Olympic Trials Distance Preview (June 23-24): Can Valby run onto the team? Is Athing Mu ready to go? Is Rooks in the drivers seat?

With a lot of familiar faces still at the forefront of U.S. distance running, how different do the Olympic teams look 3 years later?

The 2024 Olympic trials are right around the corner, beginning on Friday, June 21st with prelims and the 10,000 meter final–which the preview for can be found here. Ahead of the meet, we’ve broken down the distance events chronologically based on the date of their final. Below you can find the 800-meter, 3000 steeplechase, and 5,000-meter previews which take place on June 23rd and 24th.

Before we get to that, let us ask you a question. Have you  entered our free BetterRunningShoes.com prediction contest? Do it now , it’s free and you could win $200,024. Then spread the word to your friends and play in a group. Plus we’ll be broadcasting a live post-meet show right after the action ends most nights at 11 p.m. ET. To get it on-demand as a podcast, sign up for our Supporters Club

Women’s 800: Is Athing Mu ready to repeat Olympic gold?

1st Round: 7:17 pm ET Friday
Semis: 9:11 pm ET Sunday
Final: 10:32 pm ET Monday

The women’s 800 is one of the most interesting events at the Trials. Athing Mu is the 2021 Olympic and 2022 world champion and has only lost once in the 800 as a pro — which means her worst 800 race since 2021 was still a third-place finish at Worlds in 2023. She followed that race up with a 1:54.97 American record at the Diamond League final.

But that is the last we have seen of Mu as she has not raced at all this year, most recently withdrawing from the Pre Classic with what her coach Bobby Kersee described to Runner’s World as a sore hamstring. That is a source of concern, but Mu also does not particularly enjoy racing and Kersee’s stars have a history of withdrawing from meets only to produce incredible results when they finally do race. If Mu was 100% healthy, she would be a lock for the team. As it is, she is still a pretty safe bet, even without racing yet in 2024. She is that good.

Top entrants (full entries here)

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Athletes with the 1:59.30 Olympic standard are in bold while athletes high enough in the world rankings quota are italicized.

Name Affiliation Qualifying Mark
Athing Mu NIKE 1:54.97 2021 Olympic & 2022 World champ, 3rd Worlds last year, set American record at Pre Classic last year, has not raced this year
Raevyn Rogers NIKE / Nike Union Athletics Club 1:57.45 4th Worlds last year, bronze 2021, silver 2019, but has not broken 2:02 this year
Addy Wiley adidas 1:57.64 2nd USA indoors, 5th USA 1500 last year
Nia Akins BROOKS Beasts TC 1:57.73 2023 USA champ was 6th at Worlds, 3rd USA Indoors
Sage Hurta-Klecker On Athletics Club 1:58.09 4th USA’s last year
Michaela Rose Louisiana State University 1:58.37 NCAA leader, 4th NCAA’s, 6th USA’s 2023
Juliette Whittaker Stanford University 1:59.53 NCAA indoor and outdoor champ, did not make USA final last year
McKenna Keegan NIKE / Nike Union Athletics Club 1:59.93 Sub-2 for 1st time in last race
Helen Schlachtenhaufen NIKE 1:59.97 6th 1500 USA’s 2023
Roisin Willis New Balance 2:00.17 2022 world U20 champ, 2023 NCAA indoor champion, did not make USA finals last year
Ajee’ Wilson adidas 2:00.32 Dominated this event in US for nearly a decade. 2022 world indoor champion, 8th USA’s last year, has not broken 2:02 this year
Kate Grace NIKE 2:00.68 2016 Olympic finalist is on comeback trail

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Who Gets the Other Two Spots?

If Athing Mu steps on the line and is close to healthy, then she is getting one of the three spots barring a fall (Editor’s note: LetsRun.com co-founder Robert Johnson reminds you the rulebook allows for the race to be re-run but he’s never seen it). So who gets the other two spots? This is the 800, so there is a decent chance that one of the women that we do not mention here makes the team, but here’s our best guess for some of the likely candidates for the last two spots. 

