Report Card Time: From A+ To F, We Grade Team USA at Worlds
October 10, 2019
The 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships are in the books. And now that we’ve had a few days to process them, it’s time for us to hand out grades from A+ to F to Team USAs mid-d and distance runners.
Please note the grades below are all relative based on expectations and one’s previous accomplishments.
Raevyn Rogers, 1:58.18 PB, silver medal
A When you PR and win silver, you deserve an A. Rogers was brilliant from start to finish at Worlds as she won both her first round and semifinal by front-running then grabbed silver by coming from way back. One of the keys to success in the 800 is to know your pace and know how hard you are running. Rogers didn’t get caught up in what others were doing, closed brilliantly, and nearly won gold.
Ajee’ Wilson, 1:59.84, bronze medal
C Wilson had been basically unbeatable in recent years when not facing women that were XY DSD. So for her to only leave Doha with a bronze was disappointing.
Ce’Aira Brown, 2:02.97, 8th place
B+ Yes the final was a disaster, but the reality is she ran a seasonal best in both the first round and semis to get there.
Hanna Green, 2:04.37, eliminated in 1st round
F As good as Green’s 2019 regular season was, during which she made her first US team and won her first Diamond League race, her Worlds was bad. After having picked up an injury, she didn’t even make it out of the first round — a total shock for the woman who won the final regular season DL event of the year. Some may argue we shouldn’t give an F to an athlete who is injured, but the result was an F.
Donavan Brazier, 1:42.34 CR and AR, gold medal
A+ Not only did he win gold in American and championship record time, he also had zero issues in the preliminary rounds.
Bryce Hoppel, 1:44.25 PB, 4th place
A Hoppel capped off an incredible year with an incredible finish at Worlds. After only finishing 4th at Pan Ams, many assumed he was tired but Hoppel saved his best for last, running a PR to place 4th at Worlds.
Clayton Murphy, 8th place, 1:47.84
D Some may think D is a little harsh as making the WC final isn’t easy in the 800. That being said, Murphy hadn’t finished lower than 5th in any race all season long and then had absolutely nothing in the final of the 800 and we have very high expectations for Murphy. He won Olympic bronze three years ago. Yes, he had an excuse as his coach was banned the night before the race, but Murphy shouldn’t have joined the NOP after the ProPublica report if he didn’t want the scrutiny. Maybe he deserves a B for making the final and an F for the final.
Brannon Kidder, 1:45.62 in semis, eliminated
B Kidder got out of the first round on time but then finished 4th in heat his in the semis. Running 1:45.62 when your PB is 1:45.19 isn’t too shabby.
Shelby Houlihan, 3:54.99 AR, 4th place
A Houlihan destroyed both her own PB and the American record. The fact that she didn’t win a medal isn’t something she couldn’t really control as the women’s 1500 ended up being a time trial. When you run great and others just run better, you tip your hat to them.
Jenny Simpson, 3:58.42 SB, 8th place
B Simpson ran a seasonal best in the biggest race of the year. That’s pretty good. Considering Simpson hadn’t run 3:58 since 2016 and that’s she’s only broken 3:59 six times in her long career, this was a good result. The reality is the 1500 is very deep right now and Simpson should take our advice and move up to the steeplechase if she wants another Olympic medal in 2020.
Nikki Hiltz, 4:01.52 PB in semis to make final, 4:06.68 for last in 1500 final
B+ Hiltz had a fantastic 2019 campaign as she started the year with a 4:09.14 pb and left it with a 4:01.52. At Worlds, which she began with a 4:03.52 pb, she nearly ran a pb in the first round (4:04.00) and then did run a pb in the second round to snag a spot in the hardest 1500 final to make in history. In the final, she was totally uncompetitive. However, unlike Murphy, the final for Hiltz was a total bonus so she gets a B+.
Matthew Centrowitz, 3:32.81 SB, 8th place
C- Centrowitz only made the final on time and once there just finished 8th. Considering he’s the Olympic champion and came into Worlds having run a 13:00 5000, we were expecting much more. However, considering he ran the equivalent of a 3:49.88 mile in the final (3:32.81 1500), we’re not going to totally go crazy on his grade as time trials have never been his forte.
Moving forward, here is our advice. The strength work you did this year will pay dividends next year, but he needs to race more 1500s. So train like a 5000 guy early in the season, but then get in some 1500 races. It’s hard to survive after going out in 55.8 if you haven’t been facing a few 1500s. Don’t even think about moving up to the 5000, where you’ll get your doors blown off.
