WTW: Picking the Kenyan & Ethiopian Olympic Marathon Teams, Graham Blanks Is Back, A 17-Year-Old Runs 9.93 & Should Faith Kipyegon Be Scared?

The Week That Was in Running, April 15-21, 2024

Last week was a great week one as Kenenisa Bekele battled Father Time and his fellow competitors at the TCS London Marathon where the women’s-only WR fell plus the Diamond League opener was in Xiamen, China. While we talk a little bit more about those events below, if you missed our extensive breadowns of those events, catch up now:

2024 London Marathon Coverage *2024 Xiamen DL Coverage

Each week, we try to make the sport more fun to follow by putting the prior week’s action in perspective for you. Past editions of our Week That Was weekly recap can be found here. You should come to LetsRun each and every day for the latest news but if you miss a day, you can always go to our archive page. If you like our written weekly recap, you’ll love our weekly Track Talk Podcast as well. Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us, or post in our forum.

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Two Reasons Why Faith Kipyegon Should Not Be Worried Even Though Gudaf Tsegay Rocked the 1500 in China

The biggest story distance-wise at the Xiamen Diamond League came in the women’s 1500 – both before the event took place and during it. Before the meet, the world’s greatest 1500 runner, Faith Kipyegon of Kenya, pulled out of the race, with commentators on Saturday’s broadcast saying it was due to a minor muscle irritation.

During the meet, Gudaf Tsegay, the 5000 WR holder and winner of the 5000 at Worlds in 2022 and 10,000 at Worlds in 2023, gave Kipyegon’s 3:49.11 WR a scare by running 3:50.30.

Tsegay was pumped after her 3:50.30. MATTHEW QUINE FOR DIAMOND LEAGUE AG

The fact that the 10,000 world champ is scaring the 1500 world record would have been wild 10 years ago, but we’ve been seeing all sorts of crazy range in recent years, particularly in women’s running.

Sifan Hassan won the 1500 and 10,000 at the same Worlds in 2019, then medalled in the 1500, 5000, and 10,000 at the Tokyo Olympics. Tsegay has won medals in all three events over her career. And last year, after not running the 5,000 for eight years, Kipyegon set a world record in her first race back and later won the event at Worlds.

As for the men, would it shock you if Jakob Ingebrigtsen eventually won a 10,000 world title? It shouldn’t. Ingebrigtsen himself believes his best event is the half marathon.

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But back to the women. In our initial reaction to the 1500 in Xiamen, we said Tsegay’s result makes the 1500 a little more interesting and that Kipyegon needs to “bring it” (her A game) to Paris as Saturday’s race was a 2.79-second PB for Tsegay and a 3.71-second outdoor PB.

Having had a little time to think about it, we doubt Kipyegon is freaking out right now about the 1500 if she ends up being healthy. 

There are two key reasons why Faith Kipyegon likely isn’t shaking in her boots.

The first is this: Do you know what Kipyegon’s head to head record vs Tsegay is?

It’s 15-0. Yes, that’s right. Kipyegon has never lost to Tsegay. She’s a perfect 14-0 in the 1500 and 1-0 in the 5000.

(Side note: Tsegay is just 2-23 against Hassan in the 1500/mile and 2-2 against her in the 5000)

Second, the Paris Olympic schedule makes it even more likely that Kipyegon wins the 1500 as the 1500 comes the day after the 10,000 final and the night before the marathon final. Thus there is a very good chance that neither Tsegay nor Hassan even runs the 1500.

The women’s 1500-5000-10,000 schedule is as follows.\

August 2, 6:10 p.m.: 5,000 first round
August 5, 9:20 p.m.: 5,000 final
August 6, 10:05 a.m.: 1500 first round
August 8, 8:05 p.m.: 1500 semis
August 9, 8:55 p.m.: 10,000 final
August 10, 8:25 p.m.: 1500 final

And while the schedule makes the 1500-5000-10,000 triple very much doable, we are almost certain Kipyegon isn’t thinking about the 10,000. And it’s kind of hard to imagine that Tsegay — the reigning 10,000 world champion – wouldn’t do the 10,000.

Most likely Tsegay doesn’t triple and she runs the 10,000 and 5,000. But if she does triple, it’s hard to think Tsegay would beat Kipyegon in the 1500 the day after the 10,000 final if Kipyegon wasn’t also in the 10,000 final.

