Men’s 3,000 Preview: A Dream Race – Lagat, Rupp, Levins, Gebremeskel, Gebrhiwet, Ndiku Go For Glory

March 5, 2014

Shameless plug: Check back Friday-Sunday for the latest LRC coverage from Poland. Rojo and Employee 1.1 on his first overseas trip will be on site

What a race! The men’s 3,000 most certainly is THE event to watch at the 2014 IAAF World Indoors for distance aficionados.

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Set your DVRs now. The final takes place on Saturday at 10:10 am ET (4:10 pm Poland time).

Where to begin?

The field has just about everyone left in track distance running (hey, let’s be honest, many are on the roads) not named Mo Farah.

The two-time defending champ, Bernard Lagat? Yes, he’s here. He may be 39 but sure doesn’t look like it as he comes in after a recent American record at 2,000 of 4:54.74 (which converts to a 3:50.5 mile) and a 2-plus second destruction of Galen Rupp at USA Indoors over the closing stages.

Galen Rupp, the Olympic silver medalist at 10,000 in 2012, who has set two American records so far this winter (13:01 5,000, 8:07 2-mile) is here.

The 2012 Olympic 5,000 silver medalist, Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia? Check – he’s here and he’s run 12:46 for 5,000. Remember, this is a guy who beat Mo Farah back in 2011 with only one shoe on in Boston.

The silver medalist in 5,000 at the 2013 Moscow World Champs? Yes, Hagos Gebrhiwet is in Sopot. He’s run 12:47 for 5,000 in the past and has beaten Gebremeskel twice so far this winter. Supposedly still just 19, we’ve wondered in the past if he’s the next King of the Distances from Ethiopia.

Kenya’s top entrant is 2010 World Junior 1,500 and XC champ Caleb Ndiku. In addition to having a 3:29.50 1,500 PR, he’s also undefeated on the year at 3,000. Ponder this stat for a minute. Remember how dominant Lagat was at USAs? Well, Ndiku beat Lagat by 2.24 seconds in a 3,000 in Germany on February 1.

The other Kenyan, Augustine Choge, won silver in 2012 behind Lagat. There also are three others in the field who have gone sub-7:40 this year – South Africa’s Elroy Gelant, Azerbaijan’s Hayle Ibrahimov and former NCAA star Cam Levins (Southern Utah) of Canada and the Nike Oregon Project, who comes in after setting the Canadian 2,000 record at 4:55.35 at Millrose.

The full field is as follows:

3,000 Meters Men   DOB PR (o=outdoor) 2014 Best  Comments
Hagos GEBRHIWET ETH 5/11/1994 7:30.36 o 7:34.13 Only 19 and already the silver medalist in the 5,000 at Worlds last summer and an Olympic finalist at age 18. One of 3 entrants with sub-12:50 5,000 PRs (12:47.53, which is the WJR). Got the best of Dejen Gebremeskel at New Balance Boston on Feb. 8th to set the 3,000 WL.
Galen RUPP USA 5/8/1986 7:30.16 7:34.68 Recent AR setter at indoor 2M and 5,000 has 6 top-8 finishes in global championships, topped by a silver medal in the 10,000 in the London Olympics. Stiil has trouble against Bernard Lagat and other big kickers in races of 5,000 and down, but has a much better kick than a few years ago and should be in the mix.
Dejen GEBREMESKEL ETH 11/24/1989 7:34.14 7:34.70 2012 Olympic silver medalist at 5,000 and has a bronze in the same event from WChamps in 2011. Incredible PR of 12:46.81 for 5,000. 5th in the 3,000 at World Indoors in 2012.
Caleb Mwangangi NDIKU KEN 10/9/1992 7:30.99 o 7:36.27 2010 World Jr. champ at 1,500 is still young at 21 years old. Blistering 1,500 PR of 3:29.50 came last year.
Yenew ALAMIREW ETH 5/27/1990 7:27.26 o 7:37.10 5,000 finalist in the last 2 outdoor global championships, PR of 12:48.77. Also has fastest 3,000 PR in the field at 7:27.26. Alternate.
Augustine Kiprono CHOGE KEN 1/21/1987 7:28.00 7:37.11 The silver medalist in this event in 2012 has also made 2 global championship finals in the 1,500. 800/1,500 PRs of 1:44.86/3:29.47 from 2009.
Bernard LAGAT USA 12/12/1974 7:29.00 o 7:38.51 3-time champ in this event (2004, 2010 and 2012) has 9 other medals from global championships (2 gold, 5 silver, 2 bronze) and somehow at age 39 can still break a 2,000 PR from 1999 with a 4:54.74 and outkick Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp to win the 3,000 crown at USAs.
Elroy GELANT RSA 8/25/1986 7:39.55 7:39.55 2013 WChamps finalist at 5,000. Just set S. African indoor 3,000 national record. Pretty good 800 PR (1:47.74) for a 3,000-and-up guy.
Hayle IBRAHIMOV AZE 1/18/1990 7:34.57 o 7:39.73 Euro Indoor 3,000 champ and WUG 5,000 champ last year. Won 3rd national title in Feb.
Cameron LEVINS CAN 3/28/1989 7:41.59 7:41.59 Double outdoor NCAA champ and 10,000 Olympian in 2012. Set PRs in 2,000, 3,000 and indoor 5,000 this season.
Ali KAYA TUR 4/20/1994 7:43.61 7:43.61
Othmane EL GOUMRI MAR 5/28/1992 7:44.73 7:44.73
Abdelhadi LABÄLI MAR 4/26/1993 7:45.62 7:45.62
Jonathan MELLOR GBR 12/27/1986 7:46.73 7:46.73
Youssouf HISS BACHIR DJI 87 7:48.32 7:48.32
Lukasz PARSZCZYNSKI POL 5/4/1985 7:49.26 7:49.26
Yoann KOWAL FRA 5/28/1987 7:44.26 7:49.36
Andrew VERNON GBR 1/7/1986 7:45.75 o 7:50.10
Antonio ABADÍA ESP 7/2/1990 7:51.69 7:51.69
David MCCARTHY IRL 8/3/1988 7:51.24 7:54.39
Collis BIRMINGHAM AUS 12/27/1984 7:35.45 o 8th in 2013 World Cross-Country.
Zane ROBERTSON NZL 11/14/1989 5,000 finalist at 2013 Worlds.

