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Head to head clashes to watch at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

Here are a couple two-person matchups to keep an eye on

With the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials just over a week away, you should get to know a bit more about the field and a couple pairs of athletes that could produce exciting battles. If these races within the bigger race are tight, the outcomes could decide who goes to Tokyo and who will be watching the Olympics from home. The top three men and women will book their tickets for the Games, and these two matchups will be exciting to watch in Atlanta on February 29.

Photo: Twitter/NBCOlympicTalk

Emily Sisson vs. Molly Huddle

At a glance–Emily Sisson

Born: October 12, 1991 (28 years old)

Notable Results: 

2x NCAA champion (2015 indoor and outdoor 5,000m)

Ninth place, 2017 World Championships 10,000m 

Sixth place, 2019 London Marathon

First Marathon: 

2019 London Marathon (2:23:08

Marathon PB: 2:23:08

Photo: Instagram.

RELATED: 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials predictions

At a glance–Molly Huddle

Born: August 31, 1984 (35 years old)

Notable Results: 

11th place, 2012 London Olympics 5,000m 

Fourth place, 2015 World Championships 10,000m 

Sixth place, 2016 Rio Olympics 10,000m 

Fourth place, 2018 New York City Marathon

First Marathon: 

2016 New York City Marathon (2:28:13

Marathon PB: 2:26:33

NYC Half
Photo: Courtesy NYRR

This will be a very most exciting matchup, because Huddle and Sisson have gone head to head many times. In 2019, they met in the 5,000m at the Hoka One One Long Island Mile (Huddle came first, two seconds ahead of Sisson), in the 10,000m on three occasions (Huddle beat Sisson twice, Sisson won once) and at the London Marathon (Sisson came in sixth, over three minutes ahead of Huddle’s 12th). Sisson and Huddle are also training partners, so they know each other very well and likely have one-on-one battles every day. The two women should put on a good show for viewers as they fight for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

Bernard Lagat vs. Jim Walmsley

At a glance–Bernard Lagat

Born: December 12, 1974 (45 years old)

Notable Results: 

Bronze medal, 2000 Sydney Olympics 1,500m 

Silver medal, 2001 World Championships 1,500m 

Silver medal, 2004 Athens Olympics 1,500m 

Gold medal, 2007 World Championships 1,500m 

Gold medal, 2007 World Championships 5,000m 

Bronze medal, 2009 World Championships 1,500m 

Silver medal, 2009 World Championships 5,000m 

Silver medal, 2011 World Championships 5,000m 

First Marathon: 

2018 New York City Marathon (2:17:20

Marathon PB: 2:12:10

Bernard Lagat
Photo: André Zehetbauer

RELATED: Kipchoge vs. Bekele: Who comes out on top? 

At a glance–Jim Walmsley 

Born: January 17, 1990 (30 years old)

Notable Results: 

3x JFK 50 Mile winner (2014, 2015 & 2016)

2x Western States 100 winner (2018 & 2019)

2x Lake Sonoma 50 winner (2016 & 2018)

Fifth place, 2017 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

First Marathon: 

2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials (Debut marathon)

Marathon PB: TBD

Jim Walmsley
Jim Walmsley at the Tarawera ultra in New Zealand in 2017. Photo: Ultra-Trail World Tour.

It will be a very interesting to see who crosses the line first in Atlanta between Walmsley and Lagat. With Lagat’s age and Walmsley’s lack of experience at such a short (well, short for him) distance, both of these men are big underdogs to qualify for the U.S. team. Lagat certainly has the experience, having competed in five Olympics and winning multiple Olympic and world championship medals. Lagat has also raced a marathon before, which will be a completely new experience for Walmsley. Still, Walmsley is such an unknown for this race, so it will be exciting to see what he can run.


Unfortunately, Amy Cragg has announced that she will no longer be racing in Atlanta (we thought she and Jordan Hasay could’ve had a great head to head battle). Cragg won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, and she was confident heading into this year’s event.

RELATED: Jordan Hasay discusses Mary Cain, announces Paula Radcliffe is her new coach

Despite this loss, the race will still be a great one to watch, and there will certainly be lots of drama as hundreds of athletes race for the top three spots and an Olympic berth.