Photo: David Monti / Race Results Weekly
Sacramento, California — Competing at the distance for the second time, rabbitPRO Brogan Austin ran to victory and the USATF Marathon championship at the California International Marathon on Sunday. Demonstrating a mixture of poise, patience and persistence that earned him a dramatic win in the final minutes of the race, Austin surged from a dwindling chase pack to catch the only runner separating him from the win with just 600 meters to go.
Matt Llano had led from the opening mile in Folsom, with Austin and a group that included fellow rabbitPROs Anthony Costales, Jarrett LeBlanc, Ryan Miller and Curly Guillen content to let him push the pace alone in the opening stages. With two other runners off the front in pursuit of Llano, the podium was out of reach for the pack for much of the race. Nonetheless, they steadily worked together, eventually reeling in the third and then second place runners. Although Austin was worried that he had run the first half of the race too fast, he “got a second wind around mile 18.” An initial surge failed, but at mile 23 his legs came around, and he steadily accelerated out of the lead pack.
Covering the final three miles of the race in a blistering 4:46 pace, Austin’s closing speed could not be matched. Catching Llano with less than a half mile left in the race, Austin flew into the lead and never looked back. He crossed the line in a time of 2:12:39 to earn the USATF Marathon championship and a $20,000 prize, as well as the A Standard for the the Olympic Marathon Trials.
The race was an enormous breakthrough for Austin, who credited the support and guidance of his coach Tim Schwartz with unlocking his potential as a runner. His fears about starting off too fast turned out to be unfounded, with Austin negative splitting on the undulating course and fulfilling the destiny that he predicted before the race. “I plan for CIM to be my coming out party as a contender to make the 2020 Olympic Marathon team.”
L to R: Brogan, Jarrett, Anthony, Curly, Ryan - 5 OTQs and BIG smiles
Not far behind him, all four of Austin’s rabbitPRO teammates also achieved Olympic Trials Qualifiers, with Costales, LeBlanc and Miller running 2:13:39, 2:13:52 and 2:14:27 respectively to achieve the A standard. Guillen finished in 2:18:50 to secure his second consecutive Olympic Trials qualifying time at the Sacramento race.
In the women’s race, rabbitELITE Michele Lee put up another breakout performance, finishing in fourth place at 2:30:32, just seven seconds off the podium and minutes ahead of her goal pace. “I went into today hoping for sub 2:37… I’m super excited that I exceeded my expectations by so much and to see what the future holds! It means a lot to have my hard work pay off.” Lee’s time met the Olympic Trials A Standard, as did her teammate’s Allison Cleaver, who finished in 2:36:13.
rabbitELITE Allison Mendez-Cleaver, pure emotion post-race
All told, an astonishing 26 runners wearing rabbit achieved Olympic Qualifiers on a day that featured a near repeat of last year’s ideal weather, with cool temperatures, cloudless skies and clear air following showers the preceding days. It was a welcome contrast to the conditions experienced in the region just weeks ago, as the devastating Camp Fire raged in the hills not far from Sacramento. For a state that has been united in recent months by tragedy and hardship, the vibrant race through its capital provided a welcome opportunity to join in celebration, with crowds thronging the streets to cheer on the racers.
For rabbit, a company with deep California roots, it was truly a magical day. In addition to the remarkable performances by rabbitPROs and ELITES, rabbit co-founder Jill Deering ran 2:48:32, a personal best. Coming just 8 months after the birth of her son Jett, Deering noted that the PR was great but having her son and husband Gene waiting at the finish line was “all I really want.” As Deering’s co-founder Monica DeVreese observed, “this weekend has validated so much of what is core to our company. We work hard to support and grow the sport in every way possible and it is so gratifying to see those efforts come to fruition in such an amazing way.”