On paper, the following four men are going to battle it out of the medals – Lagat, Ndiku, Gebrhiwet and Gebremeskel.

The two Kenyan-born runners on the list (Lagat and Ndiku) haven’t faced the Ethiopians this winter so it’s hard to predict how they’ll match up. It’s really a perfect match-up as the two Ethiopians are better at 5,000 but Lagat and Ndiku have 1,500 backgrounds so 3,000 is the perfect meeting point.

Lagat was king of 2014 USAs. *More 2014 USA Photos

Quick Thought #1: Lagat has been on fire of late. As the reigning two-time champ, it’s hard to discount him but it’s intellectually hard for us to fathom how at age 39 he beats Gebremeskel, Gebrhiwet and Ndiku. He’s already lost to Ndiku this year and Gebrhiwet and Gebremeskel are the two best 5,000 guys on the planet when they are on and Mo Farah isn’t in the race.

However, this is a 3,000 and not a 5,000 and the 3,000 is Lagat’s best distance. We just looked it up. He’s won 14 of his last 15 3,000/2 miles. That’s incredible. Father Time is catching up soon but maybe not yet.

Plus Lagat’s last two races have been sensational. Additionally, we just watched the finals from 2012. You have to spend 30 seconds and watch the last lap of the 2012 final. You do realize Mo Farah was in that race and didn’t even medal, right?

Quick Thought #2: As good as Galen Rupp has been running this winter (American record at two miles and 5,000), it’s hard to believe he’s only a long shot for a medal. But Rupp has never medaled at 5,000 outdoors and dropping down to 3,000 makes it even harder for the 10,000 expert. Of course, it’s a big help that there are only two entrants per country at World Indoors as the Ethiopian alternate – Yenew Alamirew – is quite good as well.

Could Rupp medal? Of course. The “Big 4” will all want gold. Rupp’s best chance for a medal is if the Big 4 all go for gold, and then don’t all have it on the last lap. Sort of the opposite of how Pre was beaten for bronze in 1972. We don’t see Rupp running away from this field.

One crazy thing to ponder. Rupp’s teammate Cam Levins of Canada was pretty close to Lagat in the 2,000 at Millrose (just .61 behind). Might he possibly take the scalp of his own training partner Rupp? Levins is on the upside of his indoor campaign whereas Rupp ran great earlier indoors, then dropped out of the mile with a reported problem with his shoe in Boston, and then got beaten by Lagat handily in New Mexico.

What if Boston was beyond Rupp’s control, and the New Mexico loss was just because Rupp has never run great at altitude? Can the early season Galen Rupp re-emerge? More than a few interesting sub-plots. To stir the pot a little more, if Levins beats Rupp, what does that do to the Nike Oregon Project’s group dynamics?

Quick Thought #3: Bahrain’s Albert Rop, who ran 12:51 outdoors last year and has run 7:38 so far this year indoors, isn’t in the field – just like he wasn’t at World Outdoors. We assume he’s having to serve some sort of penalty for switching his allegiance from Kenya to Bahrain and will try to confirm that with the IAAF once we are in Poland.

We don’t Hagos to win easily like he did in Doha last May.

LRC Predictions: This one is impossible for us to predict. We think at first, “Gold for Ethiopia and Gebrihwet. Remember, he dominated the Doha 3,000 last May.”

But then watch the 2012 final once again and wonder if Lagat will have one last magical moment.

The we remind ourselves that Ndiku is a 3:29 guy in his prime – how does he lose?

We’ll go with Gebrhiwet. We may change our prediction by putting those four names in a hat and just pulling them out.

This one is a must-watch.

We do agree with this message board poster, however: To beat Lagat at worlds people should take it out HARD.

More: LRC Archive: 2014 USA Indoor Coverage
LRC Archive: LRC Lagat Is Utterly Brilliant In Men’s 3k As Johnson Earns Bronze In Women’s 800- Day 3 Recap

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