In our fantasy scenario, we’d love to see Kipyegon, Tsegay, and Hassan all triple and try to sweep the nine medals. We don’t think that will happen, but how cool would it be if they all took home one gold each? If it happened that way, we imagine it would mean the marathoner (and former 10,000 WR holder) Hassan took the 10,000, the 5000 world record holder Tsegay won the 5000, and Kipyegon, the GOAT in the 1500, won the 1500.

One last thing about Kipyegon’s dismal record against Kipyegon and Hassan on the track. We don’t expect that to continue indefinitely as Tsegay, 26, is much younger than both women. Kipyegon is 30 and Hassan is 31.

Can Someone Not From Ethiopia or Kenya Medal In The Women’s 1500?

Behind Tsegay in Xiamen, there were a slew of Ethiopian women taking the top places. Indoors, Ethiopians held the top six positions on the world list and early in outdoors they have the top five as they went 1-2-3-4-5 in Xiamen. Combining the two lists, Ethiopian women occupy the top seven spots on the 2024 indoor/outdoor list.

Other than the fact that the Olympic schedule may take Tsegay and Hassan out of the 1500, the thing that should give British/American/Australian fans hope for a women’s 1500 medal is that the Ethiopian women aren’t all that consistent in the 1500. Look no farther than last month’s World Indoor Championships in Glasgow. Based on 2024 season’s best, no other woman in the field had run within three seconds of the three Ethiopians’ season’s bests, yet Ethiopia claimed just one medal.

Now in the outdoor season, the fastest Ethiopian in the world this winter and the 2024 World Indoor champ Freweyni Hailu was only 5th in Xiamen while Birke Haylom, who was just 9th at World indoors, was 2nd in Xiamen.

Here is where the top five in Xiamen ranked on the indoor list this year.

Time Athletes Indoor Rank Notes
1 3:50.30 Gudaf Tsegay 4th Won 10,000 at Worlds in 2023, 5000 in 2022.
2 3:53.22 Birke Haylom 5th 2022 World jr champ, 9th Worlds last =r, 9th Indoor Worlds this yr
3 3:57.61 Worknesh Mesele NA Made semis at worlds in 800 last year
4 3:57.62 Diribe Welteji 2nd Silver worlds last year, won road mile (5th indoors)
5 3:58.18 Freweyni Hailu 1st Indoor world champ and indoor world leader ran 5000 at Worlds last year (7th)

Some of that inconsistency makes sense. The Ethiopian coaches do not have a lot of experience coaching the 1500 — only two Ethiopians have ever medalled in an Olympic 1500, male or female. Plus most of those women are quite young – everyone but Tsegay (26) is 22 or younger. Haylom just turned 18 in January! And if Ethiopia doesn’t have a trials race (they did for the 2021 Olympics but not for the 2023 Worlds), it’s quite possible the Ethiopian women race themselves into the ground prior to Paris.

Who Will Be Named to the Kenyan and Ethiopian Olympic Marathon Teams?

Neither of the two greatest marathon nations on Earth – Kenya and Ethiopia – hold Olympic marathon trials. Instead, the Kenyan and Ethiopian federations select the teams. That is an unenviable task, because everything about the marathon makes it hard to select an objective “best” team. The best athletes only race twice a year and don’t always race against each other. And time comparisons are hard because the course, conditions, and race dynamics of major marathons can vary greatly.

All of the spring World Marathon Majors have now concluded, which means it’s time to figure out who will be racing for Kenya and Ethiopia in Paris in August. It is always an unpredictable process, with Athletics Kenya usually springing at least one major surprise. Geoffrey Mutai put together one of the greatest years in marathon history by setting course records in Boston and New York in 2011 but DNF’d Boston in April 2012 and was left off that year’s Olympic team in favor of Moses Mosop – who had finished just 3rd at 2012 Rotterdam and whom Mutai had defeated at 2011 Boston (Mosop had to miss the Olympic due to injury and was replaced by Emmanuel Mutai).

Four years later, AK bafflingly selected Wesley Korir to its men’s team (even though he hadn’t finished on the podium in any marathon for four years) and left Mary Keitany off its women’s team for unheralded Visiline Jepkesho, who had won Paris in a modest 2:25:53. It didn’t turn out too well for Kenya as Korir did not finish and Jepkesho finished 84th.

With that said, here is our best guess for how each team shakes out in 2024.