Craig Engels, 3:34.24, 10th
B- In a loaded event where the links of Samuel Tefera and Ayanleh Souleiman didn’t make the final, 10th in the world isn’t horrible, but the final showed how far Engels is away from a medal if everyone in the world is running their best. Engels ran within .20 of his PB and got destroyed. And when you look at all of the names ahead of him in the final, we’d expect nearly all of them to beat him, save for maybe Kalle Berglund (9th) and Jake Wightman (5th).
Ben Blankenship, 3:36.98 in semis
B- We’re sure making the final was the goal, but the reason Blankenship did not make it was not because he ran poorly. He ran within 0.45 of Timothy Cheruiyot, running 3:36.98. The problem was, nearly everyone in his heat ran a solid race. If we told you heading into Worlds that Ben Blankenship would beat Filip Ingebrigtsen by .02 in his semi, we imagine you would have taken it. That’s what happened. He just didn’t make the final.
Emma Coburn, 9:02.35 PB, silver
A For the third straight global championship, Emma Coburn ran a PR and came away with a medal. That’s what we call near perfection. A sub-9:00 would have gotten an A+.
Courtney Frerichs, 9:11.27, 6th place
D+ When your PR is 9:00, when you won silver last time, and when you open your season with a 9:09, we expect a lot more than an 9:11.27 at Worlds. We doubt many Ds are given out as grades anymore, so if you want to give her a C- to make you feel better we’re fine with that.
Allie Ostrander, 9:30.85 PB in 1st round, eliminated
B We always say you can’t complain about a PR, but this was a tiny PR of 0.59 of a second. Still, for someone to PR at the end of a long collegiate campaign is a good performance.
That being said, it wasn’t that great. If she’d made the final, we’d have given her an and A, and she only needed to run .85 faster to make the final. Considering her previous PB came in the superhot, non-air conditioned setting of Austin, TX, Ostrander at that point in time was capable of running at least 9:25, which would have put her in the final in Doha. The reality is the woman who finished one spot ahead of her in Doha, Elizabeth Bird, never even made NCAA finals while at Princeton and Ostrander is a 3-time NCAA champion.
Colleen Quigley, DNS
F Everyone gets injured and we understand you want to do whatever you possibly can to get on the start line, but we do not understand why the decision to run or not couldn’t have been made in time to let the alternate, Marisa Howard, compete. Part of this grade — perhaps a large part — goes to USATF. Since Quigley had been posting on Instagram for close to a month about her status, how was Howard at least not contacted by USATF and told to keep training in case she was needed? It’s clear that USATF doesn’t care who the third member of Team USA (well in this case, fourth) is and that’s a shame.
This grade is totally biased as this website was founded by a guy who dreamed of being that third placer.
Hillary Bor, 8:09.33, 8th in final
C+ Bor nearly equaled his PB of 8:08.41 when he ran 8:09.33 at Worlds. That’s the good news. The bad news is he only was 8th as the Doha steeple was the deepest in history, setting best marks for place for spots 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. For comparison’s sake, realize at the 2016 Olympics, Bor ran 8:22 and was 7th (winning time was 8:03). However, despite coming close to his PR, Bor’s PR was in Doha earlier this year in the Diamond League meet in his first steeple of the year. Running slower at the end of the year when it matters and a medal is on the line knocks him down, as expectations were so high based on his start to the year.
Stanley Kebenei, 8:11.15 SB, 10th in final
B- Kebenei ran more than 3 seconds faster in Doha than he had all year long, but 10th place was not nearly as good as two years ago (5th). Of course, even if he’d equaled his PB of 8:08.30, he still would have only been 8th as Ethiopia suddenly is now good at the steeplechase.
Andrew Bayer, 8:12.47 PB, 12th in final
A- Bayer ran a PB of 8:12.47 (previous pb of 8:14.46) in his first global final. That’s fantastic. He also set a world record of sorts. He’s now the fastest 12th placer in any steeplechase in history.
Karissa Schweizer, 14:45.18 PB, 9th place
A+ Schweizer entered Worlds with a pb of 15:01.63. Then she ran 14:52 in the first round and 14:45.18 in the final to move to #5 on the all-time US list.
Elle Purrier, 15:08.82 prelims, 14:58.17 PB for 11th in final
A Purrier basically equaled her PB in the first round to make the final (running 15:08.82 when her pb was 15:08.61) and then crushed her PB in the final by running 14:58.17. Welcome to the sub-15 club.
Rachel Schneider, 15:30.00 in heats, eliminated
D At a Worlds where the conditions were such that a ton of distance runners were running either seasonal bests or personal bests, Schneider was nowhere near her best of 15:06.71.
Paul Chelimo, 13:04.60 SB, 7th
B- Chelimo looked like the Paul Chelimo of 2016-2017 in the first round when he won his heat (despite losing a shoe), but he ended up 3+ seconds short of a third straight medal in the final. Coming up with a grade for Chelimo isn’t easy as based on how he’d been running in 2019, he ran better than expected at Worlds but based on how he’d run in recent years, he did worse.
