St. Francis native Dakotah Lindwurm became the first Minnesotan to make the U.S. team for this summer's Paris Olympics, finishing third in the women's marathon Saturday at the Olympic trials in Orlando, Fla.
Lindwurm, 28, prevailed in a gritty battle for third place and the final Olympic spot. Fiona O'Keeffe won the race in a Trials-record time of two hours, 22 minutes, 10 seconds, with American record holder Emily Sisson second in 2:22:42. Lindwurm pulled away from Caroline Rotich with about two miles left to finish in 2:25:31, wrapping up the last of the three available Olympic berths.
Conner Mantz won the men's division in 2:09:05, with training partner and former Brigham Young teammate Clayton Young second in 2:09:06. Leonard Korir was third in 2:09:57.
Mantz and Young were named to the Olympic team, but Korir's time did not achieve the standard he needed to make the team Saturday. He still could qualify for the Paris Games if the U.S. is awarded a third Olympic berth in the men's marathon via the world rankings on May 5.
A two-time winner of Grandma's Marathon, Lindwurm entered the race with a personal-best time of 2:24:40, earned with a 12th-place finish at last fall's Chicago Marathon. She trains with the Minnesota Distance Elite club in the Twin Cities. After Saturday's race, she could barely hold back tears as she was wrapped in an American flag.
"I was just calling on the Lord those last four miles,'' Lindwurm said in a post-race interview with NBC. "I knew I had a little bit of a gap on (the fourth-place runner), and I was just praying to God that he could help me through.
"I just had this undeniable belief in myself. I knew I could carry this flag on my shoulders and represent this country. And here we are.''
Lindwurm was the goalie for her high school girls' hockey team, a combined program with St. Francis and North Branch. She walked on to the track team at Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D., and became a Division II all-America in the 10,000 meters and in cross-country. She finished her college career in 2017 and has been a professional runner since then, balancing that with a career as a paralegal.
Along with other members of Minnesota Distance Elite, Lindwurm had been living and training in Orlando for the past several weeks to acclimate to the weather, which was 61 degrees with 65% humidity at the start of the race. Saturday, she maintained position in a lead pack of 12 early in the race.
At the 12-mile mark, Lindwurm surged to the front of a 12-runner lead pack, with Minnesota Distance Elite teammate Annie Frisbie of Edina also in the group. O'Keeffe made her move near the halfway mark and began to pull away from the field in mile 20. Lindwurm settled back into the middle of the lead group, and her duel with Rotich began around mile 21.
As O'Keeffe and then Sisson separated from the pack, Lindwurm and Rotich ran neck and neck until mile 24. Lindwurm held an 11-second advantage on Rotich at mile 25 and maintained position through the final stretch.
O'Keeffe praised Lindwurm for running a "brave'' race. NBC analyst Kara Goucher, a two-time Olympian who grew up in Duluth, was emotional as she watched Lindwurm cross the line in third.
"My little Minnesotan,'' Goucher said. "Believing in herself, and willing herself onto that Olympic team.''
Frisbie finished 10th in 2:27:56,and Gabi Rooker of New Brighton was 19th in 2:31:25. The top Minnesotan in the men's field was Reed Fischer, a Minnetonka native who finished ninth in 2:11:34.