2017 USA Women’s 5K/10K Preview: Molly Huddle vs. Shannon Rowbury, Shalane Flanagan’s Back & How Fit Is Emily Infeld?

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By LetsRun.com
June 21, 2017

The 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships will be held this week at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, California, and LetsRun.com will be on-site all week providing coverage as America’s best runners, jumpers and throwers try to book their tickets to this summer’s World Championships in London. Before we arrive on the West Coast, we’ll be rolling out previews of each of the middle-distance/distance events to prepare you for the meet. We begin below with a look at the women’s 5,000 and 10,000 finals.

Remember, if an athlete finishes in the top three at USAs but doesn’t have the World Championships standard, they have until July 23 to chase it. If they still don’t have it by then, their Worlds spot passes to the next-highest placing athlete at USAs with the standard.

Before you read the preview, make sure you enter our prediction contest. It’s free to play and the top three entries win a $100 giftcard plus the New Balance shoe of their choice thanks to our friends at Running Warehouse.

LRC $200,017 LRC Running Warehouse USATF Champs Prediction Contest is Here!

Schedule/entries * TV/streaming information * LRC USAs coverage hub

Women’s 10,000 (Thursday, June 22, 9:27pm Pacific, 12:27 a.m. ET*): Molly Huddle tries to three-peat against deep field

*Technically this race will begin on Friday if you go by ET, but locally, it’s on Thursday night

World Championship standard: 32:15.00; athletes with standard in bold

NameAffiliationPRQualifying markComment
Molly HuddleSaucony30:13.1730:13.17Winner the last 2 years. Has run 15:01 5k this year
Amy CraggNIKE / BTC31:10.6931:17.20US leader in 2017
Emily InfeldNIKE / BTC31:26.9431:26.94Injury-prone Infeld has only raced once this year (2nd US 15k champs in March)
Emily SissonNew Balance31:32.5331:32.53US #2 this year has also run 15:02.
Kim ConleyNew Balance31:35.8831:35.88US #3 this year
Shalane FlanaganNIKE / Bowerman Track Club30:22.2231:38.68Made the Olympic team in Sacramento in 2004
Liz CostelloNew Balance / New Balance Boston31:43.7931:43.796th last year, ran 9:06 3k on June 1 in 1st race after Boston Marathon
Erin FinnMichigan31:51.8431:51.84 NCAA star didn’t race during collegiate season due to injury
Kaitlin Gregg Goodmanrabbit / Strava Track Club31:55.4631:55.46 
Alia GrayRoots Running Project31:59.2331:59.23 
Stephanie BruceHOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite31:59.8831:59.88 
Natosha RogersNew Balance31:59.2132:06.82Has run 15:08 5000 this year. 13th last year.
Chelsea BlaaseTennessee32:08.3932:08.39 
Allie KiefferNew York Athletic Club (NYAC)32:09.8932:09.89 
Elaina BalourisBoston Athletic Association32:27.2832:27.28 
Lauren LaRocco 32:47.3032:47.30 
Bethany SachtlebenSaucony Hurricane32:50.7032:50.70 
Meghan PeytonTeam USA Minnesota32:47.3733:04.29 
Bridget LyonsAtlanta Track Club33:20.0833:20.08 
Joanna ThompsonZAP Fitness Reebok33:07.2733:53.65 
Amy Schnittgerrabbit / Strava Track Club34:11.0334:11.03 

No distance event at USAs features more athletes with the World Championship standard than the women’s 10,000, which has a whopping 14 (nine other Americans have the standard but are not entered in Sacramento). Part of that is due to the fairly lax 32:15.00 qualifying time, but part is because of the talent at the top of the event. 

Think about it for a second 32:15 is more than 10% off the world record of 29:17 for the event. If they let people who were 10% off the world record in the 1500, the qualifying time would be 4:13 – not 4:07. Enough of that rant, moving on, there is a lot of talent in the event.

Molly HuddleAmy CraggEmily Infeld, Shalane Flanagan and Kim Conley have all made U.S. teams in the past, and Emily Sisson seems poised to do so in the near future. The first track final of the entire championships should be a good one.

Huddle hasn't lost to another American since the 2015 Worlds

Huddle hasn’t lost to an American since the 2015 Worlds

Molly Huddle has won this race the last two years and she set the American record of 30:13 in her last 10,000 in Rio. Though she “only” ran 15:09 at the Pre Classic — almost 20 seconds slower than what she ran in 2016 — she was still the top American in the race. Her coach Ray Treacy wasn’t worried by the performance.

“Molly had just come down from altitude the day before and was very flat, which we knew would happen,” Treacy told LetsRun.com.

