(Reuters) - Meb Keflezighi and Shalane Flanagan ran the fastest times of their lives on Saturday to win the U.S. marathon trials and book their spots at this year's London Olympics.
Eritrea-born Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, overhauled pre-race favorite Ryan Hall in the final few miles to win the men's race in two hours, nine minutes and eight seconds on a crisp morning in Houston, Texas.
Hall held on to finish second and also secure his place on the team for London along with third place-getter Abdi Abdirahman.
"To be on my third Olympic team is all I have dreamed about," the 36-year-old Keflezighi told reporters after the 26.2 mile (42.195 kilometer) race.
The 2009 New York City Marathon champion, a U.S. citizen since 1998, made the decisive break for victory in the final stages after he felt assured of a top three finish to make the team.
"We got it down to five people and then (I) said 'Hey, let's be on the team,'" said Keflezighi.
"With three guys (in the front pack) with four or five miles to go, it was all about being on the team."
Hall, the pace setter for most of the first 16 miles, finished second in 2:09:30. The 29-year-old won the U.S. Trials four years ago then finished 10th at the Beijing Olympics.
"The potential we have to go win medals (in London) is great. He (Meb) is going to be a great leader for us," said Hall.
Abdirahman, a three-time 10,000 metres Olympian born in Somalia, grabbed the final U.S. spot in 2:09:47.
"It has been a long journey for me," he said. "The last year and a half I struggled with injury."
Flanagan, a bronze medalist in the 10,000m at Beijing, won the women's race in 2:25:38. Boston Marathon runner-up Desi Davila was second and Kara Goucher third.
"It was a huge day," Flanagan, 30, said as five women went under two and a half hours for the first time at the U.S. trials.
"The last mile was a cross between savoring the moment and just being really grateful that I was almost done," said the 2010 New York City Marathon runner-up.
"I knew Desi was charging hard and I told myself I had to have one last gear if she came up on me."
Davila, who like Hall set the early pace and led for long stretches, said she paid the price for her tactics.
"My calves were just cramping up and ultimately I was like, finish it off and get the job done," said the 28-year-old.
"I didn't have enough confidence in being able to catch Shalane and I didn't want to lose the spot I had."
(Reporting By Gene Cherry in Salvo North Carolina; Editing by Julian Linden)