2023 USAs Men’s 5K/10K Preview: Who Will Be the Odd Men Out in Star-Studded Fields?

The 2023 Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships begin on Thursday in Eugene, and as usual things will kick off with the men’s 10,000-meter final on day 1. Already in 2023, the US has had three men break 13:00 for 5,000 meters, and all three — Grant FisherWoody Kincaid, and Joe Klecker — will be in the 10,000 final, along with two-time Olympic medalist Paul Chelimo. Two days later, all of those men are slated to double back in a 5,000 final that will also feature 13:05 man Abdihamid Nur and potentially reigning US 1500 champion Cooper Teare.

That’s a lot of talent for only six spots on Team USA, which should make for some great racing — especially in Sunday’s 5,000. Who is headed to Budapest and who is headed home devastated? We try to sort it all out below.

Men’s 10,000: Four total studs, three spots

(final Thursday, 11:30 p.m. ET)

Top entrants (athletes with 27:10.00 Worlds standard in bold)

Name Affiliation Qualifying mark
Grant Fisher NIKE Bowerman Track Club 26:33.84
Woody Kincaid NIKE 27:06.37
Joe Klecker On Athletics Club 27:07.57
Paul Chelimo Kiprun / American Distance Project 27:12.73
Sean McGorty NIKE Bowerman Track Club 27:18.15
Conner Mantz NIKE 27:25.23
Cole Sprout Stanford University 27:42.42
Matthew Pereira CPTC / Tracksmith 27:45.77
Sam Chelanga NIKE / U.S. Army 27:38.02
Benjamin Eidenschink 27:51.74

This race has all of the markings of a classic. There are four total studs scheduled to compete in 10,000 American record holder Grant Fisher, American indoor 5000 record holder Woody Kincaid, Joe Klecker, and two-time Olympic 5,000 medallist Paul Chelimo. The problem is we’re not sure what the battle for top three will even mean. Let us explain.

Does this race even matter? Explaining the path to Worlds

World Athletics made a big change to its qualifying procedures for the 2023 Worlds, drastically lowering the automatic standard in almost every event. The impact of that change has been a little overstated — it’s generally not any harder to qualify for Worlds, it’s just that World Athletics is changing the way it selects its fields by putting a larger emphasis on world rankings. But the one event where there could be a big effect is the 10,000 meters.

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In addition to dropping the auto standard from 27:28 to 27:10 — a time only five Americans had ever run before 2023 — World Athletics added eight spots (in a 27-person field) for athletes based on their World Cross Country Ranking. For a longer explanation of that change, you can read our article from February: LRC World Athletics Made a Big Change to World/Olympic 10,000m Qualifying and No One Is Talking About It.

Fisher, Kincaid, and Klecker made the team together in 2021 (Adam Eberhardt for TrackTown USA)

The upshot: if all of the athletes who stand to qualify via World Cross Country Ranking accept their invitations, only three athletes will qualify via their 10,000 world ranking (which is entirely separate from the World Cross Country Ranking). Currently, three Americans — Grant Fisher, Woody Kincaid, and Joe Klecker — have the auto standard and no other American is in position to qualify via world ranking. Since it’s highly unlikely anyone else runs under 27:10 in the US final, it’s possible that the US winds up sending Fisher, Kincaid, and Klecker — the same team it sent to the 2021 Olympics — by default.

Three guys have a shot to change that. Currently, the final world ranking invitation belongs to Norway’s Zerei Kbrom Mezngi, with an average performance score of 1216. Paul Chelimo, Conner Mantz, and Sean McGorty could all conceivably raise their average performance score above 1216 with a strong run at USAs (the average is based on an athlete’s top two performance scores during the qualifying window). Here’s how fast each guy would have to run to make the team (you get bonus points for finishing higher in the race).

Paul Chelimo
Current best performance score: 1266
Points required at USAs to get a world ranking invitation: 1168

1168 points = 3rd at USAs in 28:06, 2nd at USAs in 28:09, or 1st at USAs in 28:15.

