Local runner qualifies for Olympic Trials in the Marathon

Joanna Stephens grew up running in the Florida Keys.  She was a natural from the beginning running all through elementary, middle and high school in Florida.  Stephens set school records along the way and she was fortunate to earn a scholarship to run for the University of South Alabama where she set a school record in the women’s 5k.

Joanna came to Rockford via a marriage proposal from a Rockford resident.  Austin Stephens attended high school in Rockford and went on to play baseball at South Alabama where they met.  They were married in Rockford in 2017 and shortly thereafter she began training with Rockford running legend, and Olympian, Dathan Ritzenhein.

Even though she ran mostly 5k and 10k distances in college, Ritzenhein thought Stephens may have some success in the marathon.  Upon his recommendation, she started to train for marathons.  Over the last year and a half, she has competed in, and won, some shorter races ranging from 3k to a half marathon.

On a recommendation from Ritzenhein, Stephens entered the Bayshore marathon in Traverse City this past May.  This was her first marathon ever and you could say she had some success.  She not only won the women’s division but set a Bayshore marathon record and qualified for the Olympic Trials with a time of 2:43:47.

The Olympic Trials take place in Atlanta in February 2020.  Joanna will likely run a couple of races between now and then including the Crim 10 mile race in Flint and the Indianapolis marathon this fall.  The field of Olympic Trials qualifiers is pretty large this year but she hopes to make her mark and continue to improve her times.