More than 700 men and women are set to run for the red, white and blue at the 2020 United States Olympic Marathon Trials Feb. 29 — and three runners have connections to Loyola’s maroon and gold.
Loyola associate track and field head coach Alan Peterson, 2012 Loyola graduate Danny Docherty and 2001 Loyola graduate Bry Lauck are preparing to head to Atlanta for a chance to represent the U.S. in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Runners could qualify for the marathon trials at any marathon from Sept. 1, 2017 to Jan. 19, 2020 — men could qualify with a time of 2:19:00 or faster, and women could qualify with a time of 2:45:00. Out of the 233 men and 500 women competing, only the top three of each make it to the Olympics this summer.
Peterson — who was promoted to Loyola associate head coach in December — is getting set for his second time competing at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. But he said the goal isn’t necessarily to make it to Tokyo. Instead, he’s more worried about placing well in the crowded field.
“It doesn’t matter who you are [or] what you’ve done in the past,” said Peterson, who also ran at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Half-Marathon Trials. “[I’m] not necessarily going in shooting for top three. It’s more like, ‘How many people can I beat?’ and ‘What place can I get?’”
Peterson, 28, first qualified for this year’s race in 2017, then again in 2018. Most recently, the Ironwood, Michigan native ran a 2:14:56 at the 2019 Chicago Marathon in October, which was listed as his official qualifying time since it was his fastest time.
Because he’s been helping coach the Loyola cross country and track teams, Peterson said he hadn’t really thought much about running in Atlanta. He’s also missing the first day of the Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championships Feb. 29 and flying to Cedar Falls, Iowa after the trials for the second day of the meet.
He’ll also see some familiar faces in Georgia, including his wife — who qualified on the women’s side — and former teammates from his days as an athlete at Grand Valley State University.
“It’s just going to be a fun experience,” Peterson said. “Another thing to cross off the bucket list.”
Peterson will also be running alongside Docherty, who he ran against in a couple marathons after college. Docherty qualified in January 2018 at the Houston Marathon, then turned in his best time Oct. 6 in at the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis.
Docherty, who now lives in Richfield, Minnesota, ran at Loyola from 2008-13 and is in the top 10 in five different events on the Loyola all-time leaderboard. As he prepares for his first U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, he said he’s been trying to avoid the nerves.
“I’ve prepped for it, so I know I’m ready,” Docherty said. “Getting in the right mindset and feeling ready, physically, for the race [are] kind of the important things for the week.”
Docherty was back on Loyola’s campus Jan. 11 for a track alumni event during the men’s basketball game against the University of Evansville. He said he’s gotten support from former teammates and others connected to the athletics department prior to the trials.
But his training was abbreviated a bit. He suffered a knee injury in November and had to take a month off of training. He’s back to full strength after the brief setback, just in time to head to Atlanta.
“It just popped up on me out of nowhere after a workout and it took me out for a good month,” Docherty said. “It wasn’t ideal, but with running, if you push through stuff, they just get worse.”
Lauck might’ve had the most unconventional path to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. After graduating from Loyola in 2001, she took 10 years off from competitive running to raise her family. She got back in the game and ran her first marathon at the 2015 Chicago Marathon, which she wanted to run in college but couldn’t because of injuries.
Lauck, who now lives in Phoenix, qualified in December 2018 at the California International Marathon in Sacramento, California. As she was training for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, though, she tore two of her hamstrings in her left leg and had to take three months off to recover.
She started training again in December and said she’s ready to go for the trials after the rollercoaster journey.
“Just getting to the start line, being able to run, is a huge accomplishment for me coming from where I was in September,” Lauck, 40, said. “I was non-weight bearing [and] I couldn’t walk. To come this far in six months is exciting, and that’s what I’m bringing with me to the race this weekend.”
Lauck traveled to Atlanta Feb. 25 and has a big support group back in Phoenix. She teaches third grade, and her students have been wishing her luck, writing cards and telling her they’ll be watching the race on TV.
“Every day, somebody says, ‘You’re still going to the Olympics, right, Mrs. Lauck?’” Lauck said. “They’re so inquisitive and so excited.”
The men’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are set to start at 11:08 a.m. CST Feb. 29 and the women’s shortly thereafter at 11:20 a.m. CST. The race is scheduled to be broadcast on NBC.