Kipchoge’s quest for the 3-peat will be a big story in Paris. Kevin Morris photo

Kenyan men
Alexander Mutiso, Benson Kipruto, Eliud Kipchoge

We offered a deeper analysis in our London Marathon recap, but Kenya appears likely to select Mutiso and Kipruto, both of whom won spring 2024 marathons and were runner-up in fall 2023 marathons (Mutiso was 2nd in Valencia, then won London; Kipruto was 2nd in Chicago, then won Tokyo). Back-to-back Olympic champ Kipchoge likely earns the third spot over 2022 Boston/NYC champ Evans Chebet.

Ethiopian men
Lock: Sisay Lemma
Pick two from: Tamirat Tola, Deresa Geleta, Kenenisa Bekele

We wrote an entire article about this on Sunday so check that out if you want all of the details. Lemma, who ran 2:01:48 to win Valencia, then won Boston last week, is definitely on the team. Then it likely comes down to Tola (NYC CR in November, London DNF), Geleta (2:03:27 win in Seville), and Bekele (2:04:15 for 2nd in London) for the final two spots.

Kenyan women
Locks: Hellen Obiri, Peres Jepchirchir
Pick one from: Sharon Lokedi, Rosemary Wanjiru

Obiri is a two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 5,000 and has won Boston, New York, and Boston again in her last three marathons. Athletics Kenya would be insane to leave her off the team. And it seems impossible to think AK would leave off Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic champ who won the World Half last year and set a women’s-only world record of 2:16:16 to win London on Sunday.

That leaves one spot. AK named six women to its provisional team on April 4, but Brigid Kosgei (5th in 2:19:02) and Ruth Chepngetich (9th in 2:24:36) did not impress in London and are likely out of the conversation now. The other two, Sharon Lokedi (2:22:45 in Boston) and Rosemary Wanjiru (2:16:14 in Tokyo) each finished 2nd in their spring 2024 marathon, so there is a debate to be had.

Wanjiru has a much faster pb (2:16:14 vs 2:22:45) but Wanjiru has only run flat courses in her four career marathons (Berlin, ‘23 Worlds, Tokyo x2) while Lokedi has only run hilly courses (Boston, NY x2). So that does little to differentiate them.

Both have won one major – 2022 NYC for Lokedi, 2023 Tokyo for Wanjiru.

And both were 2nd this spring, where it took strong performances to beat them. Lokedi hung right with Obiri through 24 miles in Boston, including the incredible 15:06 5k segment from 35-40k. It’s hard to knock her for losing to a woman many regard as the Olympic favorite. Wanjiru, meanwhile, was 2nd behind Sutume Kebede in Tokyo (where it took a course record to beat her) and defeated world champ/2:14 woman Amane Beriso and 2:13 woman Sifan Hassan in that race.

In their 2023 fall marathons, Wanjiru was 6th at Worlds while Lokedi was 3rd in NYC.

This is truly a toss-up and could come down to whether AK wants someone who has run fast or someone who has succeeded on tough courses (like the one they will face in Paris).

Commiserations here to Joyciline Jepkosgei. The 2019 NYC/2021 London champ was 3rd in London on Sunday in 2:16:24. Had she run nine seconds faster, she would have beaten Jepchirchir and won the race and would likely be on the Olympic team.

Ethiopian women
Lock: Tigst Assefa
Pick two from: Worknesh Degefa, Tigist Ketema, Megertu Alemu, Sutume Kebede, Amane Beriso

This is the toughest team to pick. The world record holder Assefa, who just finished 2nd in London, is definitely on the team. After that, there are five women with legitimate cases to be named to the team. A brief look at each of them:

  • Worknesh Degefa: Won Dubai twice and Boston between  2017-20, then missed 3+ years of racing to give birth twice. Returned with a 2:15:51 to win ‘23 Valencia (#2 among Ethiopians across all of ‘23 and ‘24) but had to withdraw from 2024 Boston.
  • Tigist Ketema: Set a 2:16:07 CR in Dubai in January but only 7th in London on Sunday.
  • Megertu Alemu: Consistently in the mix but has yet to win the big one. 3rd at ‘22 London (2:18:32), 2nd ‘23 London (2:18:37), 3rd ‘23 Chicago (2:17:09), 4th ‘23 London (2:16:34).
  • Sutume Kebede: DNF’d London last year, then was only 15th in Chicago, but has been on fire in ‘24, defeating Hellen Obiri to win the Houston Half before winning Tokyo in a 2:15:55 CR.
  • Amane Beriso: #2 on Ethiopian all-time list thanks to 2:14:58 win at ‘22 Valencia, then 2nd at Boston and 1st at Worlds in ‘23. 3rd in Tokyo this year in 2:16:58.

