Heather Lieberg running photo

Heather Lieberg competing in a distance race.

File Photo Provided for Independent Record

Helena's Heather Lieberg qualified for her second U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon recently, at the California International Marathon in Sacramento, Calif.

Lieberg, 38, who has been recovering from an injury at the New York Marathon in October, was clocked in 2 hours, 40 minutes, 38 seconds, well under the Trials standard of 2:45.

She placed 16th in the women's division, which was captured by Lauri Takacsi-Nagy (Boulder, Colorado) in 2:25:41. Lieberg previously qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials in Los Angeles, where she placed 17th.

Lieberg said she didn't even plan on running in Sacramento until three days before the race because of a nagging calf injury.

"For about three weeks after New York I either didn't exercise, or I cross-trained on the bike a little," texted the 6-time Governors' Cup champ, whose marathon PR is 2:34:09. "Last week I started running a little bit and at the last second got me a flight (to Sacramento). I'm glad I got my Olympic Trials Qualifier with that gamble, but every time I tried to start racing a bit, my calf started pulling so I had to take it easy."

Lieberg did not know her actual placing or exact time.

"I told myself I wasn't going to look ... I knew because of my injury I couldn't run my normal times and I didn't want to be disappointed with myself," she texted. "Now I have about two months to get everything healthy before my training cycle starts up again."

She said the 2020 Trials have not been announced yet.

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Also running in Sacramento were the Capital City's John Morrison and Jesse Zentz. Morrison, 56, qualified for the Boston Marathon in his age-group, in a time of 3:32:13. Boston's qualifying mark for the 55-60 division is 3:40. Zentz, who has competed in both Chicago and Boston's marathons, went to the CIM as a pacer for Morrison, crossing the line with an identical time as his friend.

The two men were on the same flight back home, and shortly after takeoff from Sacramento, their plane hit a "bird strike" of geese, causing "extreme damage" to one of the engines.

"(There was a) whomping noise and jolt 5 minutes after takeoff. Blown, smoking engine," Morrison wrote on Facebook on Monday. "Some pretty nervous passengers. But, after a few hard turns, a skillful—only slightly wobbly—one engine landing by a cool handed pilot and quick response by the Sacramento airport firefighters. Made it out of town later today safe and sound."

Curt Synness is on Twitter @curtsynness_IR and can be reached at curt.synness@lee.net or curt52synness@gmail.com

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