Roaring Fork High alumna an in-Cretti-ble runner |

Roaring Fork High alumna an in-Cretti-ble runner

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Alison Wade/ to the Post ICaroline Cretti had a heck of a "learning experience" in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado ” Caroline Cretti knew the stakes were high. She also knew she had nothing to lose.

Running just her second marathon ” that’s right, second ” the former Roaring Fork High School track standout far from embarrassed herself at Sunday’s United States Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials in Boston, finishing 21st out of 124 finishers.

“I was in a really great position,” said Cretti, speaking by phone from Boston on Monday. “I wasn’t expected to win. I wasn’t expected to really, honestly make the team, so it was pretty much a learning experience.”

What was a learning experience for Cretti, who now lives and trains with ZAP Fitness in Blowing Rock, N.C., would qualify as a run of a lifetime for most. And she did it nursing an Achilles injury she suffered during the winter.

The 23-year-old Carbondale ex-pat’s time ” 2 hours, 40 minutes, 12 seconds ” was just short of 11 minutes off the pace of winner Deena Kastor, of Mammoth Lake, Calif., who won the race in 2:29:35. It was also 3 minutes and a second ahead of her qualifying time, which she recorded with a fifth-place women’s finish (2:43:13) at the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis-St. Paul last fall.

Cretti carved out a stellar collegiate career at Williams College, in which she was a multi-time NCAA Division III All-American track and cross country runner and won three national titles (2006 indoor 5,000-meter run and the 2006 outdoor 5,000 and 10,000) at the Williamstown, Mass., school. That, after collecting four state titles (two apiece in the 1,600 and 3,200) at Roaring Fork.

She took to the professional ranks after her graduation from Williams in 2006, and has gradually increased her competing distances ever since.

“It came naturally,” Cretti said. “My coach and I kept moving my distances higher, and it seemed to be a good fit.”

She said she always envisioned her career traveling the marathon route.

“Running’s been a passion of mine for quite a few years,” she said. “When I decided to be a full-time runner, this is sort of one of those steps I imagined.”

Cretti seems well on her way to marathon stardom, and Sunday’s run delivered invaluable experience.

“It was a pretty nice learning experience,” she said. “I was just sort of about embracing the atmosphere, really giving it all you had to see where it got you, to see how that placed you. It was great experience in that regard. I was a very big long shot to make it. I was not even on the radar.”

To punch a ticket to the 2008 Summer Olympics in China as a member of the U.S. team, runners needed a top-three finish. After Kastor, the slots were reserved for Magdalena Lewy Boulet, of Oakland, Calif., and Blake Russell of Pacific Grove, Calif. The former clocked a 2:30:19 and the latter a 2:32:40, less than 8 minutes ahead of Cretti’s time.

There’s definitely hope for the future.

“Hopefully, this is just a step toward being competitive nationally,” Cretti said. “I still have a lot of time to take off my marathon time.”

Until then, she’ll continue to savor what was an all-around remarkable experience in Boston.

“It was just wonderful,” Cretti said. “The variety of women there was amazing. The oldest woman was 50 ” Joan Benoit Samuelson ” who won the first women’s Olympic marathon ever in 1984. There were people like her, people like me ” 23 years old. There was a mom who had a baby a few months ago. There were people running through injuries. There was an Olympic world record holder. It was just a huge spectrum of women.”

Also representing the Roaring Fork Valley at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials were Basalt residents Mary Cote and Megan Lund.

Cote, 43, took 101st with a 2:51.04 run, while Lund, 24, was 103rd at 2:52.32.

Lund, a member of the Boulder Running Company/Adidas team, is a Basalt High School graduate and competed against Cretti back in her prep days.

Cretti made a point to heap praise on her fellow Roaring Fork Valley runners.

“Congratulations to Mary and Megan,” she said. “I saw Megan a little bit. It’s just pretty neat that she … made the Olympic trials. It was nice to see a familiar face.”

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