OAC’s Alicia Monson Ready for Her First Olympic Trials: Does She Double or Go All-in for the 10,000?

By LetsRun.com (sponsored by On)
May 14, 2021

Alicia Monson of the On Athletics Club may only be a first-year pro, but her coach Dathan Ritzenhein has already created huge expectations for her. 

“Alicia is someone who has the potential to be the next great American female distance runner,” Ritzenhein said on social media. Then he doubled down, telling LetsRun.com that Monson “could be someone like Shalane [Flanagan] and Deena [Kastor].”

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Right now, however, Monson, who turned 23 on Thursday, does not have time to deal with such lofty expectations. She is all-in on trying to make her first Olympic team and faces a much more immediate decision. Does she double at the US Olympic Trials? Or should she skip the 5,000m to focus on the 10,000m?

Monson was a superstar in college, excelling at both the 3,000m (2019 Millrose Games champion, where she defeated Emma Coburn and Elle Purrier to become the 3rd fastest collegian ever) and 5,000m (2019 NCAA indoor champ). The fact that she is considering skipping the 5,000m at the Trials shows how well her 10,000m debut went and how much she views her biggest strength being her endurance. At the Track Meet last December, Monson made her professional 10,000m debut and ran 31:10, which was then 9th-fastest ever by an American. She took to the longer distance like a fish takes to water. 

“It seems like the 10k’s more of my strong suit just because I ran 31:10 and we knew I had more in the tank,” she said on this week’s LetsRun.com Track Talk Podcast.

The double is very doable at the Trials. The 5,000m comes first with the prelims on Day 1 (Friday, June 18). The 5,000m final is on Day 4 (Monday, June 21), and the 10,000m is on Day 9 (Saturday, June 26). 

All-in for the 10,000?

Does Monson dare put all her eggs in the 10,000m basket?

Possibly. She currently sits 8th in the US on the Trials 10,000m descending order list and 16th in the 5,000m. She’s not too far from the top 5 (roughly 12 seconds in both events), but has a lot more people to contend with in the 5,000m.  

Alicja Konieczek, Geordie Beamish, Alicia Monson, Emily Oren

She’s in a new position, that of the underdog, but believes qualifying for the Olympics is in the realm of the real possibility. 

“It definitely is going to be really hard for a lot of people to make the team, but, I think I’ve also got a good shot at it,” Monson said. “The two and three spots (for Tokyo) are kind of wide open. I mean, not wide open, [but] very competitive, like achievable.”

Monson’s plan is to race the 1500m this weekend at the Track Meet and see if she can lower her pb from her current 4:12 to possibly getting under the Olympic Trials standard (4:06). She realizes the faster she runs, the more likely it means she runs the 5,000m as well at the Trials. That’s not a bad problem to have.

Then she may race one more time before the Trials, but the women’s 5,000m is only five weeks from this weekend.

Monson’s path from COVID-19 to the Trials

Monson was in Albuquerque, N.M., for the 2020 NCAA Indoor Championships, ready to defend her 5,000m title, when the COVID-19 NCAA shutdown occurred. Defending her NCAA title was no longer an option. Then it was announced competing outdoors wasn’t an option, and soon after that the 2020 Olympics weren’t an option either.

The decision to go pro became an easy one once the University of Wisconsin announced they wouldn’t give 2020 seniors an extra year of eligibility. Monson soon found an agency, Total Sports. She still needed to find a pro group and sign a contract.

The OAC Group (Monson 2nd from right)

At the same time, On was making its first big splash into track & field and forming its first pro group, the now OAC. On hired Ritzenhein as the coach and signed Monson’s Wisconsin teammate Ollie Hoare, which intrigued her. Former Big 10 superstar Leah Falland was already coached by Ritz, and was on board as well. Falland ended up being the clincher for Monson. 

“And so I was just talking back and forth with people. And honestly, once I talked to Leah, [my mind was made up],” Monsoon said. “She had been coached under Dathan for two years, and she just had every good thing to say about him…I was more confident in being like, all right, this group is going to be legit.”

Training at altitude

Monson moved to Boulder and lived at altitude for the first time last summer. She inadvertently went all-in to the altitude training, camping the first week with some friends at 10,000 feet and trying to do 80-mile weeks.

Courtesy Bit Klecker/On

There was an initial adjustment period, but Monson said she has raised her training a level as a pro. She’s running consistently higher mileage, more consistent reps, all at high altitude. 

For example, in college, she topped out in the 80-mile-per-week range. Now she does that more consistently.

 “I’m running those faster paces for longer. And it’s at altitude. So it’s kind of just been like a natural progression for me, honestly,” she said of her training as a pro.

On the women’s side of the OAC, Monson is the only non-steeplechaser and pure long-distance runner. She leads the strength workouts and is getting dragged along in the speed workouts which is helpful.

 “Last summer, I was definitely very much insecure about my ability to run a fast 200 with Leah and Emily [Oren] cause they’re very much speedsters. Now I’ve been more confident in my ability to close during a race and to run a fast 200.”

