asics Greenville Track Club-ELITE - a post-collegiate, Olympic-development program
February 29, 2020 - Atlanta, GA
ASICS Greenville Track Club-ELITE's Joe Niemiec and Cristina McKnight will toe the starting line on February 29th in downtown Atlanta, GA for the 2020 USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon. Both meet the qualifying standards for one of the most prestigious events in US running after relocating to Greenville to join the post-collegiate, Olympic-development program. The current weather forecast is sunny and cool with a high of 46-degrees. Starting times: men at 12:08 and women at 12:20 pm.
McKnight, who did not compete at the collegiate level while studying at Michigan State University, was accepted to the program with a personal best of only 1:18:41 for the half marathon (not quite meeting the program's qualifying standard of 1:18:00). She has since improved to 1:16:04. After she and her coach Laura Caldwell mutually set a goal of running her first marathon under the qualifying standard of 2:45:00, they targeted the California International Marathon in Sacramento, CA. In early December, 2019, Cristina debuted at the marathon distance with a time of 2:40:41, and placed 11th among women. That qualified her for the Atlanta event, where she is seeded 128th among the 513 women qualifiers and 463 actual "declared" entrants.
In 2018 Niemiec contacted the ASICS GTC-ELITE coaches about the possibility of "qualifying for the Trials." After visiting Greenville and interviewing with the coaches and athletes, Joe decided to relocate from Michigan to chase his dream. With abundant support from his wife, Jasmine, they moved with their two young children south. (They welcomed their third child a little over a year ago.) Although he had some success at the USA 25K Championships, Joe had not run an actual marathon. He picked the 2019 Bank of America Chicago Marathon to be his first. After running at a Trials qualifying pace for 25K, he slowed considerably over the last 10K and finished in 2:26:46--well off the 2:19:00 needed to qualify for the Trials.
Joe and his coaches then decided to run the Chevron Houston Marathon in mid-January, which would be the final opportunity to qualify. The revised plan was to fully recover from Chicago first and then use a shorter build-up for Houston. Joe was able to increase his fitness due to some increased-volume workout sessions and a few marathon-specific long runs.
On January 19th, Joe achieved his dream as he ran 2:17:23 in Houston, placing ninth overall and being the second American finisher. He is seeded 126th for the Atlanta Trials in a field of 242 "declared" entrants of the 265 qualifiers.
Highlighting Atlanta's Olympic history and legacy, the course for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Marathon will take athletes on a tour of some of Atlanta's most important attractions and neighborhoods. Competitors will begin their race in front of Centennial Olympic Park – the crown jewel of the 1996 Atlanta Games – and head down Marietta Street toward Peachtree. They will proceed three miles north on Peachtree until they pass the intersection of Peachtree and West Peachtree, then turn around and head back down Peachtree in the opposite direction, loop through Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood and return to downtown. The runners will complete this loop three times before heading on a 2.2 mile final loop that runs under the Rings and Torch structure from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, goes by the Georgia Capitol building and passes by the sports stadiums that house the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta United FC. They will then reach the welcome sight of the finish line inside Centennial Olympic Park.
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.