June 18, 2015
Finally, it’s time to select Team USA for this year’s World Championships in Beijing.
By the end of the day on Sunday, June 28, the team won’t be finalized (some athletes will try to chase the IAAF standard; others may later surrender their spots due to injury) but we’ll have answers to the questions that have been driving conversations in track circles for months. Those include:
- Can 800 studs Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds regain their form in time to make another Worlds team?
- Which of the U.S.’s five sub-2:00 800 women will be left home?
- Can Ben Blankenship and Boris Berian cap breakout years with a World Championships appearance?
- Will Ben True finally make a U.S. team on the track?
- Can 40-year-old Bernard Lagat make his seventh U.S. team?
- Can NCAA stars Eric Jenkins, Emily Sisson and Colleen Quigley make the team?
- What will Galen Rupp say to the media and how will he perform under intense media scrutiny?
We’ll be previewing all the mid-d/distance events in the ensuing days before the 2015 USATF Outdoor Championships kick off at Hayward Field on Thursday but we start with the men’s and women’s 10,000 as the finals are one week from today.
Below, you can find all the key information for USAs, followed by a preview of the men’s and women’s 10,000s.
As a reminder, the top three finishers in each race with the 27:45.00/32:00.00 IAAF standards qualify to the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing from August 22-30. Athletes have until August 9 to achieve the standard. In the 10,000 and 5000, you must have the standard to compete (in other events you can go without it if you are one of the top 48 entrants in the 800 and top 45 in the 1500/steeple) with one important exception. Even if an athlete does not have the 10,000 standard, they can still go to Worlds by winning the 10,000 at the 2015 NACAC (North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association) Championships in San Jose, Costa Rica, from August 7-9 which shouldn’t be too hard to do.
Women’s 10,000 (Thursday, 10:35 p.m. ET)
Athletes in bold have IAAF qualifying standard (32:00.00)
2014 USA finish in parentheses
|Molly Huddle||Saucony||30:47.59||30:47.59||American record holder for 5000 is a virtual lock|
|Shalane Flanagan||Nike / Bowerman Track Club||30:22.22||31:09.02||Has qualified for every U.S. 10k team since ’08|
|Emily Sisson||31:38.03||31:38.03||NCAA indoor/outdoor 5k champ|
|Emily Infeld||Nike / Bowerman Track Club||31:38.71||31:38.71||Ran 15:07 to beat Flanagan on June 13|
|Jordan Hasay (2)||Nike / Nike Oregon Project||31:39.67||31:39.67||2nd in ’13+’14 but coming off injury|
|Mattie Suver||ASICS||31:54.43||31:54.43||34th at World XC in March (3rd American)|
|Liz Costello||New Balance||32:01.79||32:01.79||Former Princeton star is PR’ing again under Mark Coogan|
|Alexi Pappas||Nike / NIKE OTCE||32:02.22||32:02.22||Former steepler was 7th in 5k last year|
|Emma Bates (6)||Boise St.||32:13.28||32:13.28||2014 NCAA champ was just 10th this year after bold move at 8400|
|Rachel Ward (5)||Ragged Mountain Racing||32:15.85||32:15.85|
|Amy Cragg (3)||Brooks||31:10.69||32:18.81||2012 champ was 4th in ’13, 3rd last year|
|Kristin Swisher (14)||32:40.66||32:40.66|
|Sarah Pagano||Boston Athletic Association||32:46.13||32:46.13|
|Allison Grace Morgan||Brooks||32:46.49||32:46.49|
|Elaina Balouris||Boston Athletic Association||32:46.57||32:46.57|
|Carrie Dimoff (13)||Bowerman Track Club||32:46.75||32:46.75|
|Meghan Peyton (11)||Saucony / Team USA Minnesota||32:47.37||32:47.37|
|Alia Gray (12)||Brooks||32:50.68||32:50.68|
|Desiree Linden||Hansons-Brooks Distance Project||31:37.14||32:50.93||4th at Boston Marathon in April|
|Sara Hall||ASICS||32:50.96||32:50.96||20th at World XC in March (top U.S. finisher)|
|Amy Van Alstine||HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite||32:52.74||32:52.74|
|Katie Matthews||Boston Athletic Association||32:44.58||32:55.63|
The top three in this race could well wind up as the past, present and future of American 10,000-meter running. American record holder and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan‘s primary event is now the marathon, but the 33-year-old is the 2015 U.S. leader in the 10,000 (by over 29 seconds) and has qualified for the last five U.S. teams at 10,000 (she was 3rd at the 2012 Olympic Trials but ran the marathon at the Olympics instead). Her 15:11.15 at the Portland Track Festival on June 13 showed that she’s still got some speed in her legs despite taking ninth at the Boston Marathon on April 20.
