The Marathon Project gives top U.S. runners one more race in 2020

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For Sara HallJared Ward and Scott Fauble, the year in marathoning didn’t start as they hoped at February’s Olympic Trials. They can end it on a much better note.

The Marathon Project was “born out of necessity,” organizers said in a September announcement. It becomes reality on Sunday morning, live on USATF.TV+ at 9:45 ET. NBCSN airs coverage from 8-9:30 p.m.

Every major marathon originally scheduled for fall 2020 and spring 2021 has been canceled or postponed, leaving top road runners who didn’t qualify for the Tokyo Olympics with calendars emptier than usual.

Enter HOKA NAZ Elite coach Ben Rosario, agent and former competitive distance runner Josh Cox and Big River Race Management’s Matt Helbig.

“We wanted to look back at 2020 and know that we did everything within our power to help not only the athletes, but also the sport,” Cox said in a release announcing The Marathon Project.

They came up with a race that takes place on a flat, 4.3-mile loop in Chandler, Ariz., with about 50 men and 50 women.

The fields include some of the top Americans who did not make the Tokyo Olympic team at the Feb. 29 trials in Atlanta.

The biggest name is Hall, who dropped out in the 23rd mile of trials. Then on Oct. 4, Hall placed second at the postponed-from-April London Marathon in 2:22:01. a personal best and the eighth-fastest time ever by a U.S. woman.

If conditions are ripe Sunday, and Hall is fit, she could challenge Deena Kastor‘s American record of 2:19:36 from 2006. Kastor and Jordan Hasay (2:20:57) are the only U.S. women to break 2:21 in a marathon.

Hall is joined by Stephanie BruceEmma Bates and Kellyn Taylor, who finished six-seven-eight at trials. And Keira D’Amato, who on Nov. 24 broke the women’s-only American record for 10 miles (51:23).

The men’s race features Fauble and Ward, who were arguably the second and third favorites going into the Olympic Trials. Fauble, the third-fastest U.S. marathoner in this Olympic cycle, finished 12th. Ward, sixth at the Rio Olympics, was 27th over the rolling hills of Atlanta.

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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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