Women’s 5,000: Molly Huddle, Then Who? There are Lots of Worthy Challengers

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By LetsRun.com
June 25, 2014

Women’s 5,000 Final: Friday, 9:05 pm Pacific (2:05 a.m. ET – technically Saturday morning)

American record-holder Molly Huddle has been running great on the roads in 2014 and enters Friday’s women’s 5,000 meters at the USATF Outdoor Championships as the favorite. Shannon Rowbury, who followed up an American record in the 2 mile at the Pre Classic with a 4:03 1500 in New York on June 14, is a good bet for second, but the next few spots are wide-open.

Breakout pros Katie Mackey and Laura Thweatt, 2013 fifth-placer Chelsea Reilly, 2013 1,500 champ Treniere Moser and NCAA stars Marielle HallAisling Cuffe and Abbey D’Agostino likely all think they can mix it up with Rowbury and Huddle. We break it all down below.

Name Affiliation DOB PB SB Comment
Molly Huddle Saucony 8.31.1984 14:44.76 14:55.90 AR-holder and ’13 Worlds 6th-placer has focused on longer stuff in ’14 but in great shape
Katherine Mackey Brooks / BROOKS Beasts TC 11.12.1987 15:04.74 15:04.74 8th last year but on another level in ’14 after 19-sec PR at Payton Jordan
Laura Thweatt Boulder Track Club 12.17.1988 15:04.98 15:04.98 Didn’t make NCAAs while at Colorado but has dropped PR from 15:36 to 15:04 this season
Shannon Rowbury Nike 9.19.1984 15:00.84 15:20.91 3rd last year + 7th at Worlds; ran AR 2 mile of 9:20 at Pre on May 31
Chelsea Reilly Saucony 5.9.1989 15:10.14 N/A 5th last year; 8:52 3k at NY DL on June 14
Aisling Cuffe Stanford 9.12.1993 15:11.13 15:11.13 #3 all-time NCAA; 2nd at NCAAs
Jessica Tebo Brooks / BROOKS Beasts TC 4.8.1988 15:18.17 15:18.17 PR’d at Payton Jordan; 9:01 at NY DL on June 14
Marielle Hall Texas 1.28.1992 15:19.26 15:19.26 Breakout NCAA champ will be looking for big performance to woo potential sponsors
Kellyn Johnson Northern Arizona Elite 7.22.1986 15:21.93 15:21.93 Has mostly been on the roads in ’14; 33:33 10k (3rd) in Green Bay on June 14
Treniere Moser Nike 10.27.1981 15:11.00 N/A Reigning 1,500 champ stepping up in distance this year
Jordan Hasay Nike 9.21.1991 15:28.56 15:28.56 10k PR at Payton Jordan on May 4; 5k PR in Portland on June 15; 12th at Worlds in 10k in ’13
Lauren Penney Oiselle / NJ*NY TC 5.27.1990 15:30.33 15:30.33 Former Syracuse runner has run PRs at 1,500, 3,000 & 5,000 so far outdoors
Abbey D’Agostino Dartmouth 5.25.1992 15:11.35 15:30.93 7-time NCAA champ looking to rebound after she was upset at NCAAs
Jessica Tonn Stanford 2.15.1992 15:32.26 15:32.26 Pac-12 10k champ was 13th at NCAAs in the 5k
Emma Bates Boise St. 15:33.42 15:33.42 NCAA 10k champ was 4th in 5k
Alexi Pappas Oregon TC Elite 3.28.1990 15:34.23 15:34.23
Katrina Coogan Georgetown 11.15.1993 15:34.34 15:34.34
Rochelle Kanuho Boulder Running Co. /adidas 15:34.85 15:34.85
Angela Bizzarri Brooks / BROOKS Beasts TC 2.15.1988 15:16.04 15:36.78
Juliet Bottorff Duke 1.29.1991 15:49.45 15:49.80
Kristen Rohde Bowerman Track Club 15:57.25 15:57.25

Entries subject to change. Check the status of entries here.

