As the Olympic Trials come to a close this Sunday, July 10, there are still plenty more exciting races to be run in the next few days. For the men’s side in terms of middle-distance and distance events, we’ve seen two finals so far: the 10K and the 800. The 10K, held on the first night of the Trials, was no surprise to anyone: Nike Oregon Project member Galen Rupp won his 8th-straight national title in the event (and second consecutive Olympic berth in the event) with a time of 27:55.04. He was followed by Shadrack Kipchirir and Leonard Korir of the Army, both of whom became first-time Olympians that night. The 800 was a little different, though: NCAA record-holder and recently-turned pro Donavan Brazier failed to advance past the first round. Ultimately, another recently-turned pro and NCAA champion, Clayton Murphy, won the 800 final in 1:44.76, followed by 2016 World Indoor Champion Boris Berian and Nike OTC’s Charles Jock. Which leaves us to the remaining events: the 3000M Steeplechase, the 1500, and the 5000. The steeplechase final will be held tonight at 8:23pm EST, with the 1500 semifinals going off at 7:12pm EST. The 5000m final is scheduled to start tomorrow at 8:20pm.
The overwhelming favorite in this race is Evan Jager, who owns the American record (8:00.45). Jager cruised in the first round of the event on Monday, easily winning his heat in a controlled time of 8:33.73. Jager, who qualified for the 2012 Olympics in the same event, should have no problem doing so again tonight. After Jager, though, there are no certainties. Donn Cabral is the only other runner in the race to have qualified for the 2012 Games—if there’s anyone else close to being labeled a “certainty,” it would have to be Cabral. Other notable names in this race include Jager’s teammates, Dan Huling and Andrew Bayer, as well as Cory Leslie, Hillary Bor, Stanley Kebenei, and 2016 NCAA Champion Mason Ferlic. I believe Huling will earn the third and final spot on the American steeplechase team heading to Rio, finishing behind Jager and Cabral. With a personal best of 8:13.29, he has the talent to do it—as proven by his third place finish last year at the USA Championships. At 32 years old, he’s absolutely ready to make the leap and qualify for track and field’s most prestigious meet.
Unlike the steeplechase, the 5K doesn’t have an Evan Jager-like favorite to win the race. If anything, the two names that come up the most with the terms “Olympics” and “favorites” would have to be Ryan Hill and Ben True. Hill was the silver medalist in the 3K at this year’s World Indoor Championships, while True owns PRs of 13:02/3:36. But, it would be disrespectful to label this race as Hill and True’s race. Galen Rupp, who has already qualified for the Marathon and the 10K in Rio, is also in the 5K final—and even though he raced the 10K just over a week ago, he’s still Galen Rupp. Betting against Rupp at Hayward Field at the Olympic Trials, to me, seems like betting against Jordan in a Game 7 in Chicago—no matter if he just ran the 10K, or if he just got out-kicked by a college kid a couple weeks before this (Syracuse’s Justyn Knight outkicked him at the Stumptown Twilight meet). Also in this race is Bernard Lagat, who (and this has been stated numerous times) is an ageless wonder—at the ripe age of 41, he won his opening heat of the 5K in 13:48.36. Other notable names in this race include Rupp’s teammate Eric Jenkins (13:07 PR), Lopez Lomong (13:11), Hassan Mead (13:02), Garrett Heath (13:16), NCAA 5K runner-up Sean McGorty, and 10K Olympic qualifier Shadrack Kipchirir. It’s not easy, but my predictions for the Olympic 5K team are Galen Rupp (alright, that pick was relatively easy), Ryan Hill, and Garrett Heath.
Tomorrow: I make my predictions for the Men’s 1500 Olympic team.