2015 USA 5,000 Preview: Molly Huddle vs. Shannon Rowbury, and Can Anyone (Bernard Lagat? Ben True?) Stop Galen Rupp?
June 19, 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. We began with the men’s and women’s 10,000s on Thursday and now it’s time to look at the men’s and women’s 5,000s.
Below, you can find all the key information for USAs, followed by a preview of the men’s and women’s 5,000s.
As a reminder, the top three finishers in each race with the 13:23.00/15:20.00 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 5,000 standard, they can still go to Worlds by winning the 5,000 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.
Men’s 5,000 (Sunday, 1:45 p.m. ET)
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Athletes in bold have IAAF qualifying standard (13:23.00)
2014 finish in parentheses
|Galen Rupp||Nike / Nike Oregon Project||12:58.90||13:00.99||2012 champ was #4 on LRC’s 2014 world 5k rankings|
|Hassan Mead (3)||Nike / NIKE OTCE||13:02.80||13:07.81||13:02 last year but has yet to run a 5k in ’15|
|Ben True||Saucony||13:02.74||13:11.24||4th in 5k/10k in ’13; is this finally the year he makes a team?|
|Chris Derrick||Nike / Bowerman Track Club||13:08.04||13:14.51||Just 13:40 at PTF on June 14 coming back from injury|
|Bernard Lagat (1)||Nike||12:53.60||13:14.97||Ageless wonder hasn’t missed a U.S. team since changing nationalities|
|Ryan Hill (4)||Nike / Bowerman Track Club||13:14.22||13:15.92||U.S. indoor 2-mile champ made team two years ago|
|Garrett Heath||Brooks||13:16.31||13:16.31||Better-known as 1500 runner, he was top American at Payton Jordan|
|Diego Estrada||ASICS||13:15.33||13:17.30||Has also run 27:30 for 10k and 60:51 for HM in ’15|
|Riley Masters||Brooks||13:17.97||13:17.97||13:17 at Payton Jordan was 22-second PR|
|Jeff See||Furman Elite||13:21.16||13:21.16||Has also run 3:36 for 1500 this year|
|Lopez Lomong||Nike / Bowerman Track Club||13:07.00||13:21.32||Usually makes U.S. team but has struggled in ’15|
|David Torrence (5)||Hoka One One||13:16.53||13:30.35||2nd behind Cam Levins at PTF on June 14|
|Eric Jenkins||Oregon||13:18.57||13:31.76||NCAA indoor 3k/5k champ is a legit threat to make team|
|Tyler Pennel (9)||Reebok / ZAP Fitness Reebok||13:32.06||13:32.06|
|Reed Connor||New Jersey New York Track Club||13:34.68||13:34.68|
|AJ Acosta||Bay Area Track Club||13:35.54||13:35.54|
|Ben Bruce||HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite||13:30.79||13:35.67|
|Andrew Springer||New Jersey New York Track Club||13:35.99||13:35.99|
|Jonathan Peterson (8)||Team USA Minnesota||13:36.29||13:36.29|
|Paul Chelimo Sr||U.S. Army||13:21.89||13:37.02|
Also entered in 1500 (prelim Thursday, final Saturday): Torrence
Also entered in 10,000 (final Thursday): Rupp, Mead, True, Estrada, Derrick, Spisak, Pennel
Note: Mead, True and Derrick’s qualifying times are from 2014, so if any of them make the team, they would need to run under 13:23 by August 9
Last year, we ranked Galen Rupp as the world’s #4 5,000 runner, behind only Caleb Ndiku, Yenew Alamirew and Muktar Edris (LRC 2014 World and US Rankings). As the only American in our top 10, you’d think that would make Rupp an easy pick to win the 5,000 at USAs. And while Rupp remains the favorite (he was top-four in all four DL 5,000s he ran last year), he’s not an overwhelming favorite as he is in the 10,000. Rupp should still make the team no problem, but there are two men we could see beating him.
First is Rupp’s old rival, Bernard Lagat. Rupp improved to 2-19 against Lagat at the Pre Classic last month (Rupp was third in 13:12.36, Lagat fourth in 13:14.97) and has youth on his side — at 29, he’s 11 years younger than Lagat. This older version of Lagat is not as consistent as in years past — after Pre, he was just eighth in the 1500 in Birmingham, running 3:41.87 — but Lagat always brings it in championship races. He did win USAs at 39 last year, after all (albeit in a Rupp-less race). And his best races in 2015 have been very impressive: just getting outkicked by Olympic silver medalist Dejen Gebremeskel in the 3,000 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix; running 7:37 for 3,000 indoors (the fastest time in the world this year, indoors or out); running 27:48 to tie the American road record for 10k in Birmingham. If Lagat is on his game, and he’s there with 100 to go, he has every chance to notch win #20 over Rupp — and his 10th USATF outdoor title (he has seven at 5,000 and two at 1500).