30-year old Molly Huddle is a lock for her fourth U.S. team as she runs the 10,000 at USAs for the first time since 2009. Huddle began experimenting with longer distances last year (69:04 in her debut at the NYC Half Marathon in March; a 30:47.59 10,000 at Payton Jordan in May to put her #2 on the all-time U.S. list) but her focus was still on the 5,000, where she won her second U.S. title and lowered her American record to 14:42.64. Huddle remains a master of many distances in 2015, but has shifted her focus to the 10,000, where her chances of a medal at Worlds are greater than at 5,000. In March, Huddle knocked 33 seconds off her HM pb to win the NYC Half (she’s now T-3rd on the all-time U.S. list). She followed that up with an American road record of 14:50 at the B.A.A. 5K on April 18 and cruised to a 14:57.23 on the track at the low-key New Balance Twilight Meet in Waltham, Mass., on June 13. Huddle is the U.S.’s best runner at every distance from 5,000 to the half marathon right now and the 10,000 falls toward the middle of her range. She’ll have no problem with this field.
Emily Sisson, like Huddle, is based in Providence under Ray Treacy. Sisson just concluded her NCAA career by dismantling a 5,000 field at NCAAs that included four other NCAA champions; she also won NCAAs indoors and set an indoor collegiate record (non-oversized track) of 15:12.22 at the Big East Championships. But Sisson’s true strength lies at the 10,000 and beyond.
“I really enjoy the longer stuff, so the longer I go, the more comfortable and confident I feel,” Sisson said after her win at NCAAs. “The 5k is actually my least comfortable event.”
Sisson is #2 on the U.S. list this year after her 31:38.03 at Payton Jordan on May 2 and now has a great chance to make her first U.S. team. And while a storyline of the past (Flanagan), present (Huddle) and future (Sisson) of the 10,000 all qualifying to Beijing would be neat, there are a few women who hoping to upset the narrative.
Chief among them is Emily Infeld. The 25-year-old, who was the 2012 NCAA indoor 3,000 champ while at Georgetown, started off her pro career successfully in 2013, finishing second at USA indoors in the 3,000, taking 21st at World XC and running 8:41 for 3,000. But a sacral stress fracture at the end of that year robbed her of almost six months of training, causing her to miss most of 2014 (she did take third at the U.S. 5K road championships in September). Healthy again, Infeld is set to run at USAs for the first time since 2012 and enters in the form of her life. In May, she finished a couple of steps behind Sisson at Payton Jordan, running 31:38.71 to Sisson’s 31:38.03, and last week ran a massive 21-second PR of 15:07 to win the 5,000 at the Portland Track Festival, beating Flanagan by four seconds.
The other two women with an outside shot at Beijing are the two that would have made it had there been a Worlds in 2014 — last year’s runner-up Jordan Hasay and last year’s third-placer Amy (Hastings) Cragg (2014 champ Kim Conley is injured and will not run USAs). Last year was the best year of Hasay’s career, with PRs over every distance, and she seemed set to top that in 2015 after a strong indoor season that culminated with a runner-up finish in the 2-mile at USAs. But Hasay has been battling plantar fasciitis for most of the spring and ran just 15:45 in her outdoor opener at the Portland Track Festival. It’s very hard to imagine her closing the deficit to Infeld and Flanagan (who beat her by 38 and 34 seconds, respectively, in that race) in the span of just 12 days.
