Olympic Trials M10K Preview: Can Grant Fisher Finally Win It? Does Nico Young Make the Team?

The first final of the 2024 US Olympic Trials features four studs vying for three spots to Paris

The 2024 US Olympic Trials in track & field begin on Friday. For the fifth straight Trials, the meet is at Hayward Field in Eugene. And for the third straight Trials, the first day of competition will conclude with the men’s 10,000-meter final.

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Qualifying for the Olympic 10,000 meters is hard. The race is a straight final in Paris, which means there are just 27 spots, so the auto standard is a very difficult 27:00.00. Only three Americans hit that time during the qualifying window: 2021 Olympians Grant Fisher and Woody Kincaid, and college star Nico Young of Northern Arizona. One other man has a world ranking that places him in the top 27, which also makes him eligible for selection: two-time Olympic 5,000-meter medalist Paul Chelimo.

But that’s it. The On Athletics Club’s Joe Klecker, who has made the last three US teams, is out of the meet following a torn adductor. The Bowerman Track Club’s Sean McGorty, who has made the last two US teams, is only running the 5,000 at the Trials. And no one else in the field has the Olympic standard or close to enough ranking points to qualify.

(Editr’s note: It’s a real shame World Athletics doesn’t allow for quota re-allocation for the Track Trials like they do the Marathon Trials. It would be a way more fun meet if the top 3 went to the Olympics).

Consider: the #5 seed, Conner Mantz, has run 27:25 in the qualifying window but is already running the marathon in Paris (Mantz told LRC he is undecided about doubling at the Olympics should he qualify for both events). The #6 seed, Sam Chelanga, has run 27:38 in the qualifying window. To get enough ranking points to move into the top 27, Mantz would have to to run 27:25 and win the Trials. Chelanga would have to run 27:01 and win the Trials. For reference, the US championship record is 27:25 and the race is being held without pacers at 7:27 p.m. PT (92 minutes before the sun sets in Eugene). That’s not happening.

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So this race boils down to four men battling it out for three spots. Here’s what to expect.

Top entrants (full entries here)

Athletes with 27:00.00 Olympic standard in bold, athletes with world ranking good enough to qualify for Olympics in italics

Name Affiliation
Qualifying mark
Grant Fisher NIKE 26:52.04 2021 5K/10K Olympian, 5th Olympic 10k, 4th USA’s 10k last year
Nico Young Northern Arizona University 26:52.72 NCAA 3K/5K champ, 2nd NCAA 5k, collegiate record holder 5k/10k
Woody Kincaid NIKE 26:57.57 2021/2023 US 10k champ
Paul Chelimo American Distance Project 27:12.73 2-time Oly 5k medalist, 5th USA 10k 2023
Drew Hunter adidas 27:38.87 2019 US Two Mile champ, 5th 2019 US 5k, 8th US 1500 2023
Emmanuel Bor U.S. Army 27:42.99 5th 2022 USA 5k, 8th 10k 2023 USA’S
Sam Chelanga 27:38.02 9th 2023 US 10k
Conner Mantz NIKE 27:25.30 Won marathon trials
Dillon Maggard BROOKS Beasts TC 27:47.60
Zach Panning Hansons-Brooks Distance Project 27:51.20 Almost made team in marathon

Is it finally Grant Fisher’s year or will Woody Kincaid win #3?

Klecker took down Fisher to win the US title in 2022 (Kevin Morris photo)

Considering he has run more than 10 seconds faster than any American in history and has finished 4th and 5th in his last two global championship appearances, it is hard to believe that Grant Fisher has won zero US 10,000-meter titles. Here is what the 27-year-old star has done in his three US 10,000 finals:

2021 – 2nd Outkicked by then-Bowerman TC teammate Woody Kincaid
2022 – 2nd Outkicked by Joe Klecker
2023 – 4th Led with 200m to go but faded in home straight; Fisher later revealed he had been dealing with a stress reaction in his left leg

Fisher has been brilliant over the last three years, setting American records in the 3k, 5k, and 10k and coming the closest any US man has to a 10k medal since Galen Rupp‘s Olympic silver in 2012. But the knock on Fisher is that he has found himself a little short when it comes to kicking against the very best in the world, or even for a US 10,000 title. Still, Fisher is stronger than every other American right now, which is why he has been the top American (by a lot) in his two global 10,000 finals in 2021 and 2022. Those two races were run at a fast enough pace (winning times: 27:43 in a Tokyo steambath, 27:27 in Eugene) that Fisher was the only American who could hang.

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But at USAs, Fisher’s strength is not as much of an advantage. The winning times in Fisher’s three US 10,000 finals have been 27:53, 28:28, and 28:23. It is no coincidence that he has been outkicked each time. Kincaid has a stronger kick than Fisher, and when the winning time is in the 28:20s, that even opens the door to someone like Klecker outkicking Fisher if he plays the cards right (which he did in 2022, and Fisher didn’t).

