Olympic qualifier

Gritty and determined.

That’s one way to describe Eric Loeffler, who reached a pretty amazing goal today.

The 34-year-old runner from Fargo works full time at Sanford Medical Center and quietly goes about his training, which he is reluctant to talk about. In fact, he’s reluctant to talk about himself at all.

Over the past several years, Eric’s compiled some impressive times in marathons and half marathons, but the former North Dakota State University runner can now add a title that very few can ever claim: U.S. Olympic Trial qualifier.

Early today, Eric finished 10th overall at the California International Marathon in 2 hours, 18 minutes, 36 minutes, dipping below the men’s “A” standard of 2 hour, 19 minute qualifying mark.

His historic race comes two months after October’s Chicago Marathon, where Eric was on pace for a qualifying mark until near the end. Eric, who grew up in Fergus Falls, finished in 2:20:56.

Undeterred, Eric set his sights on running today’s race, commonly referred to as Cal International.

Both times represent a personal record for Eric, who has helped coach other runners in the Fargo-Moorhead area over the years, including student athletes at Fargo North High School.

He joins Meg Grindall of Moorhead as area runners who qualified for U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Grindall qualified with a “B” standard for women by running the Boston Marathon in 2:45:16 earlier this year.

The women’s “A” standard is 2:39 with the difference between the two is “A” runners receive financial support.

The men’s and women’s marathon trials, scheduled for Jan. 14 in Houston, will be televised by NBC.

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