Of that group, Degefa is likely out (if you’re not healthy enough to run your spring marathon, you’re not being picked for the Olympics) and so is Ketema, considering she was only 7th in London. Beriso, as reigning world champ, is likely in.

That leaves Alemu and Kebede for the final spot. Alemu has the stronger track record and is more consistent, but Kebede has come on like gangbusters in 2024 and may be peaking at the right time so we think the final three will be Assefa – Beriso – Kebede.

17-Year-Old Christian Miller Becomes the Youngest Man Ever to Break 10.00 – and the New 2024 World Leader

Last week featured a Diamond League meet in China, a Continental Tour Gold meet in Kenya, and the Mt. SAC Relays in California. Yet the fastest wind-legal 100-meter time of the weekend – and of 2024 – came at the Pure Athletics Spring Invitational in Clermont, Fla., where 17-year-old Christian Miller became the youngest person in history to break 10 seconds for 100 meters. Miller, a senior at Creekside High School in the Jacksonville suburb of St. Johns, ran 9.93 (+1.6 wind) to win the race. (Kenny Bednarek did run 9.91 to win in Nairobi, but the time was wind-aided).

Miller, who turns 18 on May 16, broke out in 2023 when he won the 100 and 200 at the USATF U20 championships in Eugene, setting a world U18 record of 10.06 in the 100. Miller tied that mark in the prelims in Clermont before blasting to his 9.93 in the final.

The Clermont track is known for producing favorable winds – the Pure Athletics Spring Invitational was the same meet where high schooler Issam Asinga ran a wind-aided 9.83 to defeat Noah Lyles in 2023. Until Miller, Asinga had been the only US high schooler to break 10.00 (wind-legal) in the 100, though Asinga did it in late July, well after graduating from Montverde (Fla.) Academy. Asinga, who represents Suriname internationally, was subsequently provisionally suspended in August after testing positive for a banned substance.

Miller’s time qualifies him for this summer’s US Olympic Trials in Eugene, where he will be one of the men to watch – only six Americans ran faster than 9.93 in 2023. Unfortunately, Miller will not get a chance to shine at the World U20 championships this summer as USATF will not be sending a team. Miller did not get a chance to compete at last year’s Pan Am U20 championships either because USATF wouldn’t let him go as he didn’t have a passport at the time, even though the meet was held in Puerto Rico (which does not require a passport for US citizens to visit).

Miller is just the fourth man in world history to break 10.00 before his 19th birthday, and he is nearly a full year younger than the next-youngest to do it. Three of those performances have come in the last three years.

Youngest men to break 10 seconds for 100 meters

Athlete Country Date of first sub-10 Age at first sub-10
Christian Miller USA April 20, 2024 17 years, 340 days
Issam Asinga Suriname July 28, 2023 18 years, 211 days
Letsile Tebogo Botswana April 30, 2022 18 years, 327 days
Trayvon Bromell USA June 13, 2014 18 years, 338 days

NCAA roundup: Graham Blanks returns, Lemngole rips steeple debut

There were some fast distance races at the Wake Forest Invitational on Friday. One of the most notable was the men’s 5,000 meters, where Harvard’s Graham Blanks raced for the first time in more than four months, finishing 4th in 13:37.34 (NCAA 3k/5k runner-up Parker Wolfe of North Carolina won in 13:27.57). It’s going to be interesting to see how Blanks does with seven more weeks to get ready for NCAAs (and nine until the Olympic Trials).

Blanks bowed to the Boston crowd after his NCAA record in December

Remember, Blanks went undefeated during the cross country season, then ran 13:03.78 in Boston on December 2 to break the NCAA 5,000m record. Since then, however, NAU’s Nico Young has taken over collegiate distance running, smashing Blanks’ record, sweeping the 3k and 5k at NCAAs, and running 26:52 for 10,000.

Wolfe won the top collegiate section at Wake Forest but he did not have the fastest time of the night. That belonged to Cole Hocker, who “won” the Olympic Development section in 13:08.25 on a night that was a little warmer than ideal (high 60s). We use quotation marks because Hocker was the only finisher after his three pacers dropped out – including Cooper Teare, who went through 3800m.