How good is Molly Huddle?

Huddle was the first American to win the New York Mini 10k since 2004. (Courtesy of NYRR)

On June 14, Huddle became the first American to win the New York Mini 10k since 2004. (Courtesy of NYRR)

There’s no disputing that Huddle is the class of this field, and she should win this race comfortably whether it goes fast or slow. Huddle entered 2014 as the American record holder at 5,000 meters and has only added to her accomplishments this year. In March, she ran 69:04 in her half-marathon debut in New York, putting her #5 on the all-time U.S. list. She won the B.A.A. 5k in April and two weeks later became the #2 American all-time at 10,000 meters, running 30:47 to finish second behind World/Olympic silver medalist Sally Kipyego. Huddle ran 14:55 for 5,000 in Rome on June 5 (U.S. #1 by nine seconds) and, most recently, became the first American to win the New York Mini 10k in 10 years, setting an American record for an all-female race with a 31:37. Not only was the time fast, but the field Huddle took down in New York was impressive: it included 2011 World 10,000 bronze medalist Linet Masai of Kenya and Boston Marathon runner-up Bizunesh Deba of Ethiopia (whom Huddle also beat in the NYC Half in March).

With Huddle’s long-distance focus this year, we would have loved to see her take on the greatest American woman of this generation, Shalane Flanagan, in the 10,000 in Sacramento, but Huddle is only doing the 5,000 — an event Flanagan isn’t running. The two kind of have a Galen Rupp-Bernard Lagat rivalry, which is to say, it isn’t much of a rivalry at all. Flanagan owns Huddle, with an 11-0 mark against her all-time on the track (Huddle has a 2-1 edge on the roads). Still, watching the two face off would be a lot more interesting than watching Flanagan and Huddle run away from everyone in their respective events, which is what will likely end up happening. Since they won’t be racing in Sacramento, let’s see how they stack up against each other career-wise.

The main difference between Flanagan and Huddle is that Flanagan has had success on the global stage, with a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics and another bronze at World Cross in 2011. Huddle, three years Flanagan’s junior, has made just two global finals on the track, but she’s moving in the right direction: she was 11th in the 5,000 in the 2012 Olympics but moved up to sixth at Worlds last year. It’s definitely possible that Huddle could move up to the 10,000 at Worlds next year or the 2016 Olympics and contend for a medal — in fact she probably has a better shot at medalling in the 10,000 than the 5,000. Huddle’s PRs right now are 14:44 and 30:47; Flanagan’s were 14:44 and 30:34 heading into the 2008 Olympics, while Kara Goucher‘s were just 15:08 and 31:17 when she won bronze at Worlds in 2007.

It’s hard to fully compare Flanagan and Huddle without seeing if Huddle can handle the marathon, but her success on the roads in 2014 is a good sign she may be able to move up all the way to 26.2 even though she’s been hesitant to move up to even the 10,000. If Huddle can win a global medal in the next few years, she’ll have to be considered every bit as good a track runner as the great Flanagan; once Huddle has a few marathons under her belt, then we can start comparing their two careers as a whole (track, roads, and cross country).

Rowbury a strong pick for second; how will Moser handle the 5,000?

Rowbury only has the seventh-fastest season’s best, but she has a firm grip on second and is the best bet to upset Huddle. She ran her best of 15:20 in a winning effort over Worlds fifth-placer Buze Diriba of Ethiopia at Oxy on May 15, and her history in the event (15:00 PR, third at USAs last year, seventh at Worlds) is better than anyone else in the field save for Huddle. Rowbury also demonstrated good speed in setting an American record at 2 miles (9:20) at the Pre Classic on May 31 and followed that up with a 4:03 1500 for fourth in the New York Diamond League meet. She has every reason to expect to run well in Sacramento.