Cragg, who trains with Huddle in Providence, is in a better spot than Hasay, but she’s still a longshot to make the team. Unlike last year, Cragg ran a marathon this spring (she wound up a DNF at Boston) so she hasn’t had as much time to adjust for the track. Though she did run 15:30 for 5,000 last week, she’s still behind where she was at this point last year (when she soloed a 15:25 to win the Adrian Martinez Classic). Last year, Cragg was third in a field that didn’t contain Huddle, Sisson, Flanagan or Infeld. Coming off a marathon in the spring, a top-three finish at USAs in 2015 is too much to ask.
With Huddle a certainty for the team, there are three athletes (Flanagan, Sisson, Infeld) for two spots, which makes for an exciting race. Here’s what each have done in 2015:
|5,000||15:11.15 (PTF)||15:12.22 (Big East indoor)||15:07.19 (PTF)|
|10,000||31:09.02 (Stanford Invite)||31:38.03 (Payton Jordan)||31:38.71 (Payton Jordan)|
So Sisson beat Infeld head-to-head (at Payton Jordan) and Infeld beat Flanagan head-to-head (at the Portland Track Festival). But Flanagan has the experience and the fastest season’s best by some margin (granted it came before her marathon). There’s just not much to separate them. We’ll give Flanagan the edge based on experience and take Infeld and her 4:07 1500 speed for third in a kick over Sisson, though those three could conceivably finish in any order. It would be a surprise to see anyone else finish in the top four, but as NCAAs showed us, anything can happen in the women’s 10,000.
LRC Prediction: 1. Huddle 2. Flanagan 3. Infeld
Men’s 10,000 (Thursday, 11:15 p.m. ET)
Athletes in bold have IAAF qualifying standard (27:45.00)
2014 finish in parentheses
|Galen Rupp (1)||Nike / Nike Oregon Project||26:44.36||26:44.36||6-time defending champ should make it 7|
|Diego Estrada||ASICS||27:30.53||27:30.53||Has run 13:17, 27:30 and 60:51 in 2015|
|Hassan Mead||Nike / NIKE OTCE||27:33.04||27:33.04||Has only run two races outdoors; 3rd in 5k last year|
|Shadrack Kipchirchir||U.S. Army||27:36.79||27:36.79||Former OSU runner only ran 28:34 at Payton Jordan|
|Ben True||27:41.17||27:43.79||Red-hot in 2015; won NYC DL 5k on June 13|
|Jason Witt||27:54.25||27:54.25||BYU grad was 3rd at NCAAs|
|Christo Landry||Mizuno||27:55.19||27:55.19||Ran 75:02 for 25k in last race on May 9|
|Bobby Curtis (6)||Hansons-Brooks Distance Project||27:24.67||27:56.59||37th at World XC in March; just 13:55 at Portland Track Festival (6/14)|
|Jacob Riley (9)||Hansons-Brooks Distance Project||27:59.37||27:59.37||Stanford grad ran just 14:05 at Portland Track Festival|
|Brendan Gregg (7)||Hansons-Brooks Distance Project||28:03.27||28:03.27|
|Aron Rono (8)||U.S. Army||27:31.15||28:03.51|
|Ryan Vail (3)||Brooks||27:44.05||28:04.60||34th at World XC in March|
|Chris Derrick (2)||Nike / Bowerman Track Club||27:31.38||28:18.18||Was 3rd in ’13 and 2nd in ’14 but coming off injury; 13:40 at PTF|
|Tyler Pennel||Reebok / ZAP Fitness Reebok||28:22.90||28:22.90|
|Johnny Crain II||28:26.98||28:26.98|
|Aaron Braun (5)||adidas||27:41.54||28:34.43|
|Eric Fernandez||HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite||28:37.23||28:37.23|
|Jared Ward Sr||Saucony||28:36.15||28:37.36|
As in the women’s race, there is a heavy favorite in the men’s 10,000 at USAs: a certain Galen Rupp, who will go for his seventh straight title. Rupp, who broke his own American record last year, running 26:44.36 should have no trouble qualifying for his seventh straight U.S. team. In fact, the more challenging exercise for Rupp may be navigating the mixed zone after the race, where the media will get the first chance to speak to Rupp since the BBC/ProPublica alleged that Rupp and coach Alberto Salazar broke doping rules.
