2023 USA 10K: Woody Kincaid & Elise Cranny Break Free on Final Laps; Grant Fisher May Miss Worlds Team

EUGENE, Ore. – With 200 meters to go in Thursday’s men’s 10,000-meter final at the 2023 Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships, American record holder Grant Fisher had the lead. Fisher, whose 26:33 personal best is more than 30 seconds faster than anyone else in the field, had run the penultimate two laps in 60.44 and 59.91, was hoping a late injection of pace would be enough to dull the kicks of his rivals, chief among them 2021 US Olympic Trials champion Woody Kincaid. But ultimately, the man the move hurt most was Fisher himself as he went from first to fourth on the last half lap and Kincaid came through to win his second US title in three years in 28:23.01.

Though Kincaid was only third at the bell, he has shown in 2023 that he can summon a strong kick off any pace, and the one-second gap to Fisher was easily enough for Kincaid to overcome. He took the lead on the final turn and wound up winning by more than a second thanks to a 54.76 last lap (26.43 last 200).

Woody Kincaid Wins USATF 10,000m Title
Woody Kincaid Wins 2023 USATF 10,000m Title (Kevin Morris photo)

With Kincaid streaking to victory up front, the real drama over the final 200 meters centered around who would join him on Team USA at this year’s World Championships in Budapest. Defending champ Joe Klecker made his third straight team, finishing 2nd in 28:24.50, and Fisher looked set to join them in 3rd, four meters up on Bowerman TC teammate Sean McGorty entering the final straight. But McGorty, who went from 6th to 3rd in the final 100 to make the team last year, once again produced a fine final straightaway to catch Fisher and relegate his teammate to 4th. McGorty, who had not raced at all in 2023 until tonight due to injury, ran his final lap in 56.63 to Fisher’s 58.39. Most of that gap came in the final straight, which McGorty ran in 13.83 to Fisher’s 15.12.

It remains unsettled which of the BTC teammates will be the final member of the Worlds team. McGorty does not have the qualifying standard of 27:10 nor is his world ranking currently high enough to garner an invitation; if he cannot improve it by the end of the rankings period on July 30, Fisher, who does have the standard, may go in his place.

Of the other notables in the race, Paul Chelimo, running the 10,000 at USAs for the first time, was 5th in 28:29.34, edging Conner Mantz (6th in 28:29.36). The entire top six are also entered in Sunday’s 5,000.

In the women’s race, Elise Cranny, the two-time defending US champ at 5,000, was the clear class of the field over the final lap as she blasted away from American record holder Alicia Monson with 240 meters to go to win by more than five seconds in 32:12.30. Monson took second in 32:17.51 as Natosha Rogers was 3rd for the second year in a row in 32:22.77 – though because neither Rogers nor 4th placer Weini Kelati (32:30.40) has the World Championship standard of 30:40, it is possible the US could end up sending fifth placer Karissa Schweizer (32:32.10) to Worlds.

Elise Cranny Wins 10,000m at 2023 USATF Champs
Elise Cranny Wins 10,000m at 2023 USATF Champs (Kevin Morris Photo)

The racing began in earnest with 1600 meters to go when Monson moved to the front, reducing a six-woman lead pack to three. Cranny and Rogers were the only women who could hang with Monson’s 69.5 lap as Schweizer, Kelati, and Ednah Kurgat all fell off the pace. Monson kept pushing and by the bell had succeeded in dropping Rogers as well. But Cranny remained glued on her back and it wound up being no contest over the final lap as Cranny, who owns a 3:59 1500 pb, was the dominant winner – her first US title at 10,000 meters.

Full results and lap by lap splits here.

Men’s analysis

Woody Kincaid is the man – but he is far from satisfied

Once it became clear the winning time was going to be in the 28:00s, the smart money was on Kincaid to win as his kick has been incredible this season. Fisher tried to squeeze it down, and while he succeeded in opening a slight gap, when it comes to Kincaid there’s a big difference between being gapped and being done. Kincaid’s 54.76 was the fastest last lap by almost two seconds, and he did it at the end of a 4:01.67 final 1600. Impressive stuff.

Kincaid, of course, made a big change after the 2022 season by switching coaches from Jerry Schumacher to Mike Smith. We asked whether he felt his win tonight and his success in 2023 (he broke Fisher’s American record in the indoor 5,000 in January) validated his decision to leave Schumacher and Bowerman. Kincaid said he doesn’t think of it that way – and that he has bigger goals in 2023, including Sunday’s 5,000 and the World Championships in August.

“I’m not trying to validate the decision,” Kincaid said. “I’m just trying to keep racing.”

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Kincaid’s best finish in a global final is 14th in the 10,000 at the 2021 Olympics. He has long felt he is capable of more than that, but did not get a chance to prove it in 2022 as he dropped out of the USA 10,000 with a stitch and fell and broke his arm in his 5,000 prelim at Worlds. 

