US Olympic Trials Women’s 5,000 Final Preview: With All Three 10K Olympians Doubling Back, Could 6th Place Be Going to Rio?

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By LetsRun.com
July 9, 2016

EUGENE, Ore. — One of the greatest events in track and field — the United States Olympic Team Trials — are over halfway over. No domestic event holds more significance or produces more drama than this meet. LetsRun.com has all hands on deck, providing wall-to-wall coverage from Eugene. Below is our look at the women’s 5,000 final.

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

Women’s 5,000 final (Sunday, 7:28 p.m. ET) *Rio Standard is 15:24.00

NameAffiliationQualifying timeSBComment
Molly HuddleSaucony14:48.1414:48.14The huge favorite after doubling back from 5k
Emily InfeldNike BTC / Bowerman Track Club15:00.9115:00.91Looked very good in taking 2nd in 10k
Abbey D’AgostinoNew Balance / New Balance Boston15:03.8515:22.29Finished 3rd last year and made it to Beijing Worlds. 5th in World Indoor 3K. Lost to Marielle Hall at Boston Boost Games.
Nicole TullyHoka One One / New York Athletic Club (NYAC)15:04.0815:04.08Defending US champ. Set a PB at Payton Jordan May 1st, but only 16:18 (15th place) at Pre Classic.
Shelby HoulihanNike BTC / Bowerman Track Club15:06.2215:06.22Former NCAA 1500 champ ran 4:03 last month. Has only raced 800s and 1500s outdoors, but ran 15:06 indoors. Has #2 1500 time this year in US but is running only 5k
Marielle HallNike15:06.4515:06.45Runner-up in this event at USAs last year. 3rd in 10k earlier in the meet
Kim ConleyNew Balance15:09.3115:09.31DNF in 10k after shoe issue. Ran 15:10 at Pre and won Portland Track Festival in 15:16.
Katie MackeyBrooks / BROOKS Beasts TC15:16.6015:26.642:01 and 4:06 in her two outdoor races this year. Was 6th at USAs last year with fall; has a 15:04 PB from 2014.
Allie OstranderBoise St.15:21.8515:27.13NCAA XC runner-up as a true frosh. Prelim was her first race since March.
Jessica Tebo15:21.8815:21.88Ran 15:21 for 2nd at Hoka One One meet May 20.
Kellyn TaylorHOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite15:22.1015:22.107th at 2015 USAs and went on to win bronze at Pan American Games and win NACACs. 4th in 10k at OT.
Alisha Williamsadidas Rocky Mountain Elite15:23.1115:23.1111th at USAs and 5th at PAGs last year in this event. 14th in 10k.
Tara WellingSkechers Performance / High Performance West15:26.8015:26.815th in 10k
Rochelle KanuhoHOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite15:27.6715:27.677th in 10k
Sara HallASICS15:28.2515:28.25Has raced everything from 5k to marathon this year
Jordan HasayNike OP / Nike Oregon Project15:29.7715:29.779th in 10k

This is a great final, but it’s unlikely to match the drama of four years ago (friendly reminder, if you haven’t checked out our three-part series on the 2012 Olympic Trials women’s 5k, you can read it here). That’s for a few reasons. First, the main contenders all have the Olympic standard (which is 15:24 vs. the ‘A’ standard of 15:20 in 2012). But the main reason is because we may not know the Olympic team until hours (best-case) or days (worst-case) after the race is concluded. What made the 2012 Trials 5k so exciting is that as soon as the results popped up, you knew who was on the Olympic team. That’s why we love the Trials — it’s definitive and (theoretically) simple.

Unfortunately, this year’s women’s 5k may not be that simple as severanl of the top women in the field, who have already made the team in the 10,000, may not be running the 5k in Rio (should they make it). The 5000 in Rio is after the 10,000 so the double is doable but that doesn’t mean that they’ll do it.

Molly Huddle, the American record holder, has the fastest time in the U.S. this year by 12 seconds in 14:48. She commandingly won the 10k last week and should do the same in Sunday’s 5k final. Huddle said that she most likely will skip the 5k in Rio, however.  Huddle has already said that she probably won’t try the double in Rio, choosing to focus solely on the 10k. By skipping the 5k, she’d give herself 12 weeks vs. 11 to prepare for her marathon debut in New York in November. When you’re running any marathon — particularly your first — having an extra week of wiggle room is beneficial.

How many of the 10k Olympians will double back in the 5k in Rio?

How many of the 10k Olympians will double back in the 5k in Rio?

Emily Infeld was the runner-up in the 10k and ran 15:00 indoors in February — since the start of 2014, only Huddle and Shannon Rowbury have run faster among Americans. Though a stress fracture prevented her from racing outdoors until the 10k final at the Trials, she looked just fine in that race and should be a real contender in the 5k — though she was only fourth last year without Huddle in the field. As the reigning World Champs bronze medallist, her best event is clearly the 10k. One might think she has nothing to lose by doing the 5k as well but there are two wild cards. One: Infeld’s Bowerman TC teammate Shelby Houlihan is among the top contenders for the team. If Infeld finishes third and Houlihan fourth, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Infeld cede her 5k spot so that Houlihan can achieve her Olympic dreams. Additionally, given her injury problems in the past, we imagine she might not run it in Rio.