Conner Mantz
Current best performance score: 1226
Points required at USAs to get a world ranking invitation: 1208

1208 points = 3rd at USAs in 27:40, 2nd at USAs in 27:43, or 1st at USAs in 27:49.

Sean McGorty
Current best performance score: 1218
Points required at USAs to get a world ranking invitation: 1216

1216 points = 3rd at USAs in 27:35, 2nd at USAs in 27:38, or 1st at USAs in 27:44.

For the record, third place at the last three USAs has been 28:01.43 (2019), 27:54.90 (2021), and 28:29.57 (2022). The winning time at the last three USAs has been 27:30.06, 27:54.62, and 28:28.71.

Those times will be tough to hit for Mantz or McGorty, but 28:06 would normally be a walk in the park for Chelimo. The problem is that even though the race will be held at 8:30 p.m. local time, the projected high for Eugene on Thursday is 88 degrees so it’s likely to still be around 80 degrees at race time. And if qualifying for Worlds is the top priority, Fisher, Kincaid, and Klecker have no incentive to help with the pacing at all. In fact, it’s in their interests to make the race as slow as possible, which is weird as Klecker would normally want this race to be fast so he can drop the kicker Chelimo.

Addition by LetsRun.com co-founder Robert Johnson: One thing Jonathan has failed to mention is USATF is letting people chase marks up until July 30. So if Chelimo finishes in the top 3, he could go find a track race or road race and run like 27:45 and be in. Regardless, having to try to explain this is why World Athletics needs to change its qualifying system. It’s an absolute joke that since America is going to be sending three in the 10,000 anyway, that we can’t send the top 3 in this race. Period. The idea that a two-time Olympic medallist who nearly soloed the 27:10 standard in an international race that he won might not be eligible to go to Worlds simply because the US champs were run in 80-degree weather is a joke. Let’s hope Klecker just runs it assuming that Chelimo is going if he is top 3.

Frankly, it’s a bit surprising to see Chelimo entered in the 10,000 considering he’s never run it at USAs and doesn’t have the standard. World Athletics rules should be encouraging him to run this race , instead they are doing the opposite. You’d think he would just scratch the 10,000 and put all his efforts into running the 5,000 at USAs fresh (where he is also entered). But he has won US titles from the front in the past and ran 27:12 while leading the entire second half back in May.

Okay, so who’s winning this thing?

It’s hard to believe, but Grant Fisher has never won a US 10,000-meter title. He’s the American record holder at 26:33 — more than 30 seconds faster than anyone else in the field — and has finished 5th and 4th at the last two global championships. But in each of the last two years, he’s been outkicked in the US final — by Woody Kincaid in 2021 and Joe Klecker in 2022.

Fisher was not pleased with how he ran against Klecker last year, allowing the pace to go slow and then finding himself outmaneuvered by the OAC athlete over the final 800. He remedied that by blasting the US 5,000 final (with some pacing help from teammate Evan Jager) and winning that race comfortably in 13:03.

Considering Fisher has a much faster pb and has run much better than Kincaid/Klecker at the Olympics/Worlds (where the pace has been much faster than USAs), it would seem to be to his advantage to ensure a quick pace. But there are two reasons why that might not make sense. The first is Chelimo. As mentioned above, Chelimo can’t make the team unless he runs at least 28:06 at USAs. Even if Fisher has a better chance of winning a fast race, the main goal should be to make the team.

Kincaid beat Klecker at The TEN in March (Kevin Morris photo)

Second, Kincaid and Klecker have both improved from 2022 while Fisher has taken a slight step back. Both Kincaid (12:51/27:06) and Klecker (12:54/27:07) have run pbs in the 5k and 10k this year, and when they raced Fisher head-to-head in the Florence 5k on June 2, this was the result:

6. Woody Kincaid 12:54.40
7. Joe Klecker 12:55.16
11. Grant Fisher 12:56.99

Clearly, all three men are quite fit, but Kincaid has repeatedly shown that if he’s still even close at the bell, he has the best closing speed. Kincaid has raced Klecker three times in 2023 — the BU 5k in January, the TEN in March, and Florence in June. All three times, it has come down to the final lap, and all three times Kincaid kicked better. If it comes down to the last lap at USAs, Kincaid will be favored.