Hocker ran in his own heat because the college coaches just wanted their guys to pick up regional qualifiers and were afraid if Hocker was in the college race, some of their guys might try to go with him, blow up, and lose their regional qualifier.

One of the most jaw-dropping results of the day came in the women’s steeple where Alabama’s Doris Lemngole ran 9:22.31 to move to #2 on the all-time NCAA list (BYU’s Courtney Wayment is the only collegian to go faster, running 9:16.00 in 2022). It’s not a shock that Lemngole would be good at the steeple – she ran 9:35 at altitude last year before entering the NCAA and was 2nd at NCAA XC in November – but her 14-second margin of victory was shocking considering the identity of the runner-up: reigning NCAA steeple champ Olivia Markezich of Notre Dame. Markezich ran 9:25 to win NCAAs last year and 9:17 to finish 4th at USAs after the collegiate season had concluded but only ran 9:36 at Wake Forest. Though it should be noted that Markezich’s fastest regular-season time in 2023 was 9:40 before she exploded in the postseason.

Dorcus Ewoi of Puma Elite and Kenya, last year’s NCAA 5th-placer in the 800 for Campbell, won the women’s 1500 in a big pb of 4:05.79 (previous best: 4:11.76), while reigning NCAA champ Maia Ramsden of Harvard was the top collegian in 5th in a pb of 4:07.30. Three collegians broke 4:08 in all as South Carolina’s Judy Kosgei (4:07.65) and Virginia Tech’s Lindsey Butler (4:07.96) were close behind Ramsden.

In 2024, five NCAA women have already broken 4:08 and 10 have broken 4:10, both records for a single season – and more evidence that the goalposts have shifted massively for top NCAA milers in the last five years. Consider that from 2014-19, not a single NCAA woman ran sub-4:10 during the collegiate regular season (before regionals). In 2024, running 4:09.50 would not even crack the top 10 and we still have a month to go before regionals.

Sub-4:08 and sub-4:10s during NCAA regular seasons (pre-regionals)

Year Sub-4:08s Sub-4:10s
2019 0 0
2021 0 5
2022 1 4
2023 0 5
2024 5 10

Odds & Ends

2023 world 1500 champ Josh Kerr of the Brooks Beasts opened up his 2024 outdoor campaign on Saturday night, and it went very well for him. Kerr destroyed everyone in the 800 at the Oregon Relays in Eugene, running 1:45.94 after a 52.50 first lap (Oregon’s Elliott Cook was 2nd in 1:47.01). Afterwards, Kerr, who has a 1:45.35 pb, said he wanted to run faster but it’s only the third time in Kerr’s career he’s broken 1:46. We’d have loved to have seen him race teammate Isaiah Harris.

The night before, his Brooks Beasts teammates ran a world record for the distance medley relay of 9:14.58 with the following splits: Brannon Kidder (2:49.60), Brandon Miller (46.60), Isaiah Harris (1:45.75), and Henry Wynne (3:52.64).

At the South African champs, Adrian Wildschutt (13:30.38) and his big brother Nadeel (29:19.01) won the 5,000 and 10,000 meter titles. 

At the Mt. SAC Relays, Ventura High’s Sadie Engelhardt broke Katelyn Tuohy’s US’s high school outdoor mile record of 4:33.87 by running 4:31.72. It should be noted that Mary Cain ran faster indoors (4:28.25) and that Addy Wiley’s outdoor 1600 record of 4:26.16 equates to 4:27.71 for the mile. Also, Engelhard’s time equates to a 4:11.55 1500 – much slower than the 4:09.70 she ran at The TEN last month.

Rai Benjamin, who took up cycling in the offseason, showed he still has plenty of speed as he opened his 2024 season by running 44.42 to win the flat 400 at Mt. SAC. Also at Mt. SAC, Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone raced for the first time since the 2023 US outdoor championships as she ran the second leg of the 4×100 with Formula Kersee teammates Keni Harrison, Jenna Prandini, and Morolake Akinosun. Formula Kersee finished 2nd in 42.93 behind the Edrick Floreal-coached team of Dina Asher-Smith, Rhasidat Adeleke, Lanae-Tava Thomas, and Julien Alfred (42.03).

Athing Mu, who has not raced yet in 2024, was among the entries of Formula Kersee’s 4×400 team at Mt. SAC, but that squad scratched before the meet began.

Update: This article was edited after publication to explain why Hocker was in his own heat.

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