The first group of people that we need to talk about are the proven veterans who have struggled this year. The two women that fall into this category are Raevyn Rogers and Ajee’ Wilson, who have been at the top of U.S. mid-distance running for much of the past decade. Rogers was in good form as recently as last year finishing in 4th behind the big three at worlds, but has had a rocky 2024, starting off her outdoor seasons with two 2:02 races before running a 2:04.60 and most recently a 2:06.17. She has yet to break 2:02. Wilson has had a similar outdoor season, opening with a 2:02 before running a 2:04.87 and a 2:06.13. These women have made a living off making U.S. teams but it’s hard to see a world where they can turn it around so drastically. It would be foolish to completely count these two out, though. 

The next group is the women who made the team last year in Nia Akins and Kaela Edwards. Akins was 6th at worlds last year and has been having a great year running between 1:57.98 to 1:58.27 in her three non-championship 800s this year. She won USAs last year and is a good bet to make the team. Edwards has had a much different season, not running quicker than 2:01.53 in six attempts in 2024, and will have an uphill battle to make the team.

There is also a bright group of NCAA stars who could contend for the team. That group includes includes: LSU’s Michaela Rose, who had by far the quickest time in the NCAA indoors (1:59.25) and outdoors (1:58.37) but failed to win a title; the woman who beat her to win two NCAA titles, Juliette Whittaker; and Whittaker’s Stanford teammate and 2023 NCAA indoor champion (and 2022 World U20 champion) Roisin Willis.

Two women who have come close to making teams as of recently but haven’t quite gotten there are Sage Hurta-Klecker of the On Athletics Club, who was 4th last year, and the 20-year-old Addy Wiley, who was 5th in the 1500 last year and ran 1:57.64 in the 800. 2016 Trials champ Kate Grace is making a comeback at age 35 and has run 2:00.68 this year.

It’s worth noting that US leader for 2024, Emily Mackay (9th in the world this year at 1:57.87 ) is only running the 1500, where she won World indoor bronze this winter.

Does Athing Mu make the Olympic team?

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Does Raevyn Rogers make the Olympic team?

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Joseph’s Picks

Mu is just so much more talented than the rest of the field, and she can get her legs under her in the rounds. Nia Akins has been incredibly consistent and performed at a world-class level last year. Sage Hurta-Klecker has also been very consistent this year. 

  1. Athing Mu
  2. Nia Akins
  3. Sage Hurta-Klecker

Men’s 3k Steeple: Is Kenneth Rooks the new king or does Hillary Bor regain his title? Can Evan Jager make a third Olympic team? 

1st Round: 7:49 pm ET Friday
Final: 10:07 pm ET Sunday

The U.S has had some marquee distance performances over the years, but the men’s steeplers’ performance at the 2021 Olympics was one to forget. In Tokyo, the US only got one man through to the final (Benard Keter), who was the last qualifier and finished 11th out of 15. This was in stark contrast to 2016, where all three Americans made the final and Evan Jager got a silver medal. Let’s take a look at who is looking to flip the script for America this year and make Paris look more like 2016 than 2021. 

Top entrants (Full entries here)

Athletes with the 8:15.00 Olympic standard are in bold while athletes high enough in the world rankings quota are italicized.

Name Affiliation Qualifying Mark
Hillary Bor HOKA / American Distance Project 8:13.30 Quickest American, 2016 & 2021 Olympian, ’19/’21/’22 US champion, is healthy again
Anthony Rotich NIKE / U.S. Army 8:13.74 5th USA’s 2023
Kenneth Rooks NIKE 8:15.08 2023 US champion
Mason Ferlic adidas 8:16.03 4th USA’s 2023, 2021 Olympian
Matthew Wilkinson Under Armour / Dark Sky Distance 8:16.59 6th USA’s 2023
Benard Keter NIKE / U.S. Army 8:17.19 2nd USA’s 2023, 8th Worlds. Has made last 3 teams.
Isaac Updike Under Armour / Dark Sky Distance 8:17.69 3rd USA’s 2023
Alec Basten Under Armour Mission Run Baltimore 8:19.96 11th 2023 USA’s
Nathan Mountain University of Virginia 8:20.68 NCAA 2nd Place, NCAA leader
Derek Johnson 8:20.90
Travis Mahoney 8:20.91
Joseph Berriatua Tinman Elite 8:21.98
Duncan Hamilton NIKE / Bowerman Track Club 8:23.02 2023 USA 8th place
Brian Barraza Roots Running Project 8:23.05
Daniel Michalski U.S. Air Force 8:24.16 4th at 2021 Olympic Trials
Jackson Mestler 8:24.33
Parker Stokes Georgetown University 8:24.58 NCAA champion
Evan Jager NIKE / Bowerman Track Club 8:25.77 American record holder, 2016 Olympic silver, 7-time US champ, 2nd 2022 USA’s, ran better in last race

Most likely, the United States will not have the issue of having to wait and see if the three people that cross the line first at the Trials will go to the Olympics as plenty of Americans have the standard or a high enough world ranking to make the team. Anyone that is not in a position to go to Paris on ranking now would likely be in a position to do so if they finished inside the top three at the trials.