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If someone is to break up the three guys with the standard, Chelimo is by far the best bet. Chelimo 10,000m experience is limited — he’s run just two of them since 2011 — and he’s coming off his worst year as a professional, during which he finished 11th at USAs in the 5,000. But he’s also less than 24 months removed from an Olympic bronze medal, and with a new sponsor in 2023 (Kiprun), he’s been rejuvenated, running 27:12 for 10,000. Chelimo did get smoked by Klecker in Oslo on June 15, 12:56 to 13:06, but was coming off of flu in that race. Feeling better, he went to Vienna two days later and ran 13:03.

Conner Mantz has finished 5th and 7th at the last two US champs and while he’s a good track runner, he may never have the late-race speed to make a team. Plus he ran the Boston Marathon on April 17th. Bowerman TC’s Sean McGorty made the team last year but has not raced at all in 2023; he told LetsRun that a sacral stress injury in February and a calf issue in May prevented him from racing. While McGorty added that his last month of training at altitude camp has gone well, those sort of setbacks could make it tough for him to challenge a top three position.

Last year’s fourth-placer, Dillon Maggard, isn’t running. Nor is Emmanuel Bor, who was in position to make the team last year until running out of gas over the final 50 meters.

Who wins the men's 10k at USAs?

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JG prediction: 1. Kincaid 2. Fisher 3. Klecker

Kincaid has consistently beaten Klecker this year and beat him at USAs in 2021 (he dropped out of last year’s final with a stitch). And if it comes down to Kincaid vs Fisher in a kick, I’m taking Kincaid in this race. So will Fisher be able to break Kincaid before the final 200? It’s hard to make these sort of predictions with any accuracy. Fisher hasn’t run any 10,000s since last year’s Worlds, and of his two outdoor races in 2023, one was a 1500 in April. Maybe, after an altitude stint in Park City, he’s a lot fitter than he was in Florence and can turn the tables. But the truth is, we don’t know, and that’s why I’m going with the guy who came out on top when these three met in Florence.

Chelimo has more global medals (3) than the rest of this field put together (0) and while all have come at 5,000 meters, it’s not as if the 10,000 is that much different. But Fisher, Klecker, and Kincaid are all very fit right now, and it’s a lot to ask of Chelimo to push the pace to chase a fast time and hold off all of them in a kick.

This race should also be fun as the top four contenders are all from different training groups and have developed some friendly rivalries over the past few years. Fisher certainly wants payback for losing to Klecker at USAs last year, while Kincaid wants to show he is top dog after leaving the Bowerman Track Club and former training partner Fisher to train under Mike Smith in Flagstaff. Even if it becomes obvious the three guys with the standard will be the three guys running at Worlds, the battle for the US title — and bragging rights — will be worth watching.

Men’s 5,000: A Sunday slugfest

(final Sunday, 9:50 p.m. ET)

Top entrants (athletes with 13:07.00 Worlds standard in bold; athletes within world ranking quota in italics)

Name Affiliation Season’s best
Woody Kincaid NIKE 12:51.61i
Joe Klecker On Athletics Club 12:54.99i
Grant Fisher NIKE Bowerman Track Club 12:56.99
Paul Chelimo Kiprun / American Distance Project 13:03.12
Abdihamid Nur NIKE 13:05.17
Morgan Beadlescomb adidas / Very Nice Track Club 13:08.82
Emmanuel Bor 13:10.91
Cooper Teare NIKE Bowerman Track Club 13:12.73
Kasey Knevelbaard Under Armour 13:15.96
Samuel Prakel adidas 13:15.96i
Ahmed Muhumed 13:16.09
Dillon Maggard BROOKS Beasts TC 13:16.55
Conner Mantz NIKE none
Sean McGorty NIKE Bowerman Track Club none

The 5,000 is a lot like the 10,000 — Kincaid, Klecker, Fisher, and Chelimo are all entered in both and tentatively doubling back. We also know Abdihamid Nur, last year’s NCAA indoor 3k/5k champ from NAU, will be running the 5,000 fresh. And Cooper Teare, the reigning US 1500 champ, is also entered. Whether he actually runs the 5,000 final on Sunday is largely dependent on whether he makes the team in Saturday’s loaded 1500 final. But if all of them are on the line, this is an absolutely stacked race.

