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Preview of Day 1 of USATF Nationals: Meb Versus Abdi Round 8
Editor'sNote: Jorge Torres was not on the 10k entry lists, but he is on the starting lists and will be contesting his first 10,000m on the track tonight. This preview was written before the start lists were released.
There may not be World Championship or Olympic berths on the line this year at the 2006 USATF nationals, but athletes will still be competing for the coveted US national title. The highlight of the track action on Day 1 of the 2006 USATF championships is the 10,000m finals.
Since 1999, when looking at the 10,000m in the United States, 3 runners, American record holder Meb Keflezighi (US champ 3 times in the even-numbered years 2000, 2002, 2004), Alan Culpepper (US champ in 1999 and 2003) and Abdi Abdirahman (US champ in 2001 and 2005), have dominated the US ranks. All 3 now make their living primarily at the marathon (Meb won the silver medal at the Athens Olympics), but Meb and Abdi still show up every year to race the 10,000m at nationals.
Last year they had a stunning battle with Abdi and Meb battling neck and neck down the final entire home stretch with Abdi winning in 28:10.38 over Meb's 28:10.57. Both are back this year hoping to put on another show.
Abdirahman is the sharpest of the big 2, having run an 11 second PR of 27:22.81 in Hengelo on May 28th to become the #3 American ever. He also won the US 10 Mile Championships in April at the Papa John's 10 miler.
Keflezighi's fitness is unknown, but he has been the King of American 10,000m running since 1999 with his 3 US titles to Alan and Abdi's 2, not to mention his American record. He is coming off his 2:09:56 3rd place finish at the Boston Marathon. His only race since then was a 29:30 win for 10k over an unimpressive field at the Classic 10k in Middeltown, NY on June 11th. Since 2000, Meb has never finished worse than second in this race so since he is running, one best assume he is ready to go.
A fresh face who hopes to break up the Meb, Abdi, Alan stranglehold on American 10,000m running is Anthony Famiglietti. Famiglietti, one of the most interesting guys on the circuit, primarily was a steeplechaser in years past, but he ran a 27:37.74 debut 10k at the Cardinal Invite just behind Alan Webb and Dathan Ritzenhein, becoming the 12th fastest American ever at the event.
Famiglietti held back early on in that 10,000m and was closing on Ritzenhein and Webb at the end. Now full of confidence, you can be assured he will try to stay with Abdi and Meb (which few runners outside of Alan and Dan Browne have been able to do). Dan Browne is in the race but is coming off injury and we do not expect him to challenge.
Predictions: Abdi evens the score with Meb and gets his 3rd title. There are just too many questions on whether Meb is 10k sharp, and Abdi is running well in 2006. 1) Abdi 2) Famiglietti 3) Meb
The question mark on McGregor is what is her fitness level and is she ready to defend her title? Her only track race was a 9:03 for 3k at the Adidas Classic at the Home Depot Center. She then was entered but did not start the 5k at the Reebok Grand Prix in NY.
Slattery, the NCAA champion at 10k in 2005, is having a breakout year in her first campaign as a professional. She has raced on the outdoor track 3 times in 2005 and has a PR in each effort. She opened up outdoors with a 32:21.64 for 2nd at the Cardinal Invite on April 30th, then sharpened up with an 8:58 for 3k at the Adidas Classic (ahead of McGregor and Rudolph), and went on to run 15:24.01 for 5k (her old pr was 15:24.9 from 2003). But the highlight of her season was her surprising win at the Bolder Boulder 10k professional road race in 33:42. The women's field was not stacked at Bolder this year, but Slattery's win was a shocker. Slattery clearly is running her best in 2006. To win, however, she will have to take it to another level and be able to run in the 31 minute range as both McGregor (31:21) and Rudolph (31:18) have run over a minute faster over 10k than she has.
Rudolph, the veteran of the group, has run one 10k on the track in her life, a stunning 31:18.96 debut last year for the win at the Cardinal Invite. She then opted to skip the 10k and run the 5k at nationals. This year she is entered in both the 5k and 10k, so the question is which event is she running (unlike high school meets, athletes can scratch from an event right before it starts). Rudolph ran 9:03 for 3k at the Adidas meet but has done most of her preparation for the 2006 Nationals on the roads, taking on some of the top women in the world. She was 5th at the Freihofer's 5k in 15:49 and followed that up with a 32:34 on the tough Central Park 10k at the Circle of Friends 10k for 6th place.
Analysis: There are too many question marks on McGregor's fitness. Rudolph appears to be rounding into form and has such a faster PR than Slattery she has to be considered the favorite, if she runs:
Other action: Justin Gatlin begins his quest to win the Visa Championship Series and the $100,000 prize as the 100m first round is on Thursday (to win the Series, athletes have their best performance in a Visa Meet scored according to the IAAF scoring tables. The leading athlete then must win their event at nationals to pick up the $100,000 prize. Justin Gatlin's 9.87 100m has a score that will almost take a world record in another event to beat).
The men's and women's 800m, along with the women's steeple and 1500m get underway.
Plus the formal announcement on the men's and women's Olympic Marathon Trials.
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