- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 13, 2008

The countdown to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials women’s marathon in Boston is down to just seven days.

One hundred and sixty-two runners are registered for the event, which begins the day before the 112th Boston Marathon but won’t follow the traditional Boston course. Instead, it will follow a multi-loop course in Boston and Cambridge.

Of the Boston area runners, Deena Kastor — a bronze medalist in 2004 — has the best chance to make the team. Her personal best is 2:19:36, but her last few marathons have not been as stellar.

Other contenders are Elva Dryer, Blake Russell and Magdalena Lewy-Boulet. Dryer, an Olympian at 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters in 2000 and 2004, has a personal best of 2:31:48. Russell and Lewy-Boulet were fourth and fifth respectively at the 2004 marathon trials.

Herndon’s Samia Akbar also could make the team.

Akbar, 26, was impressive with a solo half-marathon victory two weeks ago at the National Marathon and Half Marathon in 1:16:31 over a hilly course, three minutes off her best. Her marathon debut of 2:34:14 at the 2006 New York City Marathon made the American University graduate the eighth fastest American woman for the year.

“I think I can PR at Boston,” Akbar said after her half-marathon win.

Joining Akbar from the area are Susannah Kvasnicka of Great Falls (2:45:06 qualifying time), Kristen Henehan of Silver Spring (2:45:12) and Lisa Thomas of Alexandria (2:46:13).

Athletes with local ties include former Potomac resident Desiree Ficker (2:40:28), former Vienna resident Dana Coons (2:38:18), former Arlington resident Casey Smith (2:44:58) and former Arlington resident Vanessa Hunter (2:45:35).

After the trials, Coons and Hunter will concentrate on planning their weddings.

All the local entrants have posted solid half-marathon times in the past month. Henehan, 28, beat a competitive field at the Shamrock Festival Half in Virginia Beach four weeks ago in 1:16:08. Kvasnicka, 35, followed in fourth in 1:17:01 with Thomas, 32, 10th in 1:18:59.

“Kristen and Lisa are looking good,” said George Buckheit, their coach. “Watch out for Kristen.”

Buckheit’s said his top marathoner is Mary Kate Bailey of Arlington (2:40:12) has pulled out after giving birth six weeks ago. Heather Hanscom (2:42:02), sixth at the trials in 2004, also is passing on the trials.

Earlier this year, Ficker won the Austin Half Marathon on Feb. 17 in 1:18:17.

The oldest qualifier is Joan Samuelson, who turns 51 next month, won the inaugural women’s Olympic marathon champ in 1984. She plans to retire from marathoning at the place where she started it all — winning the 1979 Boston Marathon.

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