Then there’s Ben True. Just as Lagat owns Rupp, or at least owned him until he turned 40, Rupp owns True — he’s 11-0 against True all-time on the track. Rupp’s domination goes all the way back to high school, as both he and True were in the same high school class, with Rupp taking second at Foot Lockers during their senior year of 2003 and True fifth. For a long period after that race, at longer distances, Rupp was way ahead of True (it should be pointed out though that True was a part-time runner for some of that time as he did xc skiing in college and that True went sub-4 two years before Rupp), but True has steadily eaten into the deficit and now is the first time we can say that True is a legitimate challenger to his high school rival.
Last week in New York, True accomplished something that neither Rupp nor Lagat ever has by winning a Diamond League 5,000. True’s run in New York didn’t come against the strongest competition (it didn’t help that Ethiopian studs Gebremeskel and Hagos Gebrhiwet wound up DNF and DNS), but his 55-second final lap, in which he overhauled Olympic medalists Thomas Longosiwa and Nick Willis in the final 100 meters, was extremely impressive and the kind of close he’ll need to summon if he is to defeat Rupp. Rupp is still the big favorite to beat True, assuming True even doubles back for this race, and win this race — he beat Longosiwa in three of their four 5,000 encounters last year — but True is a tough man to put away over the final 100 and Rupp will have to work in order to do it.
There are a few other guys who could challenge for one of the three Team USA spots. It would be a shock to see Rupp finish lower than third, but Lagat and True’s spots are less certain and it wouldn’t be a shock to see either (or both) miss the team. Here are the guys with the best shot to book a ticket to Beijing:
- Hassan Mead — he’s only run the 10,000 this year outdoors, but he was third at USAs last year and ran 13:02 (#10 all-time U.S.). At his best, he can mix it up with the best in the world (sixth at Stockholm DL last year, defeating Gebrhiwet, True and Isiah Koech).
- Ryan Hill — he surprisingly made the team two years ago, and though he tends to fly under the radar, it shouldn’t be a surprise if he makes it again in 2015. Hill won the 2-mile at USA indoors in February, won the top heat of Payton Jordan in the 1500 (3:38.79) and wasn’t far behind Rupp and Lagat in the 5,000 at Pre (he ran 13:15.92, less than a second slower than Lagat). Hill has good speed and becomes more dangerous in a tactical race (such as the 2013 final).
Eric Jenkins — the best American distance prospect to come out of the NCAA since Rupp, Jenkins was the NCAA indoor champ at 3k and 5k and only his studly teammate Edward Cheserek could prevent him from completing the 5k/10k double outdoors. Oregon’s disregard for anything other than NCAAs means Jenkins has rarely tested himself this year, but he ran 13:18 two years ago (he wound up 10th at NCAAs that spring) and is certainly a better runner now than he was then (particularly when it comes to his close). We know Jenkins is good; how he performs at USAs will tell us exactly how good. He doesn’t have the standard, but should have no problem running 13:23 before August 9 if he makes the team.
Looking at the rest of the field, Lopez Lomong is always dangerous at USAs but has largely struggled this year since winning the 5,000 at the Millrose Games indoors. He was only eighth in the mile at USA indoors. He got beat by four Americans in the 5,000 at Payton Jordan and ran just 3:59 to take 10th in the International Mile at Pre. At this point, it would be a surprise if Lomong made his fifth U.S. outdoor team. Of the other men with the standard, Chris Derrick is coming off injury and only ran 13:40 last week, while none of the other runners have shown they have what it takes to challenge Rupp/Lagat.
Rupp is the surest bet, so we’ll take him for the win. It’s a bad idea to bet against Lagat at USAs, and we were going to back him for second until he proves he can’t do it anymore. But we’re having second thoughts. Assuming he comes back from the 10,000, True has a very strong case for a spot right now based on his current form (U.S. 5k road record in April, win at NYC DL). However, we could easily see Hill, Jenkins and Mead finishing in the top three as well. We’re in store for a terrific race on Sunday.