Marielle Hall, the third 10k Olympian, was second last year in the 5k and ran 15:06 indoors this year. Unlike Huddle and Infeld, we think Hall may feel that her stronger event is the 5k, so skipping the 10k could prove beneficial as it would allow her to enter her stronger event fresh. That would give Kellyn Taylor an Olympic spot. But Hall has also struggled in Diamond League 5ks and may want to test herself in the 10k, where she may have extra potential to unlock.

 

Houlihan is an intriguing prospect. Infeld raved about her after the 10k and her results this year — 2:01 for 800 and a six-second 1500 pb of 4:03 at Pre (ahead of Brenda Martinez and Shannon Rowbury) have been tremendous. Houlihan’s not exactly a rookie at 5k — she won Pac-12 titles in 2014 and 2015 — but her prelim on Thursday was just her second 5k as a pro. But Jerry Schumacher‘s not an idiot. If Houlihan’s running the 5k, it’s because they view it as her best chance to make the Olympic team. And with her 15:06 indoor pb from February, she clearly has the strength to hang.

Tully leans for the US title in 2015

Tully leans for the US title in 2015

Then there’s defending champ Nicole Tully, who has had an uneven season. The good: her 15:04 at Payton Jordan was the #2 time by an American this year outdoors. The bad: her last two races before the Trials (4:11 for last in her 1500 heat at Oxy; a 16:18 bomb at Pre on May 28). As a converted 1500 runner, Tully has one of the best kicks in the field, even off a fast pace — she showed it at USAs last year by closing out her 15:06 victory with a 64-second last lap. Tully said that her recent workouts have been surprisingly good recently, but can she put it together in a race?

There are three other serious contenders for the team. Abbey D’Agostino was third last year, second in the 3k at USA Indoors and fifth at World Indoors. When healthy, she’s as good as anyone in this field over 5,000 meters, save Huddle (her 15:03 last year was #2 in the U.S.). But D’Agostino suffered a setback after World Indoors and didn’t race outdoors until June 11. D’Agostino is no stranger to cross-training — she missed some time in the winter of 2014-15 and was still able to make Worlds last year. This year’s injury came closer to the Trials, but D’Agostino was also in better shape when she got hurt.

Unfortunately for D’Agostino, she was hammered by Marielle Hall at the adidas Boost Boston Games on June 17, 15:13 to 15:22. But in 2015, D’Agostino went from 15:23 to 15:06 at USAs (and a spot on the team) 24 days later. Sunday’s final comes 23 days after her 15:22 and D’Agostino said there haven’t been any setbacks since then. So she should be a factor.

Katie Mackey (4:03/15:04 pbs) is another woman who, like Tully, has good closing speed thanks to her background as a 1500 runner. But Mackey’s coach/husband Danny said that Katie doesn’t just need to play sit and kick; he actually thinks a faster pace would help her as he believes she can close off any pace. Remember, Mackey was in contention at USAs last year until a fall relegated her to sixth, and she actually won a Diamond League 3k in July 2015 (granted, the field was weak by DL standards). Her last two races have gone very well — 3rd at Oxy 1500 in 4:06, just behind Kate Grace and a five-second 4:09 1500 victory at the Brooks PR Invitational on a windy day in Seattle.

Conley was in shock when she made the Olympic team in 2012

Conley was in shock when she made the Olympic team in 2012

Finally there’s Kim Conley. Conley made the team in the most dramatic fashion imaginable four years ago, and though she is in better shape in 2016 (her best time coming into the Trials in 2012 was 15:24; this time it’s 15:09), she could still find herself on the outside looking in. Such is the strength of this field. Conley’s best result this year was her 15:10 at Pre on May 27, where she was the top American behind Molly Huddle (she beat Hall and Tully comfortably). Conley’s recent track record at USAs is strong — she made the team in 2012 and 2013 at 5k and won the 10k in 2014 before missing last year due to injury. But this is the deepest field she’s faced in a U.S. final, so Conley will have to bring her A game to have a chance.

LRC Prediction: Huddle FTW is easy to predict.  For second, we’ll go with Houlihan as she and the women of the Bowerman Track Club have been on fire this year. If there is an upset, she’s the winner as she’s got great speed.

Fot third, we’ll go with Houlihan’s teammate Infeld, who looked strong in the 10,000 and has run the fastest of anyone this year save Huddle. We like her for third, even if the 10k is her better event.  But we don’t think Huddle will do the 5000 in Rio so your third Olympian is going to be the fourth placer – Katie Mackey.

 


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