Two Lincoln natives will be participating in the Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston on Saturday, but they took two very different paths to get there.
Mike Morgan, a two-time state cross country medalist for Lincoln Pius X and three-time All-American at Nebraska Wesleyan, will be competing in his second Olympic Trials. The 31-year-old, who finished 12th in the 2008 Trials with a time of 2 hours, 16:28 minutes, lives in Rochester Hills, Mich., where he trains with and works for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project.
Bridget Easley qualified for the Trials after recording a time of 2:44:58 in the California International Marathon on Dec. 4.
The top three men and top three women finishers in the Trials will represent the United States at the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer.
Morgan expects this to be his last Trials, whether he makes the Olympic team or not.
"It's a huge race for me," Morgan said. "I've basically been training for it since I graduated."
For an accomplished runner like Morgan, that's saying a lot. Although he will likely have to improve upon his personal record significantly to crack the top three, he considers 2:13:00 a worthy goal. Morgan qualified for the Trials with a 2:14:55 in the 2010 Chicago Marathon.
Morgan's Hansons-Brooks team has been training in Orlando, Fla., since the beginning of December. The relocation was designed to avoid the typically snowy Michigan weather, but few could have predicted the mild winter being experienced by the Midwest lately. The team also prepared by going to Houston and running the course two months ago. At the peak of its training, the team has been averaging 140 miles per week.
Like Morgan, Easley is also a Pius X grad, but didn't get into distance running until her senior year of college.
"I thought running the mile was torture back then," Easley said.
Unlike Morgan, Easley doesn't have a professional team to train with. She's a registered dietitian and does consulting work in Lincoln. Easley said she's been averaging about 100 miles per week, usually running in the morning before she goes to work.
She hopes to set a personal record Saturday, but acknowledged that her chances of making the Olympic team are slim.
"I'm just going to try to enjoy the experience," Easley said. "It's an opportunity that doesn't come around every day."
Despite his success, Morgan has also remained humble.
"I've been fortunate to be under the watch of some legendary coaches," Morgan said. "George O'Boyle at Pius and Ted Bulling at Wesleyan helped structure me into the runner I am today."
The Olympics Trials Marathon begins at 8 a.m. Saturday. It will be televised on a tape delay at 2 p.m. on NBC.