Monson excels in the longer distance workouts and the tempo runs, and said Ritzenhein does a good job of having the other women do shorter reps with longer rest when working out with Monson on longer reps. And when Monson needs extra help in a workout, Ritzenhein himself, a 2:07 marathoner, is there to jump in and help with pacing duties.

Men’s milers Geordie Beamish and Carlos Villarreal will occasionally join Monson on her longer runs. The group wasn’t designed to cater to Monson’s needs, but the set-up naturally fits them.

Stress reaction in foot

The one hiccup for Monson’s tenure in the OAC came after her 10,000m last December. She strained her calf in the race and started favoring the other foot. That led to a stress reaction in her second metatarsal, which meant a bout of cross training (bike for intervals, elliptical and pool for basic endurance). However, she was able to return, and after just three weeks of running set her 15:07 5,000m pb in March. Not bad for someone whose best was 15:31 in college.

Monson and Dathan have been able to go all-in on the Trials since she hit the Olympic 5,000m standard. The lack of racing has been by design, which is fine with her. “I remember getting to the 10k race and being like, this isn’t even as hard as this one workout that we did,” she said.

Alicia Monson winning Millrose in 2019. Photo by John Nepolitan.

Alicia knows she’ll have to be capable of running much faster if she wants to make the Olympic team. That is fine with her. No one expected her to win the Millrose 3000 as a 20-year-old versus the pros either. Monson knows her training is more consistent than it was as a collegian.

She’s flattered Dathan believes in her long-term and thinks she can be the next great American distance runner.

“I would like to be that kind of caliber athlete someday, but obviously it’s been years in the making,” she said.

For now, Monson has a much more immediate goal — making her first Olympic team.

Full Podcast with Alicia (she joins at 82:27)

Road to Tokyo

US Women’s 10,000m list for Tokyo:

CPNatAthleteDetails
1USAElise CRANNY30:47.42 – JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA (USA) – 20 FEB 2021
2USAKarissa SCHWEIZER30:47.99 – JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA (USA) – 20 FEB 2021
3USAEmily SISSON30:49.57 – Palo Alto, CA (USA) – 29 MAR 2019
4USAMolly HUDDLE30:58.46 – Palo Alto, CA (USA) – 29 MAR 2019
5USAMarielle HALL31:05.71 – Khalifa International Stadium, Doha (QAT) – 28 SEP 2019
6USAEmily INFELD31:08.57 – JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA (USA) – 20 FEB 2021
7USARachel SCHNEIDER31:09.79 – JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA (USA) – 05 DEC 2020
8USAAlicia MONSON31:10.84 – JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA (USA) – 05 DEC 2020
9USANatosha ROGERS31:12.28 – JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA (USA) – 05 DEC 2020
10USAKellyn TAYLOR31:15.65 – JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA (USA) – 05 DEC 2020

US Women’s 5,000m list for Tokyo

1USAKarissa SCHWEIZER14:45.18 – Khalifa International Stadium, Doha (QAT) – 05 OCT 2019Ran 14:26.34 when window was closed
2USAVanessa FRASER14:48.51 – Boston Univ. Track & Tennis Center, Boston, MA (USA) – 27 FEB 2020 
3USAEmily INFELD14:51.91 – Boston Univ. Track & Tennis Center, Boston, MA (USA) – 27 FEB 2020 
4USAEmily SISSON14:55.82 – JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA (USA) – 06 MAR 2021 
5USAAllie BUCHALSKI14:57.54 – JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA (USA) – 06 MAR 2021 
6USAElinor PURRIER14:58.17 – Khalifa International Stadium, Doha (QAT) – 05 OCT 2019 
7USAJenny SIMPSON14:58.67 – Boston Univ. Track & Tennis Center, Boston, MA (USA) – 14 FEB 2020 
8USAMarielle HALL15:02.27 – Azusa, CA (USA) – 09 JUL 2019 
9USAShelby HOULIHAN15:02.55 – JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA (USA) – 04 DEC 2020Ran 14:23.92 when window was closed
10USACourtney FRERICHS15:02.91 – Boston Univ. Track & Tennis Center, Boston, MA (USA) – 27 FEB 2020Ran 14:50.06 when window was closed
11USAElise CRANNY15:04.88 – JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA (USA) – 04 DEC 2020Ran 14:48.02 when window was closed
12USAKim CONLEY15:05.20 – Blankers-Koen Stadion, Hengelo (NED) – 09 JUN 2019 
13USAShannon ROWBURY15:05.99 – Olympiastadion, Berlin (GER) – 01 SEP 2019Ran 14:45.11 when window was closed
14USARachel SCHNEIDER15:06.71 – Los Angeles, CA (USA) – 16 MAY 2019 
15USAEmily LIPARI15:07.44 – Boston Univ. Track & Tennis Center, Boston, MA (USA) – 01 FEB 2020 
16USAAlicia MONSON15:07.65 – JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA (USA) – 06 MAR 2021 
17USAGwen JORGENSEN15:08.28 – JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA (USA) – 06 MAR 2021 
18USAMolly HUDDLE15:08.67 – Bay Shore, NY (USA) – 04 SEP 2019 
19USAStephanie GARCIA69th – 1132p 
20USAJosette NORRIS78th – 1125p 

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This is content is sponsored by On, but they did not have approval of it.

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