Among the claims were that Rupp used testosterone in high school, that he had been coached to manipulate the system in order to receive an IV at the 2011 World Championships and that Rupp took pills that Salazar had mailed to him inside a hollowed-out book prior to a race in Germany in 2011.
“I expressly told these reporters that these allegations were not true and their sources admit they have no evidence, yet they print ‘suspicions’ attacking me and sullying my reputation,” Rupp told Reuters in a statement on June 4.
“That is inexcusable, irresponsible journalism.”
Rupp has not raced since the BBC/ProPublica story broke on June 3, scratching from last week’s Portland Track Festival, but he will have to race in Eugene if he is to run at the World Championships later this summer. How long Rupp speaks for in the mixed zone — and how he responds to the allegations against him — will be, to many observers, more interesting than how he fares in the race on Thursday.
We have no idea what Rupp will say, so there’s no point speculating. But we do have an idea of how Thursday’s 10,000 final at USAs might play out, so we’ll spend the rest of this preview discussing that race.
Rupp has been the dominant force in U.S. 10,000-meter running for some time, and it appears unlikely that anyone will be able to knock him off his perch in 2015. He’s the American record holder at 26:44, a time 40 seconds faster than anyone else in the field has ever run, and he also happens to have the best 5,000 pb (12:58.90) and 3:50 mile speed. He was second at the 2012 Olympics at this distance — the first American to medal in 48 years — and fourth at the 2013 World Championships. There are only two knocks on Rupp, and neither of them figures to be big enough to stand between him and a seventh straight U.S. title:
- He’s only raced twice this year. Rupp’s 2015 opener was rough, as he ran 8:17.24 for two miles to take fourth at the Armory Track Invitational on January 31. He was destroyed over the final laps by training partner Cam Levins and after the race called it quits on his indoor season shortly thereafter due to illness. But Rupp’s second race, a 13:12.36 5,000 that placed him third at the Pre Classic on May 29, went much better. In that race, he convincingly beat domestic rivals Bernard Lagat and Ryan Hill and only lost to Yomif Kejelcha (the world’s hottest 5,000 runner right now) and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Thomas Longosiwa.
- He’s under more scrutiny than ever before. No athlete, not even Justin Gatlin, will be more heavily observed than Rupp at USAs. Normally, a race in Eugene is a comfortable situation for Rupp — a chance to perform on his de facto home track in front of a crowd that adores him. There won’t be anything comfortable about his experience in Eugene this week, and how the crowd reacts to his introduction on the start line will be very interesting. But Rupp is so good that, barring a complete mental breakdown (unlikely), the stress won’t prevent him from winning another title. Mental stress might cost you a little bit – but not 1.5 seconds per lap.
After Rupp, there’s less certainty, but like the women’s race, it appears to be three men for two spots: Ben True, Diego Estrada and Hassan Mead, none of whom have made a U.S. team on the track before.
True, Mr. Near-Miss at USAs two years ago (he was fourth in the 5,000 and the 10,000) finally seems set to make his first U.S. team. True has made steady progress ever since moving back to his college stomping grounds in New Hampshire in 2010, gradually rising up the ranks to the point where he’s now competitive in any race he enters from 5k to 15k, no matter the field. Already this year, he’s broken the American road record for 5k (13:22 at the B.A.A. 5K) taken down road race stud Stephen Sambu to win the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K. Most recently, he became the first American man to win a Diamond League 5,000, outkicking Olympic medalists Nick Willis and Thomas Longosiwa in New York on June 13.
Based just on that information, True would seem assured of the second spot at USAs. The problem is that True still hasn’t quite solved the 10,000 on the track. His pb of 27:41 ranks him eighth in this field, and in his sole 10,000 of 2015, he was outkicked by Brit Andy Vernon on the last lap, running 27:43 (granted, True could have run faster if the race went out faster than 14:08 for 5,000). True’s stronger event is the 5,000 (which he has also entered at USAs) but his best chance at making the team this year is probably the 10,000 (to see him make both would not be surprising, either).