Rowbury’s teammate with the Nike Oregon Project, Treniere Moser, is a stranger to this event: she’s run just two 5,000s since 2009, and none this year. We thought she’d run the 1,500 here since she’s the defending champ and has won four U.S. titles at the distance, but Moser is 32 now. Perhaps Moser just wanted to change things up in an off year, but we’re sure she and coach Alberto Salazar will be paying attention to how Moser does here to see if it makes sense to switch to the 5,000 full-time in 2015.

Salazar has one other charge in this race, Jordan Hasay, who will also be running the 10,000 the night before. We already spoke about Hasay’s success in 2014 in our 10k preview, and since that event is first, it will likely be her focus at USAs. It will be interesting to see how Hasay does in the 5,000 a day later (if she even decides to run).

It’s a good year to be a 5,000 runner

Twenty-one women are currently entered in the 5,000 at USAs, of which 15 have PR’d this year. That’s amazing: over 71% of the field has set a PR in 2014. And of those 15, eight women set their PR in the same race: the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Stanford on May 4 (a ninth, Amy Van Alstine, also PR’d at Payton Jordan, but scratched from USAs). Stanford has enjoyed a reputation as PR City for a while now and the women’s 5,000 is proof that its reputation is well-deserved. So for anyone a qualifier for nationals in 2015 — start making your travel plans to Stanford now.

Katie Mackey and Laura Thweatt were the biggest ‘winners’ (‘winners’ in quotes because neither won the race) from that women’s 5,000 at Stanford as both ran 19-second PRs of 15:04. Both ran USAs last year but didn’t contend for the spots to Worlds (Mackey was eighth, Thweatt 14th). Now that they’re knocking on the door of 15:00, both have to be considered threats to place top three in Sacramento.

A bevy of collegians

Marielle Hall was all business after she won NCAAs two weeks ago

Marielle Hall was all business after she won NCAAs two weeks ago. NCAA Photo Gallery.

The top five runners from the NCAA 5,000 final will all be on the line in Sacramento, as will Georgetown’s Katrina Coogan, who didn’t run NCAAs but has a 15:34 PR from — you guessed it — Payton Jordan. Two weeks ago in Eugene, Texas’ Marielle Hall used a strong last lap to turn away Stanford junior Aisling Cuffe and Dartmouth senior Abbey D’Agostino and win her first NCAA championship.

Hall may have more riding on this race than anyone considering that she hadn’t done much her first three years at Texas. A good showing at USAs will provide more evidence of her talent and make the shoe companies more comfortable investing in her, while a poor race would do the opposite (Duke’s Juliet Bottorff, also a senior, will be looking to do the same thing, but her best event is the 10,000, so we might not even see her on the line in this race).

Abbey D’Agostino doesn’t need to worry about money in this one as she just signed a very lucrative believed to be well north of six figure deal with New Balance. While doing the research for this article, it was kind of shocking to reminded that while Abbey has been a huge collegiate star the last few years and has a huge contract as a result, she has a slower PR than seven women in this field, some of whom don’t even have a standard shoe contract (Laura Thweatt runs for the Bolder Track Club).

Expect a bounce-back race from D’Agostino, who looked off two weeks ago in losing for the first time at NCAAs since November 2012. The stresses she was dealing with prior to NCAAs — graduation, ironing out a pro contract — are gone and D’Agostino rarely runs a bad race, let alone two in a row. It’s far from given that she’ll beat Hall and Cuffe, who proved their mettle at NCAAs, but she should be a lot closer to them on the final lap in Sacramento. D’Agostino, Cuffe and Hall are all behind Mackey and Thweatt in terms of PRs, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of them come in third behind Huddle and Rowbury.

LRC Prediction

1. Huddle 2. Rowbury 3. Mackey

Discuss this article in our forum: 2014 USA w5000: Molly Huddle looking good, but then who? Has the US Women’s 5000 ever been this deep?