After the 2023 season, Fisher made the bold decision to leave the Bowerman Track Club and coach Jerry Schumacher after four years and reunite with his high school coach Mike Scannell. So far in 2024, Fisher has been running very well — he ran an American record of 8:03 for 2 miles indoors, won The TEN in 26:52, has run 12:51 and 12:53 for 5,000, and enters the Trials fresh off a 3:34.90 1500 pb on June 9.

But he was already running well under Schumacher — recall that Fisher ran an American record of 7:25 for 3,000 in his last race as a member of BTC in September. And when he raced in LA last month in his first big test against the men he will be battling for 10,000m medals in Paris, Fisher was closer to Cooper Teare in 9th than winner Selemon Barega.

Fisher’s next big test comes on Friday at the Trials. Does he try to push the pace and hope someone breaks? Or does he back off and trust his kick? Outkicking Kincaid in a slow race would mark a tangible sign of progress — Fisher has never done that before at USAs — but a slower race lets more guys into it, though Fisher is probably outkicking one or both of Young/Chelimo.

Young has been on fire in 2024 but was beaten at NCAA outdoors in the 5,000 (Kevin Morris photo)

The guy who really has an incentive to make this race fast is Nico Young. Still just 21 years old, Young was a high school phenom who has blossomed into a college star and has set NCAA records at 5,000 (12:57) and 10,000 (26:52) in 2024. He has greatly improved his kick in 2024, which powered him to a pair of titles at the NCAA indoor championships in March. But if you’re Young, do you really want to take your chances having to kick against Kincaid, Fisher, and a two-time Olympic medalist?

Chelimo, meanwhile, showed weakness in his recent European tour, running 13:21 and 13:24 in a pair of 5ks and 27:34 at the Night of the 10,000m PBs (a race won in 27:22). Young’s best bet is to try to shake Chelimo before the bell — perhaps by working with Fisher? Complicating things is the fact that Young and Kincaid are coached by the same guy (Mike Smith), and Kincaid is unlikely to have any desire to lead this race until the very end.

Kincaid, 31, has only raced twice in 2024, but he ran a 26:57 pb for 10,000 in his last effort in March. He has also won this race the last two times he has finished it (he DNF’d with a diaphragm cramp in 2022). Kincaid’s agent Dan Lilot told LetsRun he was only planning on running once before USAs at the LA Grand Prix but wound up skipping it due to a bit of sciatica. Now, however, Lilot says Kincaid is good to go.

It’s a little risky to back someone who has not raced in three months, but Kincaid usually comes through at USAs. Unless he has experienced a setback recently, he looks to be a good bet to make the team again, if not win.

JG prediction

Fisher & Kincaid were Bowerman TC teammates when they made the team together in 2021 (Kevin Morris photo)

There are some interesting age dynamics at play here. While Fisher is in his track prime at 27, both Kincaid (31) and Chelimo (33) are on older side for track athletes. Should Kincaid make the team, he’d be the oldest US Olympian in the event since Abdi Abdirahman in 2008 (also 31), whereas you’d have to go back to 1992 (Steve Plascencia, 35) to find someone as old as Chelimo on the US 10,000 team. Meanwhile Young would be the youngest man to make a US Olympic 10,000 team since Dathan Ritzenhein in 2004, and Ritz limped his way onto that team (he finished last at the Trials while running with a foot injury but still made the team since he was one of the only Americans with the standard).

So who wins and who makes the team? Young may eventually win a US 10,000 title, but as good as he has been this year (he did beat Kincaid head-to-head at The TEN but that had a rabbit), it feels too early in his career for him to win a US title in 2024. And while you can’t ever count Chelimo out, he has always been a better 5,000 runner than 10,000 runner and his results this year just have not been impressive.

That leaves Fisher and Kincaid. Fisher beat Kincaid by five seconds at The TEN in March, 26:52 to 26:57. The logical inference is to view that as a good sign for Fisher, but I view it differently. The fact that Kincaid was able to run 26:57 — a pb by nine seconds — means he is incredibly strong and will be even harder to drop than he was last year, when Fisher took off with 1200 left, went 60.55-59.91-58.39 for his last three laps and still got blasted by Kincaid’s 54.76 final 400. Fisher is the better Olympic medal bet, but in a slower race at the Trials, I still trust Kincaid’s kick more — even though he has not raced in three months.

1. Kincaid 2. Fisher 3. Young

Who wins the Olympic Trials men's 10k?

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Which of the "Big 4" misses the Olympic 10k team?

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Talk about the men’s 10,000 on our world-famous fan forum / messageboard: Official US Olympic Trials Men’s 10k thread: Jon Gault says Woody Kincaid is your winner, do you agree?.

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