Former Rocket Kertesz returns to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials

Published: Feb. 9, 2020 at 11:11 AM EST
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Emma Kertesz returns to the 2020 United States Olympic Team Trials in the Marathon later this month in Atlanta.

Kertesz is a graduate of Central Catholic High School and a former University of Toledo runner. She competed four years ago in the same event in Los Angeles where she finished 39th.

Returning to the trials for the second straight cycle was painful.

"I tore my hamstring," Kertesz said. "I ran the California International Marathon to qualify for the trials, and then I've been dealing with what I thought was some high hamstring tendinitis. I'm pretty sure on even 80 percent training I'll be able to hit the qualifying standard and then I'll deal with my hamstring after.

"And then I got an MRI and found out that I actually had a tear in my hamstring. So I ended up take off almost three months."

But Kertesz still had a spot in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Marathon. She recently took a leave from her teaching job to focus on applying for doctoral programs; she would ultimately like to work at the local or state level with education curriculum or research.

The doctoral program starts in the coming months, all while running an average of 85 miles per week over the last several weeks while training for the trials.

"Now that the field is doubled in size than it was in 2016 where I was 39th," Kertesz said. "But I think that I have a good shot of placing in the top 40. I'd like to be competitive and maybe I eke out a personal best that would be great, especially on that kind of course."

If Kertesz is not busy enough, she still has a side project she is working on related to her family's ancestry -- specifically her father David. At 18-years-old, he found out he was adopted and is a Navajo Native American.

"It's emotional but it's cathartic for both of us," Kertesz said. "Ultimately, it's brought us closer together and given me a chance to reflect on my dad more as a person more than just being my dad."

This project also has influence in her running life.

"I have a greater appreciation for diversity in this sport," Kertesz said. "(Watching videos of Billy Mills win the gold medal) that's really awesome that a Native American who came out of nowhere really if you watch that race to win a gold medal that was just so great."

Mills won the gold medal at the 1964 Olympics in the 10,000-meter race. At the time, Mills set a world record in the 10,000-meter event and is still the only American to ever win gold in the 10,000-meter race.

"You don't really see in terms of American distance runners a lot of Native Americans being represented," Kertesz said. "It feels really special to be a part of that and to represent my ethnicity on this stage."

One strategy she will carry with her to this stage in Atlanta is something she learned from Dave Carpenter, her coach at Central Catholic, is to make sure to stay competitive in the race and not worry about setting a personal record.

When Kertesz competed for the Rockets, she was an All-American in the 10,000-meters at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Kertesz currently lives and trains in Boulder, Colo.

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