While none of the following athletes will have dreams of breaking the tape, like Chris Lieto did as the overall winner in 2011, there still will be some fantastic races up and down the field as athletes chase top age group finishes and the coveted slots that come with them. We preveiw who to watch out for in all of the men's and women's age group races.
18-24 – The top three finishers from a year ago - Todd Teren, Gonzalo Medel Gutierrez (Durango, Mexico) and Sebastian Haynes (San Angelo) - return, but Teren, who won in 4:34:26 a year ago, moves up to the 25-29 age group.
25-29 – Gone are last year’s 1-2, Joe Thorne, who ran 1:08:08 last Sunday at the Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Half Marathon, and Grant Glauser, who will compete as a pro this Sunday, but The Colony's William Ritter, who kicked off his season with a 1:15:09 at The Woodlands Half Marathon, will be the highest-ranked finisher (fifth) from a year ago.
30-34 – Houston’s Sean Schnur, Dallas’ Jason Erickson and New York City’s Stephen Carr are the only three returning top 10 finishers from a year ago. Schnur was third in 4:09:43 while Erickson and Carr followed in sixth and ninth, respectively, in 4:22:10 and 4:28:32.
35-39 – Lake Charles, Louisiana’s Michael Migues and Houston’s Tim Kitching are the only two returning top 10 finishers after going fourth and fifth last April in 4:36:19 and 4:37:46, respectively. Houston’s Trent Stephens, who was eighth, goes to the 40-44 division.
40-44 – Austin’s Lon Breitenbach, 43, and Frisco’s Christopher Moody, 44, return from last year’s IM 70.3 Texas after finishing second and eighth, respectively, in 4:22:26 and 4:41:30. IM 70.3 World Championship participants from last year, Utah’s Taylor Dudley, 42 (4:38:52, 9th) and Mill Valley, California’s Brian August, 42 (4:47:53, 29th), are the only other competitors in this division that posted faster times in Las Vegas than Moody’s 4:54:21 there.
45-49 – Cupertino, California’s Keish Doi and Weatherford’s Todd Hamilton join this division after going third and sixth in 40-44 a year ago in 4:30:56 and 4:37:07, respectively. They will mix it up with Houston’s Andrew Strong, 46, who was second last year in Galveston with a 4:37:56 showing before a 4:58:21 performance at the World Championships. Carrollton’s Gerald Jackson, who finished ninth in 4:55:06, also returns. Throw into the mix Park City, Utah’s John O’Connell who crossed the line in Las Vegas a few minutes ahead of Strong in 4:54:03.
50-54 – Making the jump to the 50-54 division is last year’s fifth place 45-49 participant in San Francisco’s Jeff Block, who finished in 2011 in 4:52:38. The battle will include Houston’s Chris Haycraft, Duxbury, Massachusetts’ Michael Lamie and Reston, Virginia’s William Beyer, who went second, third and fifth in Galveston last year. Haycraft led the way in 4:52:50 while Lamie and Beyer followed in 4:56:44 and 5:00:28. Lamie, however, went 5:02:15 at the World Championships in September while Arlington, Massachusetts’ Keith Manning, who will make the trip to Galveston on Sunday, was behind 16 slots in 5:10:01. Ballston Spa, New York’s John Noonan and McDonald, Tennessee’s John O’Brien finished in 5:04:01 and 5:23:57, respectively, there too. But the favorite may be Jackson, Mississippi’s Larkin Carter who trumped them all in Las Vegas with a 4:52:29 top 20 performance.
55-59 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma’s John Hildebrand and Longview’s Patrick Stephens return after taking the top two spots in 2011. Hildebrand, 58, won in 5:15:48 with Stephens trailing by almost 14 minutes (5:29:05). Missouri City firefighter Francisco Arriola, Jr. was sixth in 5:35:51. Joining the trio will be Dallas’ Larry Thompson who finished faster than Hildebrand and Stephens at the IM 70.3 World Championships with a 5:35:54 showing – 15 and 20 minutes better than the two, respectively.
