asics Greenville Track Club-ELITE - a post-collegiate, Olympic-development program
ASICS Greenville Track Club-ELITE's Cristina McKnight ran to a 49th place finish with a new personal best of 2:40:29 over an undulating course in the 2020 USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon on Saturday afternoon. Running in only her second marathon, after debuting in December 2019 at Sacramento's California International Marathon, McKnight passed the halfway mark (13.1 miles) in 1:18:18 before slowing to a positive second-half split of 1:22:11. Her finishing time was 12 seconds faster than her initial marathon. Her 49th place bested her pre-race seed of 128th by a huge margin. There were 390 women finishers of the 510 qualifiers (2:45:00 or better) of which 444 started.
Her teammate, Joe Niemiec had a tough day as he struggled to a time of 2:27:50, which was well off his qualifying time of 2:17:23 at last month's Chevron Houston Marathon. He finished 123rd of the 226 starters and 175 finishers and bested his seeding of 126.
"This was not a PR day. This was not a good day. This was honestly a bad day on paper. But I am so proud I finished. I defeated my body on a day it didn’t want to perform," Joe explained following the race.
He elaborated, "Today was a grind...hills, wind, and a body that fought back every time I tried to push...by mile 7 I had my first cramp...I kept driving and took my shot over the next 7 miles coming through half on sub 2:20 pace...but around 15 my body was toasted...everything that worked for Houston seemed to have no affect in ATL...like a bacteria that becomes resistant to antibiotics my mind and body were immune to all the tricks I used in Houston...the next 3 miles I cried and yelled and fought through core cramps that throttled me back to 6 flat pace...I wanted so badly to drop out...but I passed my cheer squad and my wife pointed to her heart and reminded me to run from the heart...this was the lowest point of the race...after seeing that I switched my mindset to survive and finish...I came too far not to run down that damed finish chute...towards mile 20-22 I actually started building momentum again but as soon as I approached 5:30 my core would get so cramped it almost brought me to a walk...and so it went till the last 800 meters where I decided I would kick till the end...at that point I was in 126th. My bib number. I was able to pass three guys in the last stretch which brought me to 123."
ASICS GTC-ELITE director Mike Caldwell summed up the day, "Our program goal is always qualifying and competing in national championship and the Olympic Trials. Today, we had two of our marathon rookies compete after qualifying in either December of 2019 or last month (January). To be able to recover from those qualifying efforts and show up here in Atlanta on a fairly difficult course due to the undulating hills and then battle some very gusty winds is definitely a victory for our athletes and program."
GTC-ELITE was established in 2012. The program produced four qualifiers for the 2016 USA Olympic Trials Marathon in Los Angeles, one qualifier/participant for the 2019 Pam American Games Marathon in. Lima, Peru and three qualifiers for the 2020 USA Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta, GA. The post-collegiate, Olympic development program is sponsored by ASICS, the 48-year-old Greenville Track Club, Joy Real Estate, the Borch Foundation, generous individual contributors and partnerships with Performance Therapy, Carolina Spine and Rehab, Boston Bill Sunglasses, Roll Recovery products, FinalSurge (on-line training log), The ATI Running Academy, ElliptiGO, NormaTec Recovery Boots, Cocoa Elite recovery products, Stryd Running, Coach Bob Williams Pace Calculator, DorsiFlex and Synergy Performance (mental performance). The club is a proud and active member of both the Road Runners Club of America and USATF.