ATLANTA — Four years ago, Tyler Pennel of ZAP Endurance nearly made the 2016 Olympic marathon team.
He tried to make the 2020 team Feb. 29, but finished 11th with a time of 2:12:34. The top three finishers, led by race winner Galen Rupp, included Jacob Riley and Abdi Abdirhman.
Rupp won with a time of two hours, nine minutes and 20 seconds. Rupp also won the 2016 trials. Riley was second with a time of 2:10:02 and Abdirhman was third with a time of 2:10:03.
Pennel looked like he had a chance to make the top three since he was running in the lead pack at the 20-mile mark. Riley was one of the runners he ran with when the two made a move to separate from the pack.
Both runners were able to do that, according to Pennel, but Riley had more energy as the final miles approached and was able to finish second in the race.
Despite not making the team, Pennell said it was an honor to get the chance.
“It was a pleasure and an honor to run in the Olympic Trials,” Pennel said. “They happen every four years and this is my second trials and you’re running against the best runners in the U.S. There’s no doubt about that you have to qualify for the trials and everyone wants to make the Olympic team.”
The top 10 runners finished with a time faster than 2:12:19, the time of 10th-place Matt McDonald finished.
Another ZAP runner, Josh Izewski, finished 17th with a time of 2:14.15. Joe Stilin finished 107th with a time of 2:25.24.
ZAP runner Matt McClintock did not finish. Teammate Andrew Colley did not finish because of a foot injury. Johnny Crain, who ran in the 2016 trials, went into the race fighting an injury and dropped out after 11 miles.
On the women’s side, former Appalachian State standout distance runner Tristin Van Ord finished 52nd. Fellow ZAP runner Joanna Thompson, who won The Bear at Grandfather Mountain last year, had to leave the race in the 21st mile.
“It wasn’t a great day as far as some of our runners didn’t make it to the finish line because of injuries,” Crain said. “Tristin, in her second-ever marathon, was 52nd and Tyler and Josh, both being in the top 20 in the nation like that is something that we are really excited about.”
All of the runners took on an Atlanta course that was described by Pennel and Crain as “hilly.” A big crowd gathered at the downtown course watched the race.
“I came into the race with a race plan to wait until 20 miles into the race to kind of start moving forward,” Pennel said. “I think I did that very well. Someone made a move a little earlier than that, but a good portion of us held back and waited for the last six miles knowing that a lot of those guys were going to burn themselves out.”
Pennel said he started to run out of energy, while Riley, who had the same plan, was able to finish second. Pennel said Riley pulled away from him in the 22nd mile mark.
“I feel like I executed it well,” Pennel said. “I just didn’t have it over the last couple of miles.”
“His strategy was that he wanted to put himself in position to make the team, but he didn’t want to be overly aggressive,” Crain added. “Some guy early in the race really went for it and (Pennel) knew that if he were to do that, he would not run his best race. So, he did a really good job of putting himself in a good position, but maybe a little farther back in the 15-20 person range.”