One of the things holding back Kincaid in the past is that, when he has raced the best in the world, he has found himself dropped by the final lap, too far back to utilize his deadly kick. He looks to have improved in that area in 2023 with PRs in the 5,000 (12:51) and 10,000 (27:06) in 2023, though there are still gains to be made if he is to contend for a medal at Worlds (he was 6th at the Florence Diamond League in June after entering the final lap in 15th). 

“I’m 30 years old and I’ve never felt this strong this late in a race,” Kincaid said, crediting it to a lifetime of high mileage as well as the high-volume double threshold workouts he has been running since the fall.

Joe Klecker is Mr. Consistent

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Klecker has run six races in 2023 and all six have been good to excellent – a 7:34 3k pb at Millrose, three 5,000s at 12:56 or faster (he had never broken 13:00 before this year), a 27:07 10k pb at The TEN, and now a runner-up finish at USAs. While Klecker still cannot manage to beat Kincaid – this was the fourth time Kincaid has beaten him in 2023 and sixth straight overall – he is the only man to have made the last three US 10k teams, and at 26 has only been getting better this year.

In 2020, when On launched the On Athletics Club, it placed a big bet on Klecker. Even though Klecker had never won an NCAA title at Colorado, On based the OAC in Boulder at Klecker’s request and even granted him the final say over the team’s head coach. While Klecker is no longer the biggest star on OAC, he has held up his end of the bargain, winning the US title last year and continuing to improve each season.

Jerry Schumacher’s faith in Sean McGorty paid off

2023 has not been the smoothest year for Sean McGorty. He was meant to run The TEN with Kincaid and Klecker in March but scratched due to a sacral stress injury. Then he was supposed to run the 1500 at the LA Grand Prix in May but tweaked his calf. After that he went up to altitude and locked in on training, which meant tonight’s race was his season opener.

However, McGorty said he logged some great training last fall and his most recent altitude camp went very well. A week before USAs, his coach Jerry Schumacher told McGorty he was confident in his fitness, and McGorty said that made him feel great about his chances tonight.

He told me he thought this was the best place I’ve ever been in,” McGorty said. “And when you hear that from him and have comparisons to Grant and Moh [Ahmed] and guys that are running in the 12:40s and 12:50s, you feel like you’re ready to go.”

Will McGorty be at Worlds? It’s complicated

McGorty once again had to come from behind over the final 100

Currently, assuming no one scratches ahead of him, McGorty would be out of the World Championship 10,000m. He’s ranked 26th with 1207 points but would need to leapfrog Spain’s Carlos Mayo (1215 points) and Norway’s Zerei Kbrom Mezngi (1216 points) in the world rankings to be assured of an invitation to Worlds.

McGorty said he may try to run a 10k between now and when the rankings close on July 30 to improve his ranking or hit the 27:10 standard – he’ll make that decision after seeing how Sunday’s 5k goes. Finding such a race (especially a highly-rated one which offers bonus points to improve his ranking) could be a challenge on short notice, but it may not come into play.

McGorty’s most likely path to Worlds is for a few athletes ahead of him to scratch – and that very well could happen. One of the men with the auto standard for Worlds is Dominic Lobalu – but Lobalu does not currently have a country to compete for at Worlds (he’s listed as South Sudan but has said he will not run for them). Another is Fisher, whom USATF could choose not to enter given he lost to McGorty tonight. If those two scratches happen and everything else stays the same until July 30, McGorty would be in the world rankings quota and presumably on his way to Worlds.

Grant Fisher: “I need to take some time to reflect on this one, because I was pretty shit”

Fisher felt that the best way for him to win tonight was to try to squeeze the pace down with a few laps left as that is one of his biggest strengths as a runner. He was pretty down on himself after the race when that did not work.

“I wanted to get enough out of people so that they didn’t have the big kick but still have the kick myself,” Fisher said. “I think I went hard enough to zap myself a little too much…I need to take some time to reflect on this one, because I was pretty shit.”

Fisher felt that he didn’t gauge his effort correctly over the last three laps and that is why he could only manage a 58-second last 400 when it took a 56 to make the team. But it may be that Fisher simply was not fit enough to execute his plan. If Fisher’s goal was to win, it is hard to criticize his strategy. The fact is, he needed to gap Kincaid and while he was strong enough to create the gap, he was not strong enough to maintain it. 

Would Fisher have made the team if he had sat back and let someone else make the first move during the endgame? That’s something we’ll never know for sure but undoubtedly something Fisher will be asking himself this summer – especially if he does not make the 5k team on Sunday – but someone of his ability and accomplishments may have been focused on trying to get the win, rather than just qualify. 

Fisher deserves props for going for the win and stopping in the mixed zone to share his thoughts after the defeat – a number of other athletes who had tough performances on Thursday declined to speak at all.

Fisher says the bar has been raised in the US this year

On July 17, 2022, Grant Fisher finished 4th in the World Championship 10,000m final. Less than a year later, he was only 4th in the USA 10,000m final. How did that happen? Fisher might have taken a slight step back – though he felt his fitness was comparable to this time last year – but also pointed out that the competition at USAs continues to improve. Both Kincaid and Klecker have been running faster than ever in 2023 and McGorty’s fitness has improved, if not his personal best.

