Two runners with Chattanooga ties qualify for Olympic trials

Two runners with Chattanooga ties qualify for Olympic trials

December 5th, 2017 by Mark Pace in Breaking News

Local runner Christian Thompson poses inside the Fleet Feet store he manages on the North Shore Dec. 5, 2017. Thompson qualified for the Olympic trials.

Photo by Mark Pace /Times Free Press.

Two runners with local ties qualified Sunday for the United States trials for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Racing in the same pack, as it turned out, they qualified 21 seconds apart at the California International Marathon in Sacramento.

The standard to beat was 2 hours, 19 minutes, and Fleet Feet store manager and 2017 Chattanooga Marathon winner Christian Thompson finished in 2:17:59. Ooltewah High School graduate Tyler Underwood of Chula Vista, Calif. — near San Diego — was six spots behind him in 35th place, in 2:18:20.

"That was my goal," Thompson said. "The last couple years haven't been great running wise, but I knew the 2:19 was the best case. I wasn't sure I was going to make it until about 26 miles in. I had two minutes to run two-tenths of a mile, and I knew I could do that."

Thompson, 29, also finished 29th in this year's Boston Marathon in 2:23.51.

Underwood, 30, ran a 2:23:29 in the 2015 Berlin Marathon. He played tennis at Ooltewah and started running for fitness while attending the University of Tennessee. He moved to Southern California after graduation and ultimately got serious about competition. He's the event coordinator for RoadRunner Sports in San Diego.

Thompson, by contrast, started running when he was 8 or 9 years old. When one of his baseball games was canceled because of rain, he went to a 5-kilometer race with a family member. He ended up getting third place in his age group, received a plaque and was hooked.

"I thought it was really cool. I thought, 'I want to get more of those,'" he said.

Thompson moved to Chattanooga last year when his wife had a yearlong residency in the city. She ended up landing a job, and they decided to stay.

The date and location of the trials haven't been announced. The top three runners will qualify to be on the U.S. Olympic team.

"I'm going to try to (qualify)," Thompson said. "But to be realistic, U.S. marathoners are good now. It will take a sub-2:10 or around there. My goal is to be as fit as I can and run smart. I want to try to beat people I wouldn't normally expect to beat."

Contact Mark Pace at or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.

This story was updated Dec. 5 at 11:59 p.m. with more information.