60-64 – Houston’s Tommy Elder and Lake Charles, Louisiana’s David Park went 2-3 last year in 5:00:49 and 5:09:40, respectively, and they’ll be joined by Crosby’s Trey Evans (7th, 6:19:30) and McAllen physician Hugo Zapata (8th, 6:24:42) in the field of 27 racers.
65-69 – Thirteen competitors – including nine from outside of Texas -- are due to start on Sunday, but none of them competed in last year’s 70.3 here. However, the favorite is sure to be Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Marc Liebman, who was third last September at the IM 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas with a time of 6:14:57.
70-74 – No finishers in this division a year ago, but Louisiana’s Les Dauterive and Illinois’ Bill Marty will be trying to earn a spot to the 70.3 World Championships this September in Las Vegas. Dauterive was tenth at the World Champiionship in 2011 in 8:05:54.
18-24 – Last year's top two finishers - Chelsea Tiner and Tatiana Vertiz -- return; however, neither will contend again in this division. Austin’s Tiner ages up to the 25-29 age group while Encinitas, California’s Vertiz will be competing Sunday as a professional.
25-29 – New blood in this division will have to emerge as last year's winner, Lesley Smith, from Austin, returns as a pro on Sunday. Denver, Colorado’s Katey Dorweiler, who was sixth last year (and first out of the water) in 5:23:39, is the only top 10 finisher who returns.
30-34 – Fort Worth physical therapist Alison Miller, who was fifth a year ago in 5:01:46, is the only returning top 10 finisher in this division.
35-39 – A pair of Austinites – Marla Briley and Michelle Lester – and Houstonian Tia Roberts return from top 10 showings in 2011. Briley was fourth in 5:07:53 while Lester and Roberts followed across the line in 5:12:45 and 5:17:28, respectively.
40-44 – Look for another battle between Spring Branch’s Amy McGrath and Cedar Park’s Claudia Spooner for the top two spots again this year. McGrath bested Spooner by more than five minutes with a 4:49:15 win. Spooner’s 4:54:49 will be joined by last year’s seventh and ninth place finishers in The Woodlands’ Karen Ponette-Maldonado and Castle Rock, Colorado’s Michelle Orgill. The latter three mixed it up last October in the lava fields of Kona.
45-49 – Houston’s Nancy Randall, who finished eighth last year in the 40-44 age group, brings her 5:14:28 showing to this division. Bike Barn owner Lee Neathery, from Houston, was fourth in 5:11:52 last April in Galveston, but expect The Woodlands’ Linda Trinkle to challenge as she won her age group in February at IM 70.3 Panama with a 5:21:34 showing.
50-54 – The middle three of last year’s ten finishers – all Texans -- in this age group returns. Marble Falls’ Denise Rhodes, Missouri City’s Colleen Kelso and Austin’s Peri Kowal took the 5-7 slots in 2011 posting times ranging from 5:40:37 to 5:54:56. That may, however, open the door for Lewisville’s Della Irby, who is moving up from the 45-49 division after her 3rd Kona appearance last October and a 5:14:46 showing at Prairieman Half a month earlier.
55-59 – League City’s Jitka Newald is the only competitor from last year’s tough 50-54 division, where she finished tenth in 6:15:45, to age up and join Bismarck, North Dakota physician D’Arcy Honeycutt, who finished third in 6:05:58. Texas’ Anne Court is the only other returning finisher from 2011. They’re all part of a 20-woman field.
60-64 – Sugar Land’s Ellen Chu, who finished second last year in 7:02:29, is the only finisher from last year to return of the nine who are currently registered for Sunday’s event.
65-69 – Houston’s Susan Waldau was the only finisher a year ago, but Texas’ Susan “Cookie” Thompson will try to post a finish and earn a slot at the World Championships as this division’s only competitor.
70-74 – Spring’s Chris Gause earned a trip to the 2010 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida with her finish here two years ago. After becoming the first woman ever to finish a domestic Ironman other than the World Championship in Kona last November at Ford Ironman Florida, Gause, 70, will use Sunday’s event as a gauge in her build-up to her trip to Hawaii in October.