LRC Prediction: Bernard doesn’t make it at age 40. 1. Rupp 2. True 3. Jenkins
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Women’s 5,000 (Sunday, 1:20 p.m. ET)
Athletes in bold have IAAF qualifying standard (15:20.00)
2014 finish in parentheses
|Molly Huddle (1)||Saucony||14:42.64||14:42.64||Defending champ/US record holder is also in 10k|
|Shannon Rowbury (2)||Nike / Nike Oregon Project||14:48.68||14:48.68||U.S. champ at one and two miles indoors|
|Nicole Tully||Hoka One One / New York Athletic Club (NYAC)||15:05.58||15:05.58||Ran 15:05 in 5k debut at Payton Jordan; good speed (4:06 1500 pb)|
|Emily Infeld||Nike / Bowerman Track Club||15:07.19||15:07.19||Ran 15:07 at PTF in first track 5k since 2012|
|Marielle Hall (3)||Nike||15:09.90||15:09.90||2014 NCAA champ was 9th in 5k at Pre Classic|
|Shalane Flanagan||Nike / Bowerman Track Club||14:44.80||15:11.15||2-time U.S. champ at 5k is now focused on the longer distances|
|Katherine Mackey||Brooks||15:04.74||15:16.60||USA indoor mile runner-up PR’d in 1500 (4:03) at Pre|
|Jessica Tonn (9)||Stanford||15:18.85||15:18.85||3rd at NCAAs|
|Gabriele Grunewald||Brooks / Team USA Minnesota||15:19.01||15:19.01||15:19 at Payton Jordan was 14-second PR|
|Alisha Williams||Boulder Running Company/adidas||15:09.73||15:19.42||15:43 for 11th at Oslo DL on June 11|
|Abbey D’Agostino||New Balance||15:11.35||15:23.66||7-time NCAA champ looks to be rounding into old form after injury|
|Kellyn Taylor (5)||HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite||15:21.93||15:25.63|
|Rochelle Kanuho (6)||HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite||15:25.85||15:25.85|
|Desiree Linden||Hansons-Brooks Distance Project||15:08.64||15:27.13|
|Alexi Pappas (7)||Nike / NIKE OTCE||15:28.38||15:28.38|
|Liz Costello||New Balance||15:36.91||15:36.91|
|Kara Goucher||Oiselle||14:55.02||15:40.81||Her 15:40 at PTF was first track race in two years|
|Amanda Mergaert||Brooks / BROOKS Beasts TC||15:43.61||15:43.61|
|Jordan Hasay||Nike / Nike Oregon Project||15:28.56||15:45.10||15:45 at PTF after battling plantar fasciitis for most of the spring|
|Alycia Cridebring||New Balance||15:47.53||15:47.53|
|Annie LeHardy||North Carolina||15:52.65||15:52.65|
|Meghan Peyton||Saucony / Team USA Minnesota||15:41.09||15:56.12|
Also entered in 1500 (prelim Friday, final Sunday, two hours after 5,000 final): Rowbury, Mackey, Grunewald, Felnagle
Also entered in 10,000 (final Thursday): Huddle, Flanagan, Linden, Hasay, Costello, Pappas, Infeld, Peyton, Gray
Note: Huddle and Rowbury’s qualifying times are from 2014, so if either of them make the team, they would need to run under 15:20 by August 9 (Huddle ran 14:57 on June 13, but it came in a mixed-gender race, which isn’t eligible for IAAF qualification purposes)
One year ago, Molly Huddle and Shannon Rowbury waged an epic battle in the women’s 5,000 final at USAs in a race that wasn’t decided until the final meters. Huddle led for the entire race until Rowbury passed her with 200 to go. That looked to be that, but Huddle answered back and passed Rowbury back just before the line to claim her second U.S. 5,000 title. Both women are entered again in 2015 and the hope is that they can match the drama of last year while battling for spots on Team USA.
As you can see on the entry list, Huddle and Rowbury have by far the fastest seed times (Nicole Tully is the next-closest, 17 seconds behind Rowbury) and both are strong bets to make the U.S. team at 5,000. As we mentioned in our 10,000 preview, Huddle has excelled over a number of distances recently and she is the American record holder at 5,000, set last summer in Monaco (the same race where Rowbury ran 14:48). Rowbury has been almost as impressive over shorter distances, running 14:48 last summer before burning up the track indoors (4:22 mile, U.S. titles at 1 and 2 miles). Rowbury ran 4:02 for 1500 at Pre and 2:00 for 800 at the Portland Track Festival; no one else in the field — not even Huddle — can match that kind of speed.
Think of it this way. You wouldn’t expect Huddle and Rowbury to challenge Genzebe Dibaba or Almaz Ayana in a 5,000. Dibaba and Ayana are on a completely different level. Well it’s the same way domestically, except this time Huddle and Rowbury are the ones on a completely different level than anyone else. The separation isn’t quite as big in this case (Huddle and Rowbury are closer to the next-best U.S. 5,000 runner than they are to Dibaba/Ayana) but there is a definite gap from the top two to #3.