Given Huddle’s staggering consistency — that 15:09 was the closest Huddle’s had to a bad race in years — she enters as the obvious favorite. Behind her, though, it should be a war for the next two spots. One of the leading contenders is Huddle’s training partner Sisson, who has made a major breakthrough in 2017 with PRs at 5,000 (15:02) and 10,000 (31:32). Sisson was a star in college, winning NCAA titles in the indoor and outdoor 5,000 as a senior at Providence in 2015, but she dealt with an injury last spring and was only 10th at the Trials last spring in the 10k. Since then, however, she’s been healthy, and last fall, she was finally fit enough to start working out with Huddle on a consistent basis.

“They were completely different levels up to this fall,” Treacy said. “They’d do different workouts, they wouldn’t work out together. Really since the fall of this past year and certainly since the spring, they’ve been doing a lot together.”

Treacy said that training since Pre (where Sisson was the second American in 15:10) has gone “really well” and that both Huddle and Sisson are where he wants them to be at this time of year.

I would certainly think that Molly is somewhere between 30:30 and 30:45 shape and Emily not that far behind,” Treacy said.

If Providence is one center of power in the women’s 10k, the other is Portland as the Bowerman Track Club’s Cragg, Infeld and Flanagan will all toe the line with a shot to finish in the top three. Cragg, the U.S. marathon champion, is the 2017 U.S. leader thanks to her 31:17 at Payton Jordan, but she’s already committed to running the marathon in London and has no plans to attempt the double.

Flanagan and Infeld, however, are in play for the U.S. team. Though the 35-year-old Flanagan has only been running workouts for about a month and a half after coming back from a stress fracture, she ran 31:38 at the Portland Track Festival, going 16:00-15:38. After the race, Flanagan admitted in an interview with Mario Fraioli that “my ability to change gears and to really have a kick was certainly lacking” and that ideally she’d have another month of prep before USAs, but this is a woman who has made every U.S. team since her first year as a pro in 2004. It will take something special to keep her off the team. Infeld, on the other hand, hasn’t raced since March, but that was also the case last year, where she finished second to make the team. But considering Infeld’s talent (remember, she medalled at Worlds in this event just two years ago), even limited training puts her squarely in the conversation to make the team.

There are two other women whom we think have a shot to make the team. The first is Sacramento-based Kim Conley, who won the 10,000 the last time the meet was here in 2014. Conley was derailed at the Trials last year when her shoe came off in the 10,000, but she’s made the last three U.S. teams that she’s tried out for (2012, 2013, 2016, all in the 5k) and has the advantage of racing on her home track, where she should be slightly more prepared for the heat than the rest of the field. The other is Natosha Rogers. Back in 2012, Rogers finished a surprising second at the Olympic Trials as a junior at Texas A&M and though she quit running entirely the following year, she’s gradually worked her way back to the top of the sport, clocking a PR of 15:08 at Oxy — the fastest outdoor 5,000 by an American this year.

LRC prediction: 1. Huddle 2. Infeld 3. Sisson

Huddle is the obvious pick FTW, but the other two spots are tricky. The fact that Infeld is even running suggests Jerry Schumacher must think she has a chance to make the team, and we’ll pick her here even though we have no way to gauge her current fitness.

For third, it comes down to the veteran Flanagan against the up-and-coming Sisson, and it figures to be a war. A fast race helps Flanagan, whose kick may be lacking at age 35, but Sisson has the strength if someone pushes the pace. Flanagan’s streak of making teams (10 in a row!) is incredibly impressive, so it would be cool to see it continue. But we think Sisson will be the one to snap it.

Women’s 5,000 (Friday, June 23, 11:46 p.m. ET): Mostly the same cast of characters plus Shannon Rowbury & Shelby Houlihan

World Championship standard: 15:22.00; athletes with standard in bold

NameAffiliationPRQualifying markDeclaration
Shannon RowburyNike Oregon Project14:38.9214:38.9215/5 double would require 3 races in 3 days
Molly HuddleSaucony14:42.6415:01.6415:09 at Pre Classic, won 5 and 10 last year
Emily SissonNew Balance15:02.1015:02.1015:10/31:32 outdoors this year
Shelby HoulihanNIKE / BTC15:06.1415:06.14Has only run 2 1500s outdoors, 2nd last year
Natosha RogersNew Balance15:08.2915:08.29US leader at 5000 this year outdoors
Marielle HallNIKE15:06.0515:11.02Made 10k team last yr, only doing 5k this year
Emily InfeldNIKE / BTC15:00.9115:13.87Injury-prone Infeld has only raced once this year (2nd US 15k champs in March)
Kim ConleyNew Balance15:08.6115:14.573rd last year
Sarah PaganoBoston Athletic Association15:18.5715:18.57Ex-Syracuse runner is thriving at BAA
Karissa SchweizerMissouri15:19.1415:19.14NCAA indoor and outdoor champ
Lauren PaquetteBrooks15:14.4515:19.73 
Vanessa FraserStanford15:25.8315:25.83 
Sara SutherlandSaucony15:26.5915:26.59 
Katherine ReceveurIndiana15:28.8915:28.89 
Nicole TullyHOKA NJNYTC15:04.0815:29.322015 champ rounding into form after tearing her Achilles in fall
Samantha SilvaNIKE / BTC15:29.8515:29.85 
Elaina BalourisBoston Athletic Association15:32.4915:32.49 
Jessica TonnBrooks15:18.8515:33.13 
Rochelle KanuhoHOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite15:25.8515:33.80 
Allie BuchalskiFurman15:35.5515:35.55 
Erika KempNorth Carolina St.15:41.2315:41.23 
Alycia Cridebringrabbit / SRA Elite15:35.3415:45.84 
Samantha NadelOregon15:48.9315:48.93 

