- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 8, 2004

If you happen to see local race director and veteran runner Marty Horan placing a bet, follow his lead. The Montgomery County resident was rooting for Carrie Tollefson long before she gained a spot on the U.S. Olympic squad a week ago.

Horan is so much a fan of Tollefson that he not only invited her last spring to be his honorary spokeswoman at the Kentlands/Lakelands 5K race in Gaithersburg on Sept.11, he traveled with his wife to Sacramento to cheer on the 27-year-old Villanova graduate during her 5,000-meter race at the Olympic trials.

Unfortunately, Horan had to leave after Tollefson failed to qualify in the 3.1-mile event and missed her upset performance in one of the quirkiest 1,500-meter races ever run at the trials.

Favorite Suzy Favor Hamilton did not run in the finals, believing she already had assured a spot on the Olympic team. Another favorite, Marla Runyan, dropped out during the finals, and in the end Tollefson outkicked the field to win. However, she did not have an Olympic qualifying time until eight days ago, when she ran a recent personal best 4:06.30 to achieve the Olympic “B” standard (4:07.15) at the KBC Night of Athletics in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium.

Tollefson declined to be interviewed, referring questions to her agent, who recommended she focus entirely on getting to the line for the first round of the 1,500 meters in Athens on Aug.24.

Tollefson trained in the Philadelphia area after graduating from college in 1999 with a communications degree. The Minnesota native trained at the newly created Team USA Minnesota Training Center in May 2001 but has a following in the Washington area.

Kentlands race director Steve Solbeck said the selection of Tollefson has as much to do with her ability to communicate as with her potential as an Olympic runner.

“The main task of the race spokesperson is to speak at area schools and community groups about fitness and a healthy lifestyle,” Solbeck said. “The obesity epidemic, which now takes the lives of almost as many Americans as cigarettes each year, has taught us that we can’t take fitness for granted. We need to get role models like Carrie Tollefson out to speak to both children and adults about the importance of getting and staying in shape.

“It will be great just having someone there who had just competed in the Olympics. She will run the 5K, too. She’s never run our race before.”

Tollefson will be the first world-class female runner to serve in the honorary position for the race. Male predecessors have included distance running legend Bill Rodgers and national distance champion Todd Williams, who ran the race with 85-year-old Gaithersburg resident Al Guttag last year.

“The only thing I’m afraid of is that if she does well in the Olympics, she may want to go somewhere else and skip our race,” Solbeck said.

Having the race on Sept.11 was a fluke, according to Solbeck. He said he was just trying to keep the race away from Labor Day weekend.

“We’re hoping people won’t be going out of town that weekend out of concern for 9/11,” he added.

Meanwhile, Olympic trials 1,500-meter runner-up Charlie Gruber also nailed a spot on the Olympic team by running 3:34.71 (surpassing the “A” standard of 3:36.20) in the same Belgium meet where Tollefson competed. He will join Alan Webb in that event Aug.20.

Tomorrow is the last day for U.S. athletes to achieve qualifying times for the Olympic track and field team.

Time’s awastin’ — Registration for the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon on Oct.10 hit 35,000 last week and is expected to reach its 40,000 capacity in the next few weeks. Go to chicagomarathon.com and sign up now.

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