Running against the best of the best in American distance circles, Max King knew he had to push himself.

Running against the best of the best in American distance circles, Max King knew he had to push himself.

And push the former Crater High runner did, placing 19th in the U.S. Olympic marathon trials in Houston Saturday and setting a personal record in the process.

The 31-year-old King, who lives in Bend and competes for the Central Oregon Running Klub, completed the 26.2-mile race in 2 hours, 14 minutes, 36 seconds. His previous best was 2:15:34 in the 2010 Baltimore Marathon.

"It's a little faster than I've ever run," said King, "and I know I can run faster. The goal was to make the team, and I put myself out there and extended myself a little more than I should have. I ended up dying in the last four miles off a pretty hot pace."

The top three men and women made the teams that will represent the U.S. in the London Games next summer.

King was one of two local runners in the race. Liana Bernard of Medford competed in the women's event and placed 147th with a time of 3:01:05, well off her qualifying mark. There were 152 finishers.

Two other runners with local ties — Jenn Shelton of Ashland and former Eagle Point High runner John Lucas — qualified for the race. Shelton pulled out during the race due to injury.

Meb Keflezighi won the men's trial, qualifying for his third Games. Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman finished second and third.

Keflezighi, 36, covered the course in a personal-best 2:09:08. Hall's time was 2:09.30 and Abdirahman finished in 2:09.42.

Shalane Flanagan won the women's race in 2:25:38. Desiree Davila finished second in 2:25.55, and Kara Goucher was third in 2:26.06. Flanagan and Goucher are from Portland.

King, who competed in the steeplechase at the Olympic track and field trials in 2008 in Eugene, wasn't overly pleased with his race.

"I figured I had a real outside chance of making the team," he said. "Top 10 was doable and top five if it was an exceptional day. In that respect, I was not real happy with not being in the top 10. Everybody in the race was in really good shape."

King's qualifying time ranked him 27th of 158 who qualified for the trials. Eighty-five runners completed the race.

"It was pretty comfortable for the most part," he said. "Then about 13 to 15 miles in, stuff started to get a little harder, and the last four were really tough."

King focused for the past year on the trials and honed his training with long runs and tempo runs on roads.

He isn't through trying to qualify for the U.S. marathon team, noting that in four years, he'll still be younger than Keflezighi is now.

But he'll likely turn to the steeplechase in the coming months with the possibility of making the trials again in that event. King, who has won six of the past nine Pear Blossom Runs in Medford, will also continue to compete in trail races and other events. He's captured four straight trail run world championships.

"I might have some fun and try to get back to the track Olympic trials this spring," he said. "I'll go back to that race and see if I can get a PR a little lower than 8:30. That's one spot I feel like I could run a little faster, so I'm thinking about doing that."

Bernard isn't soured on racing, either.

The 30-year-old battled nerves at the start of the race, but they subsided once the starting gun was fired.

About halfway through, the pounding on the concrete took its toll and she slowed significantly.

"I was disappointed how it turned out with the running," said Bernard. "I was expecting a little better from it. At the same time, I was still happy. I told myself no matter what happens, I have to appreciate it and be proud of myself to be able to run in the Olympic trials."

She had three goals: A, run under 2:40; B, set a personal best; C, have fun.

"I fulfilled my C goal," she laughed.

One of the highlights was the support of the crowd, which sensed she was laboring, she said, and cheered her on.

Another was running with Keflezighi and Hall, if only for a few strides.

The course set-up was similar to what runners will find at the London Games. There was one 2-mile loop and three 8-mile loops.

The top two men's placers passed Bernard shortly after the 24th mile, she said, and fans roared at seeing them.

"It was pretty cool. It was funny," she said. "I was hurting and sad but happy at the same time watching the people who are going to go to the Olympics. It pumped me up a bunch."

She said she'll shoot for the 2016 marathon trials.

"I had a bad race but I don't think it'll change my desires at all," said Bernard. "I want to keep going."

Keflezighi, the silver medalist in the Athens marathon in 2004, was the only man entered Saturday who ran in the New York City Marathon in November. He finished sixth with a personal-best time (2:09.13), then developed an infection in his left foot, the result of leaving a nasal strip in his shoe, part of his pre-race ritual.

He missed three weeks of training and felt fortunate he was able to get ready for Houston in time. Keflezighi relied on his longtime coach, Bob Larsen, to hand him the nasal strip before Saturday's race.

"Unfortunately, I made a dumb mistake," Keflezighi said. "It cost me a bigger PR (personal record) or a higher place. But I believe that through this, anything is possible. I had it on and yes, it helped me breathe better."

The 29-year-old Hall won the 2008 marathon trial in a record 2:09.02. He was back in one of his favorite cities to run, where he won the 2007 U.S. Half Marathon championship in an American record time of 59:43.

"Today was a lot of fun," Hall said. "I accomplished my goal, which was to be completely who God made me to be out there."

The 33-year-old Abdirahman will compete in his fourth Olympics. He qualified in the 10,000 meters in the previous three games.

Davila, the runner-up in Boston last year, will make her Olympics debut. She had the front-running Flanagan in her sights down the stretch but decided to ease off and secure second place.

"Going into the last mile, it was kind of this internal conflict where I really wanted to make a push," Davila said. "It was kind of like, 'Should I push again, or protect this spot?' I went back and forth on it, and my calves were cramping up and tight. Ultimately, it was like, 'Finish it off and get the job done.'"

The 33-year-old Goucher trains with Flanagan in Portland. She'll compete in her second Games after running in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races in Beijing.

The weather was ideal, with the races starting under a clear sky and a temperature of 40 degrees.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email