This is one of the toughest events to project, mainly because we know exactly who will be running this race. The top two women on paper — American record holder Shannon Rowbury and former American record holder Molly Huddle — are both entered in multiple events in Sacramento (1500/5k for Rowbury, 5k/10k for Huddle). For Rowbury, the double would entail a 1500 prelim on Thursday night, 5,000 final Friday night and 1500 final on Saturday afternoon. For Huddle, it would be the 10,000 final on Thursday night and 5,000 final on Friday night. Neither is easy, but neither is impossible.

Huddle and Rowbury battled to the line in Sacramento in 2014

Huddle and Rowbury battled to the line in Sacramento in 2014

Treacy told LetsRun that Huddle would like to run both events at Worlds (where the double is far more manageable), and that if Huddle comes out of the 10,000 feeling okay, she’ll think about doubling back in the 5,000. Rowbury shouldn’t have a problem qualifying for the 1500 final, and her prelim shouldn’t take too much out of her before Friday’s 5,000 final. But the 5,000 final could impact how she feels for the 1500 final. The question is, which event does Rowbury want to focus on for Worlds? And what is her #1 priority – to make a team or actually be competitive?

Rowbury holds the American record in the 5,000 and with several women doubling back from the 10,000, that is an easier team for her to make. But she’s also the American record holder in the 1500, and if her goal is to medal at Worlds, that is the obvious choice — she was fourth in the Olympics last year in the 1500, while her medal chances at 5,000 are non-existent.

Both Huddle and Rowbury can probably make both teams, but if one or both wind up scratching, there are other women there who could fill those spots. Shelby Houlihan was an Olympic finalist last year and won the mile and 2-mile at USA indoors this year. Though she hasn’t raced a 5,000 yet in 2017 (and thus does not have the standard), she ran 4:06 for 1500 at Pre and was close behind 1500 studs Jenny SimpsonBrenda Martinez and Kate Grace at a cold, wet Drake Relays in April. She’s the leading athlete who will be fresh for Friday’s final. Marielle Hall, who has made the last two U.S. teams (5k in ’15, 10k in ’16), is fit right now as well, running 15:11 at Pre. Surprisingly, she didn’t even enter the 10k at USAs – an event where she was an Olympian – she’s only going for the 5k.

Nicole Tully won this race two years ago and has a big kick (though she only ran 15:29 at Payton Jordan) while the University of Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer dominated to win NCAAs. At 15:19, her PR is slower than the top contenders, but she ran that at NCAA indoors where Schweizer only started running hard with 400 to go (she put eight seconds on the field over the last two laps). She is capable of faster and since it will be hot in Sacramento may benefit from a tactical race.

Sisson, Rogers, Infeld and Conley are all slated to double back from the 10k, and though most of those women won’t want to think about running the 5k until the 10k is over, logic dictates that at least one of them (and likely more) will not make the 10k team and will be forced to try in the 5k less than 24 hours later on tired legs. For anyone other than Huddle, who may well be a running robot, that’s a very tough ask; we’d take a fresh Houlihan or Hall over anyone else coming back from the 10k.

LRC Prediction: 1. Rowbury 2. Huddle 3. Houlihan 4. Hall 5. Schweizer

Rowbury and Huddle are close to even over 5,000 meters (recall their epic battle at USAs in 2014) and we’d give the edge to Huddle if they were both fresh. But the conditions favor Rowbury who will only have 1500 meters of running in her legs compared to 10,000 for Huddle from the night before.  gives the edge to Rowbury in the 5,000. Should one or both not return in the 5,000, we like Hall for fourth and Schweizer for fifth.

Talk about the 5000 and 10,000 in our fan forum / messageboard. MB: 2017 USA W5k and 10k: Who wins the 5k: Rowbury or Huddlle? Which star will go home devastated in the 10k?


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