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A brother and sister from Davis, Calif., are set to make history in Los Angeles on February 13, at the USA Olympic Trials Marathon regardless of the outcome of the race. Brendan Gregg and Kaitlin Gregg Goodman will be the first brother and sister to compete in the Trials Marathon on the same day, and only the second brother and sister to compete in the Trials in the same four-year Olympic cycle since Tom and Debbie Raunig in 1984.
That a brother and sister haven’t competed in the Trials in the same Olympic cycle in 32 years is remarkable given the number of other athletes with family ties who have. Race Results Weekly examined the results of previous Trials and checked with several running historians and found that although sisters had competed on at least three occasions, brothers on at least four, and spouses at least twice, there hasn’t been a brother and a sister since 1984, the year the International Olympic Committee added the women’s marathon to the Olympic program. Although seemingly less likely, at least four sets of twins have raced the trials: Jeanne and Karen Peterson (1996 and 2000), Kara and Tara Storage (2012), Casey and Patrick Moulton (2008), and Drew and Kyle Shackleton (2012).
“It’s definitely a cool thing,” mused Brendan Gregg who was joined by his sister in a recent telephone interview with Race Results Weekly.
Growing up in Davis, both Brendan, now 26, and Kaitlin, 29, ran in high school where they were coached by their father, Bill Gregg, himself a runner who competed for the University of California at Davis. Like her father, Kaitlin chose UC-Davis for her NCAA career, where she studied economics and international relations, graduating in 2010. Brendan went to Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., graduating in 2012. Both athletes did a fifth year so they could use all of their NCAA eligibility.
Kaitlin had hoped to compete in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene at 10,000m, but the 33:01.03 mark she posted ahead of the Trials wasn’t good enough to gain acceptance to the meet. Four years earlier, she and Brendan drove from Davis to Eugene, Ore., to watch the Trials at the University of Oregon. They were enthralled.
“The Trials has been a goal for both of us going all the way back to 2008,” Kaitlin said. “We road-tripped up to Eugene to watch the Track Trials in ’08. At least for me, the goal of getting to the Trials was planted for me.”
After college Kaitlin moved several times with fiancé Avi Goodman—an orthopedic surgery resident and now her husband—before settling in Providence, R.I., where Avi works at Brown University. However, she still goes to California for training stints, where she works with coach Dena Evans. She and Evans decided late in 2013 that Kaitlin should try the marathon as a way to move her stalled running career forward.
“Fall of 2013 I was at a crisis with my running,” Kaitlin explained. “I had moved to Ohio following my husband’s career. I was either going to hang up my shoes or go to another event. I talked to Dena and we said we’d give it another shot.”
She targeted the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December, 2014, both because it was close to Davis, and also for its reliable weather and gently downhill course. Both athlete and coach were comfortable that the then “B” standard of 2:43:00 (later softened to 2:45:00) was well within reach, but that the “A” standard of 2:37 might be possible on race day. Athletes with the “A” standard get their expenses paid for the Trials.
Meanwhile, Brendan had joined the Michigan-based Hansons Brooks Original Distance Project, run by brothers Kevin and Keith Hanson. Athletes from that group were also planning to run Cal International. Brendan, by virtue of his 1:03:35 half-marathon in Richmond, Va., in 2013, had already qualified for the Trials (1:05 or better is a “B” qualifier for the men). He was asked by another Hansons Brooks athlete, Clint Verran, if he would pace him for about 25 kilometers, and he agreed.
“I went through 16 (miles) helping out Clint Verran,” Brendan said. “We were going after the 2:18 mark.” (The original “B” qualifying time was 2:18 but was later later softened to 2:19:00.)
But since Kaitlin was also running, Brendan realized that he could also help her. He made a plan to slow down after pacing Verran, then pick up Kaitlin and try to run with her through 20 miles.
“I just jogged around waiting for Kaitlin,” Brendan recalled, who was able to get her through about 20 miles before stepping off the course and heading for a parked car with Coach Evans to drive to the finish. Kaitlin also got help from her parents and other family members who had come out to cheer. Loudly.
“There was lots of enthusiastic cheering,” Kaitlin said with pride. “They were like out in the street, really yelling. They were out in full force. I really respond to the crowd, especially to your family appearing. It was really special that they were at the finish line.”
Kaitlin clocked 2:39:29 easily qualifying for the Trials, and that remains her only marathon. During 2015, she and Coach Evans worked on her speed and racing acumen with good results. She placed a surprising third in the 10,000m at the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif., last April, dropping her personal best to an international class 32:09.82. That mark shows that she has sub-2:31 marathon potential.
Moreover, Kaitlin has been working on her racing skills, trying to hone her competitive instincts and to reduce her dependence on the clock. She said that will be essential for success in a head-to-head race like the Trials where place matters far more than time.
“I’d love to run a really fast time, but that’s not the main objective of an Olympic Trials championships race,” Kaitlin said. “I want to put myself in a a place to compete; run smart through 20 miles, then see what happens. I’m hoping to use skills from cross country, and approach it like a cross country race. Just put myself in it with the pack.”
Brendan, who lives in Davis now with his wife, Jonah, has different near-term goals than Kaitlin. Speaking from a training camp with the Hansons Brooks group near Orlando, Fla., he said he plans to focus on helping his teammates in Los Angeles because a sacral stress fracture he suffered last fall has hampered his training. He’s trying to take the long view now.
“For L.A., to be totally honest, we’re keeping the focus on track (season) with the injuries this fall,” admitted Brendan. “Definitely give it a shot and see what I can do and use that to build for 2020. Long term is the goal.” He continued: “Yeah, that’s the plan. Just taking it day by day now.”
Both Brendan and Kaitlin can count on strong family support in Los Angeles. Their parents plan to come and cheer, as well as their spouses, and younger brother Bryce, a high school freshman in Davis. Their younger sister, Kallie, is studying in Spain and cannot attend (she’ll be following the race via Twitter from Barcelona, Kaitlin said).
Both father Bill and brother Bryson have been helping Kaitlin train for the Trials while she’s been in California. She said that she’s grateful for their support, especially because she’s away from her regular training partners in Providence.
“He and my dad are on the bike,” Kaitlin said proudly. She added of Bryce: “He’s doing a bunch of my second runs with me.”