Of the three men who denied him in 2013, only Rupp is at full strength. Runner-up Dathan Ritzenhein isn’t competing; third-placer Chris Derrick has battled an Achilles injury since World XC and looked rusty running 13:40 for 5,000 last weekend at the Portland Track Festival, losing to the likes of Tyler Pennel and Aaron Braun (post-race interview with Derrick here). Mead and Estrada will still be tough to beat, but this is True’s best chance to date of putting on a USA singlet.
Estrada has the #2 seed time (run at Prefontaine) and like True, has put together a string of impressive races in 2015, crushing the field at the U.S. Half Marathon Champs in January (running 60:51), then running 13:17 at Payton Jordan and 27:30 at Pre — the fastest non-Rupp time by an American in four years. He’s in good position to make his first U.S. team.
The other man in contention, Mead, has the disadvantage of losing to both True (at Payton Jordan, by eight seconds) and Pre (to Estrada, by three seconds) already this year. Those two 10,000s are his only outdoor races in 2015, and while his racing schedule makes sense (getting the IAAF standard is priority #1, and he didn’t do it at Payton Jordan), we haven’t seen Mead in a non-time-trial race since he was third in the 3,000 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on February 7. Mead, like True, owns a 13:02 5,000 pb and if there’s a reason to back him over Estrada, it’s his speed (3:38 1500 pb vs. 3:41 for Estrada; True’s official pb is 3:40 but he’s run 3:37 in a time trial).
Given what we know, Mead looks as if he may be the odd man out, as this race might not be tactical. Guys like Ryan Vail, Aaron Braun, Chris Derrick and a host of others still need to run the 27:45 IAAF qualifier, and given the dearth of quality 10,000s between now and August 9, USAs is the best place to get it. That means a race won in under 28:00, which more closely mimics the scenarios in which Mead lost to True and Estrada this year. Both Mead and True are better-suited to the 5,000 than the 10,000, but True’s success over 10/15K on the roads and his head-to-head win over Mead at 10,000 give him the nod for second. Estrada, whose best distance may be longer than 10,000, should benefit from a faster pace and that gives him a slight edge over Mead for the third spot.
That being said, if we were coaching a guy without the standard, we’d tell them to focus solely on getting top three and then plan on winning NACACs to qualify, assuming that no other American will run the 10,000 at that meet. The three other men mentioned in the previous paragraph — Derrick, Vail and Braun — are the top non-Rupp returners from last year, but there are serious doubts about whether any of them can place in the top three this year. Vail (28:04) was 20 seconds off his pb at Payton Jordan and finished as the 10th American in that race; Braun ran a solid 13:34 at the Portland Track Festival last weekend, but that’s still 14 seconds off his PR and it’s a time that certainly won’t scare True, Estrada or Mead.
The biggest wildcard is Derrick. When healthy, he’s one of the U.S.’s top distance runners, a three-time U.S. cross country champ who has finished third and second at USAs in the 10,000 the last two years. A smart, consistent racer, Derrick is excellent at getting the most out of his body in every race.
Which is exactly what makes his 13:40 at the Portland Track Festival so troubling. Derrick said that he’d only been working out for a couple of weeks prior to the race and after finishing seventh in that race, his comments were not encouraging.
“Apparently, I’m just not as fit as I would have hoped,” Derrick said. “Weird feeling for me. It just felt kind of fast early and then I kind of slowly dropped to the back which had never really happened to me before…I don’t think I’m a favorite by any mans to make the team but if I’m healthy I’m going to run and compete.”
Derrick will be further along at USAs than he was in Portland, but not by much — his race in Portland and the 10,000 at USAs are separated by just 11 days, and it’s hard to add much fitness in such a brief amount of time. He might as well run the meet and see what happens, but even a runner as talented as Derrick will have a tough time beating out a fully-fit Estrada, True or Mead for the team unless he’s on top of his game.
That being said, we aren’t entirely ruling it out. Recent history shows that getting a sub-par rust-buster out of the way can pay big dividends in a short period of time. Just last year, Galen Rupp went from running 13:19 for 5000 to closing a 10,000 in 13:18 and setting the 26:44 American record at Pre in the span of just 15 days.
LRC Prediction: 1. Rupp 2. True 3. Estrada