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With just two rest days in between the races, many of these guys are likely still going to be feeling Thursday’s 10,000 in their legs. And while runners have succeeded in both events at USAs — Lopez Lomong won both the 5k and 10k in 2019 — the tight turnaround isn’t something many of these guys are used to doing. Last year, the 10k trials were held a month before the 5k trials, and in 2021, there were nine days between the 10k and 5k finals at the Olympic Trials (with a 5k prelim in between).

That’s one reason to be optimistic about Nur. Though he hasn’t run as fast as Fisher/Klecker/Kincaid/Chelimo, he’ll be fresh for this race and notched an impressive 13:05 pb at UCLA on May 26 despite falling early in the race. Remember, this guy is the collegiate record holder in the 5,000 meters (13:06 last year) and has already made a US team, finishing 11th at Worlds last year. He’s absolutely going to be in the mix.

Teare could be as well, and he was no slouch in the 5,000 in college either — he won the 2021 NCAA title in 13:12, defeating Nur’s NAU teammate Luis Grijalva, who went on to finish 4th at Worlds last year. But this would be Teare’s third race of the weekend, and if he’s running it, it probably means he has suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the 1500. That won’t be easy to bounce back from.

There’s just a lot of uncertainty in this race. Chelimo was the best 5,000 guy in the US in 2021, Fisher was the best in 2022, and so far in 2023 it’s been Kincaid. Does that hold, or can Chelimo and/or Fisher regain their previous form? Chelimo is clearly the most accomplished guy in the field, and while he is now 32, his 13:03 in Vienna showed he is fit. Fisher, meanwhile, is coming off one of the best years ever by an American distance runner, setting four American records (indoor/outdoor 5k, outdoor 3k, outdoor 10k) and consistently contending for the win on the Diamond League circuit (3rd Monaco, 2nd Brussels, 3rd Zurich). But he did lose to Kincaid and Klecker in Florence. Was that because they’ve closed the gap on him in 2023, or is Fisher focusing all of his efforts on USAs/Worlds instead?

JG prediction: 1. Fisher 2. Chelimo 3. Kincaid

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This is such a tough call. Realistically there are four or five guys who could win this, and even someone like Morgan Beadlescomb — quietly having an excellent year with a 13:08 pb — could factor in for 3rd if the big guns are all tired from the 10k.

In all that uncertainty, I am fairly confident in one thing: Woody Kincaid is going to be able to kick with 200m to go. But after 10k in his legs on Thursday, will he be close enough to be a factor? This race will be held well before sundown (assuming it isn’t brought forward) and many of the best guys are doubling back, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes slow. And if that happens, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a repeat of 2019 where the guy with the best kick (Lomong) won both the 5k and 10k at USAs.

Chelimo may be making a huge mistake if he runs both the 10k and 5k — he may be better served by scrapping the 10k entirely and running the 5k (his stronger event) fresh. But I can’t pick against him making the team. When Chelimo is in shape he’s the best championship racer of any of these guys, and he is in shape right now.

I really wanted to pick Nur for 3rd, but then I remembered how good Fisher was last year. Fisher is coming off one of the best years ever by an American distance runner, is only 26 years old and, as far as we know, hasn’t suffered any injury in the interim. Is he really going to go from that to not even making the 5k team a year later? I just don’t see it.

The more I think of it, am I totally disrespecting Fisher here? Last year he was leaps and bounds ahead of the other Americans in the 5k and looked set to stay there for years. Now because he’s “only” run 3:36 and 12:56 this spring, I’m writing him off? Jerry Schumacher usually does a great job of getting his athletes to run their best at the championships and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Fisher yet this year. I’ll take him FTW with Chelimo and Kincaid rounding out the team.

Who wins the men's 5k at USAs?

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