“I had the year of my life last year,” Fisher said. “It’s hard to have the year of your life every year…The level of the US has gone up, for sure, in the past few years.”

The slower pace at USAs also does not help Fisher, who is not known for his kick (at least compared to someone like Kincaid) and whose best performances (5th at 2021 Olympics, 4th at 2022 Worlds) have come in faster races.

Paul Chelimo’s decision to run the 10,000 may have backfired

Chelimo made the decision to run the 10,000 and 5,000 and take two shots at the Worlds team this year rather than putting all of his eggs in the 5,000 – historically his best event – and run it fresh against a bunch of tired opponents. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but it was somewhat puzzling that Chelimo opted for the 10,000 when he did not have the world standard or a high world ranking and showed no desire to push the pace to improve his ranking tonight. Now he’ll have to run the 5,000 on tired legs, but given all he has accomplished in his career, it would be foolish to completely discount him. 

Women’s analysis

Elise Cranny needed to get “her head screwed on straight” at her most recent altitude camp

Cranny has dealt with overtraining in the past and that looked like it may have been an issue again this spring as she was poor in her last race before USAs, fading badly over the final kilometer to 15:16.72 in the 5000 at the USATF Distance Classic on May 26. Cranny said that she was not feeling like herself during fall training and that she was not in a great spot mentally by the time of the race in LA. After that race, Cranny headed to altitude camp and knew it would be a make-or-break trip.

“I was like, okay, it’s time to figure it out Elise and get in a good spot,” Cranny said.

Clearly, things worked out okay. Six weeks after getting her doors blown off by Emily Lipariin LA, Cranny took it to the American record holder Monson and the rest of the country in the 10k tonight.

Cranny also revealed that she wanted to run the 1500 at this meet but ultimately Schumacher convinced her to run the 10k and 5k.

Alicia Monson, like her OAC teammate Joe Klecker, is on her third straight team

Monson is the only woman to make the last three US teams in the 10,000 – just as her OAC teammate Klecker is the only man to make the last three teams in that event. Klecker still has something Monson does not, however: a US title on the track. And while Monson is great at running fast in paced races, she is still working on developing the kick needed to close out a US title. She is not alone in that respect – both she and Grant Fisher have set American records in the 10,000 in the last 17 months, but neither has won a US title at this distance in their career.

Natosha Rogers is once again in limbo

Rogers has made some big changes in the past year, moving from Denver to North Carolina and switching from the Hansons Brooks team to Alistair and Amy Cragg’s Puma Elite. But one thing has not changed: Rogers was 3rd at USAs in the 10,000 for the second year in a row.

Eleven years ago, as a junior at Texas A&M, Rogers finished 2nd at the US Olympic Trials but did not get to go to the Olympics because she did not have the standard (interestingly the winner of that 2012 Trials was Amy Cragg, who now helps coach Rogers). In 2023, history may repeat itself as Rogers was 3rd tonight but did not have the Worlds standard. And even though Rogers is ranked 23rd in the world in the 10,000, she may not get an invitation to Worlds.

The reason is the change World Athletics made to the 10,000 qualifying, which states that in addition to anyone who hits the (much harder) standard of 30:40, the top eight women in the World Cross Country Rankings not already qualified will be extended invitations. At the moment, the number of women with standard plus the cross country athletes stands at 28. That’s one more than World Athletics’ target field size of 27, which means no invitations based on world rankings.

There may be some hope for Rogers yet, however. USATF High Performance Programs Manager Michael Nussa told LetsRun that there will be two steps when it comes to naming a Worlds team. First, federations “pre-enter” their athletes by giving World Athletics a long list of everyone they would like to send should they qualify. Then after reviewing those lists from all federations, World Athletics will follow up to finalize the entries for Worlds. If, after those “pre-entries,” there are enough scratches in the 10,000, it could turn out that Rogers would be in position to earn a Worlds invitation, in which case USATF would send her. 

“This year with things not being clear-cut and things not being fair in my eyes – taking cross country times, it’s not the same thing as track,” Rogers said. “We should be bringing the best players to the World Championships. So yeah, it is very frustrating.”

Karissa Schweizer fades

Defending champ Schweizer had not raced in almost a year but with a mile to go was in contention for her third straight Team USA berth in the 10,000 meters. Ultimately, however, the final mile proved too much for her as she gave up 20 seconds to Cranny and 10 to Rogers, fading to 5th. Schweizer tore her calf at Worlds but it is still unclear whether that is the reason why she had not raced yet in 2023 (aside from pacing Cranny in one race); she declined to stop to talk in the mixed zone after tonight’s race. Schweizer is entered in the 5,000 at USAs on Sunday.

Discuss the 10k  and USAs on the LetsRun messageboard

MB 2023 Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships Official Day 1 Discussion Thread (+ live video show at 12 midnight ET)
MB How early does Grant Fisher have to make the move to beat Woody tonight?
MB Kincaid FTW
MB Klecker hates Kincaid
MB Sorry OAC, the Bowerman Babes Still #1

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