Hassan Mead, 13:27.05, 11th
C+ Mead, who was 11th in the 2016 Olympic 5000 final, was once again 11th this year. The difference was in 2016 he ran 13:09 to place 11th in a 13:02 race. This time, he only ran 13:27 in a 12:58 race.
Ben True, 13:27.39, eliminated in first round
C- True didn’t make the final but it’s not like he ran horribly. The 5000 has a lot of talent in it. At Worlds, he finished sandwiched between past NCAA champs Morgan McDonald and Patrick Tiernan. That being said, True has a 13:02 pb and they have never broken 13:10.
Marielle Hall, 31:05.71 PB, 8th
A- Hall lowered her pb from 31:37.45 to 31:05.71 to take top American honors and place 8th at Worlds. To finish 8th at Worlds when you were only 5th at USAs is pretty good. To move to #6 all-time in the US when you were only 5th at USAs is pretty good. It’s been a good year for Hall as she’s also PRd at 5000 (15:02.27). That being said, a 15:02 woman should be able to run right near 31 flat, so it’s far from a shock. The problem for Hall is to be truly competitive on the world stage you need PRs closer to 14:00 and 30:00 than 15:00 and 31:00.
Molly Huddle, 31:07.24, 9th
C- Four years ago, Huddle came within inches of a medal at Worlds. This year, she was nowhere close to a medal. Considering she ran 30:58 for 10,000 this year in the middle of her Boston Marathon training, we figured she’d run much faster than she did. We almost gave her a D+ as she has been so good in the past.
Emily Sisson, 31:12.56, 10th
C- A 2:23 marathoner doesn’t need to bother with the track if she’s going to be the third American at Worlds in the 10,000. Having run 30:49 in her London Marathon buildup, there is no excuse for running so slowly in Doha.
Lopez Lomong, 27:04.72 PB, 7th
A Lomong ran really well in Doha, hanging with the leaders until three laps remained. To go from 27:30 to 27:04 in one race and move to #3 all-time in the US is quite impressive. The problem is, where does Lomong go from here? The reality is he was destroyed over the final 1200. Going 13:34-13:30 is really impressive but he needed to go 13:34-13:15 to medal.
Shadrack Kipchirchir, 27:24.74 SB, 10th
C+ Kipchirchir placed 10th in world, which was close to the 9th he placed in 2017. The difference was he ran 27:07 in 2017 versus 27:24 this year.
Leonard Korir, 28:05.73, 13th
D Korir’s finish on the global stage was similar to where it always is as he was 13th in 2017 and 14th in 2016, but his time was far from impressive. It’s never good to get lapped in a 10k. At this point in time, we’d be much more interested in seeing what he could do in a marathon than yet again showing up at USAs and getting third in the 10,000 and getting spanked on the global stage.
Roberta Groner, 2:38:44 for 6th
A+ For a 41-year-old American to place 6th at Worlds is amazing. To run within 10 minutes of her 2:29:09 pb in the heat of Doha also was impressive. We weren’t the only ones impressed.
Carie Dimoff, 2:44:35 SB, 13th
A- Top 15 in the world was a very good showing for Dimoff, who has a 2:30:53 pb. Every single woman at Worlds ahead of her had a better PB. The women who finished directly in front of her at Worlds has a 2:23 pb and the one right behind her has a 2:26 pb.
A special shout out to Canada’s Lyndsay Tessier. In looking up the PBs of the top 12, we realized that Tessier ran a great race just like Groner, and at the same age, 41. With a pb of 2:30.47, she placed 9th.
Kelsey Bruce, 3:09:37, 38th
D Kelsey was part of Team LetsRun at World XC, so maybe we shouldn’t grade her. While we love the fact that Kelsey got to run Worlds, there is no way to sugarcoat a 3+ hour performance. Yes, it was hot as hell but Kelsey lives and trains in Dallas. We’re really glad she finished instead of taking the easy way out with a DNF, but objectively, she didn’t have a good day at all. Every woman who finished the marathon gets a special separate effort grade of “A” as it was the hottest conditions we’ve ever seen for a marathon by a longshot.
Ahmed Osman, 2:16:22 SB, 23rd
A For someone with a 2:14:30 pb to run 2:16 in Doha was very impressive.
Elkanah Kibet, 2:19:33, 38th
C- Kibet has twice run under 2:12 in the marathon, so for him to not be the top American was disappointing.
Andrew Epperson, 2:23:11, 46th
C Epperson ran 2:13:11 earlier in the year but his next best performance in a marathon is just 2:16:54.