Ritzenhein did not race a fall marathon and will, presumably, be better rested going into the trials.

The third spot appears up for grabs, though Puskedra made a strong impression with his 2:10:24 in Chicago on Oct. 11. Puskedra is a former University of Oregon runner who trained under scrutinized distance guru Alberto Salazar when he ran a 2:28:54 in his marathon debut in New York last year, a time so demoralizing that he reportedly briefly retired.

Hall, 33, still owns the fastest marathon in U.S. history, a 2:04:58 at Boston 2011. Since the 2012 trials, Hall dropped out of the Olympic marathon with a hamstring injury. He withdrew before the start of New York in 2012 (eventually canceled) and 2013 and Boston 2014, also citing injuries. He finally started and finished a marathon at Boston 2014, but in an uninspiring 2:17:50, and then dropped out during this year’s Los Angeles Marathon on March 15.

Hall will be written off by many predictors, but there are similarities between the Ryan Hall of 2016 and the Abdi Abdirahman of 2012.

One more name to watch is Diego Estrada, the U.S. half marathon champion who plans to make his 26.2-mile debut at the Olympic trials, according to SportsIllustrated.com.

Women’s sub-2:28:30 marathons since 1/1/14
Shalane Flanagan: 2:21:14 (Berlin 2014)
Desi Linden: 2:23:54 (Boston 2014)
Desi Linden: 2:25:39 (Boston 2015)
Amy Cragg: 2:27:03 (Chicago 2014)
Deena Kastor: 2:27:47 (Chicago 2015)
Shalane Flanagan: 2:27:47 (Boston 2015)
Desi Linden: 2:28:11 (New York 2014)
Laura Thweatt: 2:28:23 (New York 2015) — no plans to race trials
Annie Bersagel: 2:28:29 (Dusseldorf 2015)

The women’s 2012 trials provided no surprises. Flanagan and Linden were the pre-race one-two favorites, and that’s where they finished. Kara Goucher placed third to make her second Olympic team.

Another Flanagan-Linden finish appears in the cards for Feb. 13, given how well they ran in their last marathon in Boston this year. If Cragg, 31, hadn’t dropped out of Boston around mile 22, she’d be closer to Flanagan and Linden, but she still looks like the most likely No. 3 at this point after taking fourth at the 2012 trials.

None of Flanagan, Linden or Cragg ran a fall marathon, which left Deena Kastor, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist now aged 42, as the fastest U.S. woman since Boston. Kastor’s time in Chicago put her back in the mix, but she may be hard-pressed to duplicate it given she went into the Windy City having not broken 2:30:40 in six years.

Goucher, now 37, could be the wild card. She last raced 26.2 miles in New York in 2014, clocking a wall-smacking 2:37:03, her slowest career marathon.

But in her previous two marathons before 2013 and 2014 injuries — London 2012 Olympics and Boston 2013 — she finished in 2:26:07 (16 seconds behind Flanagan) and 2:28:11 (63 seconds behind Flanagan).

MORE TRACK AND FIELD: Meb Keflezighi hopes to be an example for Ryan Hall

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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