Huddle and Rowbury should go 1-2, likely in that order, but it’s possible that one or both of them may not run the 5,000 at Worlds if they qualify. Huddle is focusing on the 10,000 this year and Rowbury’s best shot at a medal is the 1500. Additionally, neither of them have the IAAF standard at this point, though both should be able to run 15:20 easily before August 9. Indeed, it seems likely that Rowbury scratches from this event before Sunday considering the 1500 final at USAs starts just two hours after this race.
Rowbury’s coach Alberto Salazar has stated in the past he thought Rowbury’s 3:59 speed could play well in a global 5000. We totally disagree. Genzebe Dibaba and Almaz Ayana can run sub-14:25 in their sleep. There’s no chance it’s a tactical race that’s the equivalent of a 13:45 men’s race. We don’t see how Rowbury would be anywhere close to the medals when it came time to kick. She’s got a singificantly better chance of medalling in the 1500 than the 5000.
That being said, unfortunately for the rest of the field, the 1500/5,000 and 5,000/10,000 doubles are both very doable at Worlds as both the 1500 and 10,000 wrap up before the 5,000 starts (the 10,000 final is August 24, the 1500 final is August 25 and the 5,000 prelims aren’t until August 27). Thus both Huddle and Rowbury could think, “What’s there to lose in running the 5000?” However, Rowbury has a lot to lose by running the 5000 at USA – possibly not qualifying in the 1500 by running the 5000 final two hours before the 1500 final. Sure, the US gets four spots in the 1500 this year, and Rowbury showed last week at the Portland Track Classic that she can double back very well, but it’s still a risk.
Obviously, the battle for third or even fourth (and possibly fifth) if Rowbury and/or Huddle don’t do the 5000 at Worlds is going to be very important in this race, and it figures to be one of the most compelling races at the championships because there are several women with a legitimate shot at making the team. Of the next five women on the entry list behind Huddle and Rowbury, you could make a case for any of them grabbing the final spot (or two or three). Nicole Tully has the #2 time in the country this year (15:05.58 at Stanford), which came in her 5,000 debut. More of a 1500 runner to this point, Tully’s debut went better than she could have expected and she is only running the 5,000 in Eugene. We talked about Emily Infeld in our 10,000 preview and her recent resurgence (including a 15:07 win at the Portland Track Festival on June 13) makes her a real threat for the U.S. team at 5,000 too. Last year’s NCAA champ (and third-placer at USAs) Marielle Hall is running even better than she was a year ago, PR’ing at 1500 and 5,000 this spring. Katie Mackey ran 15:04 last year and with a 4:03 1500 pb from a few weeks ago at Pre, she has the best closing speed of anyone outside of Rowbury. Shalane Flanagan might have trouble making the team at 5,000 as she lost to Infeld over 5,000 in Portland and 12.5 laps is too short for a marathoner to excel, but 15:11 makes her competitive in this field.
The wildcard is Abbey D’Agostino, the 2014 Dartmouth grad who has found her form after an injury-plagued beginning to her professional career. D’Agostino developed a stress reaction over the winter that cost her two months of training, but after getting her feet wet with a 15:42 5,000 at Payton Jordan, she’s made terrific progress over the past two months and is rounding into form just in time for USAs. After running 4:13 for 1500 at the first New Balance Twilight Meet on May 16, she followed that up with a strong run at the Adrian Martinez Classic on June 4 where she controlled the race from the front, running 15:23 for the win. Nine days later, she lowered her outdoor 1500 pb by almost four seconds with a 4:08.04 1500 at the fourth New Balance Twilight meet (her indoor pb was 4:09.77). If she can go from 15:42 and 4:13 to 15:23 and 4:08 in a little over a month, she should be in shape to run in at least the 15:10s by USAs. That doesn’t guarantee her a spot on the team — as we said in the last paragraph, there are a lot of women in contention for that spot — but D’Agostino has a very high ceiling. Remember, she was one of the greatest collegiate runners of all time and was just .19 of a second off making the U.S. Olympic team after her sophomore year at Dartmouth. Of the women in this field without the standard (outside of Huddle/Rowbury), she’s got the best chance to make the team.
So who will make Team USA? On paper, Huddle and Rowbury seem untouchable and it would be a surprise if either of them finished outside the top two if they run this race. Third is wide-open, but we’ll give the slight edge to Tully. She’s run the fastest this year and has the closing speed to be a factor in a championship race.
LRC Prediction: Huddle runs this race but not Worlds in the 5000. Rowbury doesn’t run this race. 1. Huddle 2. Tully 3. Mackey 4. D’Agostino (Note: If Infeld doesn’t make the 10,000 team, we think she runs here and makes this one).
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