At the US Half Marathon Championships in Houston, ZAP-Reebok athletes Tyler Pennel and Cole Atkins cleared a big hurdle on their way to the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials in recently announced Los Angeles by posting qualifying marks two years ahead of the Trials date.

Atkins, running his first race over 10 miles, ran 1:04:37 in what was perhaps the deepest half marathon in US history. More importantly, Atkins punched his ticket to Los Angeles ahead of the February 2016 Olympic Trials. On New Years Eve in New York’s Central Park Atkins won the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run as a final Houstontuneup before Houston. With a strong final kilometer Atkins passed a surging Tim Ritchie from the BAA and pulled away to win by 3 seconds, covering the hilly 4 mile course in 18:45. Atkins was joined by first year athlete Kevin Schwab who took 4th place in 19:07.

For 2nd year athlete Tyler Pennel, the US Half Marathon Championships were much more than an Olympic Trials qualifier. Pennel was in the lead pack from the beginning, which was pulled through the opening 5k in 14:38 and 10k in 29:10 by Olympic Silver Medalist Meb Keflezighi. Despite the quick steady pace Pennel remained comfortably tucked in the lead pack of 11 men. Shortly after the 10k mark Pennel took a turn pushing the pace and whittled down the pack down to 7 by 15k, reached in 43:37, courtesy of 14:27 third 5k.

As the pack approached 15k Keflezighi took control of the race and began to pull away from the rest of the pack. Pennel continued to push the pace in the chase pack, giving no-one a chance to catch their breath. The race began to break open behind Pennel and only 3 men were able to keep in touch on the final push for the finish. As the clock stopped at 1:01:44 Pennel crossed the line in 4th place and laid claim to the 16th fastest time by an American ever in the event. Prior to the race only twice had 2 Americans ever run 1:02:00 or faster in the same race. When the dust settled in Houston a total of 9 men had accomplished the feat.

The race was yet another breakthrough for Pennel as he followed up a 3rd place finish in November at the .US Road Racing Championships and a 3rd place finish at the Manchester Road Race with his most impressive performance to date. By virtue of his 4th place finish Pennel all but assured himself a spot on the World Half Marathon team that will compete at the World Half Marathon Championships at the end of March in Copenhagen, Denmark. In the buildup to the World Championships Pennel will run the US 15k Championships at the Gate River Run where he will look to improve upon his 9th place finish from a year ago.