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Who Will Emerge on Top?

This is a race that has no runaway favorite. The two top dogs are two guys who have been incredibly consistent in both laying down quick times and stepping up when it matters, Hillary Bor and Kenneth Rooks, who are the last two U.S. champions. Rooks is not nearly as experienced as Bor but looked a cut above last year, falling two minutes into the race and still winning USA’s. He has carried that experience into this year where he ran three steeples, one in April where he ran 8:28.33 compared to his 8:33.60 opener last year, and then twice under 8:20, running 8:15.08 at Track Fest and 8:18.77 at the Portland Track Festival. He has only raced four times and three steeples this year before the Trials as opposed to racing 11 times on the track (six steeples), and a full cross country season at BYU last year. Without having to race in the NCAA system he will be much fresher than he was last year.

The other main contender is Hillary Bor. He has been racing on the international circuit this year, racing his two steeples in the Diamond League in Marrakech and Stockholm. He got pulled to two quick times of 8:13.30 and 8:15.53. He made the team in 2016 and was 7th at the Olympics and made it in 2021, where he missed the final in Tokyo. He was the U.S. champ in 2019, 2021, and 2022 before not racing USAs in 2023 after breaking his foot on a water barrier in Rabat. 

The LetsRun brain trust is in agreement that Bor and Rooks are locks to make the team, so here’s a quick rundown of who could take the third spot. 

Evan Jager is the American record holder, has an Olympic silver medal, and was 6th at Worlds in 2022, but he is also 35 years old and has only run 8:25.77 this year. That’s an improvement on his first two races (8:33 and 8:35) but still only ranks him 16th in the US in 2024.

Three other proven guys are Mason Ferlic, who was a spot off the team last year in 4th but made the last Olympic team in 2021, and Benard Keter, who was 2nd last year and 8th at Worlds. Keter has made the last three US teams but has only run 8:24.86 this year. Isaac Updike was the third American at Worlds last year and has a season’s best of 8:20 in 2024.

In terms of the guys that have run quick but have not performed on the big stage, Matthew Wilkinson is the fastest American not named Bor or Rooks after running 8:16 at the LA Grand Prix. Wilkinson, a former NCAA DIII champ at Carleton, was 6th at USAs last year and his breakout season could not have come at a better time. The final American to break 8:20 this year is Alec Basten, who only finished 11th last year. Also in this group is Anthony Rotich who ran 8:13.74 in 2023 but has only run 8:23.00 this year.

The last group is the young guns consisting of NCAA champ Parker Stokes, NCAA leader Nathan Mountain, and Bowerman TC runner Duncan Hamilton who was just 8th place last year.

(Editor’s note: Should we fire the interns for not mentioning Dan Michalski who was 4th at the last Trials and was a guest on our podcast?)

Who wins the steeple?

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Joseph’s Pick

Rooks and Bor are a cut above. I have Keter a tier below them this year but he is proven on the world stage. 

  1. Kenneth Rooks
  2. Hillary Bor
  3. Benard Keter 

Women’s 5k: Can Cranny four-peat? How fit is Schweizer? And does Parker Valby make the team?

1st Round: 9:22 pm ET Friday
Final: 10:09 pm ET Monday

Alicia Monson, the American record holder and 15th fastest woman in history, is not competing at the Trials as she is injured.

Despite being the three-time defending champion and a 2021 Olympian, Elise Cranny has not had a smooth season, departing longtime coach Jerry Schumacher and the Bowerman Track Club at the end of 2023 and then switching coaches again in 2024 from Joe Bosshard to NAU assistant Jarred Cornfield. She did not race a ton this spring, clocking 2:02 over 800 meters and 4:03 at the Prefontaine Classic 1500. It was only last weekend at the Portland Track Festival that she posted a positive result, running 14:46.49 for second place ahead of former Bowerman TC teammate and 2021 Olympian Karissa Schweizer.

Despite the presence of established distance stars in Cranny and Schweizer, New Balance Boston’s Elle St. Pierre is the favorite, having run 3:56 and 14:34 this outdoor season after winning the World Indoor 3,000 title in March. St. Pierre is also entered in the 1500 at the Trials, but the 5,000 comes first.

The trifecta of St. Pierre, Cranny, and Schweizer will be joined up front by OAC’s Josette Andrews, who has shown potential over the distance (14:43.36 PB) but has failed to qualify for a U.S. outdoor team over any distance. More worryingly, Andrews has not raced at all since World Indoors on March 2.

Despite having not run a 5,000 since last year’s World Championships, Natosha Rogers has proven her ability to compete at the U.S. championships, qualifying in both 2022 and 2023, and will look to earn her Olympic rings. This time, however, she is bouncing back from marathon training as she finished 28th at the Olympic Marathon Trials in February in Orlando.

Out of the University of Florida, all eyes will be on Parker Valby, who has dominated the NCAA since last spring. Valby has run 14:52.18 and 30:50.43 this outdoor season and won all of her races in blowouts, including setting collegiate records in the NCAA indoor and outdoor 5,000 finals. But Valby has never run a US championship before and will be up against a bunch of women with faster pbs than her. Does she have the kick required to make it to Paris?

Speaking of NCAA domination, that used to what Katelyn Tuohy did. The former NC State star hasn’t raced at all since turning pro (her last meet was the 2023 NCAA xc meet in November). A few weeks ago her agent Ray Flynn said she was back running but he thought she wouldn’t be ready for the Trials but she is entered and declared so she is the ultimate wild-card if she does run.

MB: Is Katelyn Tuohy opening up her season at the trials?

Top Entrants (Full entries here)

Athletes with the 14:52.00 Olympic standard are in bold while athletes high enough in the world rankings quota are italicized.

Name Affiliation Qualifying Mark
Elle St. Pierre New Balance Boston 14:34.12 World indoor 3k champion, 2021 USA 1500 champion
Elise Cranny NIKE 14:46.49 2023 USA 5k/10k champion, 2021 Olympian
Josette Andrews On Athletics Club 14:46.51 2nd US 3k indoors, 4th USA’s last year, no races since March
Karissa Schweizer NIKE / Bowerman Track Club 14:48.60 2022 US 10k champ, 2021 Olympian
Parker Valby University of Florida 14:52.79 6x NCAA champ, NCAA 5k/10k champ, has not lost a race this year
Natosha Rogers PUMA / Puma Elite Running 14:55.39 3rd USA 2023 5k/10k, 9th Worlds 5k, hasn’t raced since Marathon Trials
Ella Donaghu Nike Union Athletics Club 14:58.39 Hadn’t broken 15:16 until this year
Allie Buchalski BROOKS Beasts TC 15:01.75 5th at 2021 Trials
Abby Nichols HOKA NAZ Elite 15:03.17 10th USA’s 2023
Rachel Smith HOKA 15:03.24 Made U.S. Olympic team in 2021
Bethany Hasz Boston Athletic Association 15:05.80
Whittni Morgan adidas 15:06.11 2021 NCAA XC champ for BYU

How does this shake out?

Between the championship consistency of Cranny & Schweizer, the dominance of St. Pierre, and Valby’s youth, this is a tough one to predict. You’d like to think the very best women will run away from the field, but last year’s U.S. champs was the first time since before 2010 that the women’s 5,000 was won in a sub-15 clocking, meaning you’ll likely see a lot of women in the mix prior to the final mile. That is, unless Valby decides to take it from farther out as she has done at the college level. With the talent of this field, it is likely one of the top three entrants will fail to qualify and go home devastated. 

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Does Parker Valby make the Olympic team in the 5000?

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Harper’s Pick: 

If all is well in the world of Elle St. Pierre when the 5,000 final rolls around, she will be a lock to make the team and likely win. Alongside her, I like the consistency and championship experience of Cranny as well as Valby’s youth. I think Valby takes the race from a mile out and holds on for third.

  1. Elle St. Pierre
  2. Elise Cranny
  3. Parker Valby

Does Parker Valby make the Olympic 5,000 team?

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