Lap 65: Sponsored by Diadora
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The US 10000m Championships 🇺🇸
The landscape of this race completely changed a couple days out, when the previous favorite, Elise Cranny, scratched from the meet after a stretch of not feeling like herself in training. (Thankfully, there don’t appear to be injuries involved, so Cranny will have another opportunity to qualify for the World Championships in a month at 5000m.)
So in Cranny’s absence, when the field came through the first 5000m in 15:50 at the USATF 10,000m Championships and Karissa Schweizer was chopping her stride, I texted a friend that it was a shame that track doesn’t have live in-game betting because I’d have bet it all! Like a seasoned ponies-gambler placing massive bets based solely off a horse’s pre-race trot, I’ve developed a sixth sense for these things — especially when it comes to judging the stride of the woman with the fastest personal best in the field.
With around 4000 meters left in the race, OAC’s Alicia Monson stormed to the front and made a decisive bid for the team, daring anyone to come with her. The truth is that besides Schweizer, nobody else was realistically vying for the win when they lined up that day — no offense, @everyone. Things strung out quickly, and all of a sudden there were two races: the one for first and the one for third.
With 200m to go, Schweizer swung wide, but Monson responded, and continued to keep up with the infusion in pace. But with 50 meters to go, Karissa was finally able to put that 4-flat 1500m speed to good use, finally pulling away and securing her first national title!
While I’m generally the first to point out that an athlete’s mile time is not the reason for their vicious kick in a marathon, it actually does have some relevance when closing this hard. In route to her winning time of 30:49.56, Schweizer’s last 5000m was 14:59 and her final mile was 4:37! Note to you wannabes: being a world class 10000m runner requires foot speed.
Shaping up behind the pair was a battle of would-be feel good stories as Natosha Rogers and Emily Infeld were neck-and-neck down the home straightaway. While Infeld has had a tumultuous journey of health and personal struggles since last wearing the Team USA jersey at the 2017 World Championships, Natosha Rogers has never represented the stars and stripes at a global track championship, despite finishing second at the 2012 Olympic Trials. If you are like me and always opt to cheer for the story that will make you feel the most warm and fuzzy inside, then the final 30-seconds of this race likely filled you with internal strife — you just couldn’t choose!
Ultimately, ten years later, Rogers fulfilled her destiny. Although many Hansons-Brooks ODP athletes have been sent a gigantic suitcase of USA gear before for road and cross country championships, the group had never previously had an athlete qualify on the track.
It’s great to see three athletes from three different coaches and sponsors qualifying for this team. This race was filled with a diversity of groups and shoe companies, which speaks to the health of the sport — there are multiple good options when it comes to developing talent. Young runners coming out of the NCAA have choices, which gives them the power to find their best fit — and hopefully get paid!
Also, the US 10000m Championships 🇺🇸
Let me begin by saying that my idea to host the 10000m championships as a separate entity was a success. (Sure, it may have been someone else’s idea, too, but who had it first? We may never know.) Way more attention was directed at two super entertaining races than would have otherwise had the ten people who make up all of track and field media been forced to spread coverage amongst 42 other events. And the athletes put on a show via some quality tactical racing.
After an opening first half of 14:31, the men’s race was a constant fartlek with multiple athletes taking a spin at the front — though no turn of the screw was ever significantly faster than the last. An extra spot potentially opened up with about nine laps left when the defending US Champion, Woody Kincaid, dropped out after noticeably struggling with a side stitch. The entire race stayed patient — minus the usual jockeying for position — until a lap to go.
The predetermined outcome of a Grant Fisher win looked to be unfolding just as expected, when with 100m to go he swung wide on Joe Klecker. But as Fisher looked poised to break the tape, the Klecker miles kicked in and the OAC athlete fought back, crossing the finish line in 28:28.71 to win his first US title. In fact, this was Klecker’s only victory since turning professional.
Upon further inspection, Klecker historically doesn’t win a lot of races, which is surprising for an athlete of his caliber. He never won an NCAA title and never even won a Pac-12 track championship. Well, as a more famous Minnesotan once sang, the times they are a-changin’! When you think of Joe, you probably imagine a work horse who is clicking off high mileage weeks and hammering races from a couple miles out to grind everyone down. But he’s developing quite the kick — his final 400 was in 55-seconds from the front.
Now I know the question newsletter writers everywhere are asking in order to drive subscriptions via clicks is “did Klecker win or did Fisher lose?” As the American Record holder at 10000m, it’s hard to imagine that he’d have hated a more honest pace for six miles. In interviews after, Fisher admitted he was disappointed with his race tactics.
When Fisher ran 26:33 in March, his last 1600m was 4:03. In a race that was almost two minutes slower, the final four laps took him 4:09 at the US Championships. Fisher waited until the last straightaway, which, as we witnessed in multiple NCAA championships, isn’t always his forte. But he is exceptionally good at winding up the pace, which we also saw indoors when he ran the American Record at 5000m. On paper coming in, Fisher was the man to beat, but he ran everyone else’s race except his own, deferring the most crucial moments to others rather than taking control and playing to his strengths.
And if it’s acceptable to wildly speculate — maybe Fisher was a bit tired, too? From a planning perspective, it’s difficult to run 12:53 in February, 26:33 in March, win a national championship in May, win another national championship in June and then peak at the World Championships in July. Somewhere, something has to give. It seems to have happened to Cranny, as well.
Speaking of tactical errors, Emmanuel Bor learned a tough lesson in the final steps on Friday night. Sitting comfortably in third behind Klecker and Fisher with 50 meters to go, Bor took a look back and saw that he had a clear path to the team. But rather than following the pair in, he panicked with a hard charging Sean McGorty eating up ground. Looking frantically over his shoulder, he drifted into lane three to set what would have been a questionably legal pick. That’s when McGorty made the decision to go inside to lane two and that deke resulted in Bor tripping over his own feet to painfully watch the team slip away.
After experimenting with the steeplechase last year, McGorty didn’t have to worry about his shoe falling off this time around. If you are currently experiencing a setback and looking for some inspo, then pin a picture of Sean on your Etsy board. During this off-season he had achilles surgery for Haglund's Deformity for the second time in his career.
I know watching 25 laps can be boring, but this wasn’t a good example of that. It’s a shame this wasn’t on television and was behind a paywall because I think fringe fans would’ve really enjoyed it.
Pre Classic Distance Night 👎
Why do we constantly feel the need to over-engineer the simplest sport in the world? Out of all the athletes on the planet, Joshua Cheptegei is my favorite distance runner to watch. But on Friday night at the Pre Classic, I couldn’t comprehend why he was on the track then, and not the next day in the Diamond League 5000m. What was billed as a world record attempt by the current world record holder, fell 22-seconds short. Then the next day fans watched Berihu Aregawi go way faster as he ran a solo 12:50 during the main program.
Whose idea was this? Probably the same person who decided to run last year’s Diamond League championship final on a makeshift track outside Zurich’s packed stadium — a race Aregawi won. This weekend, rather than having the Olympic 5000m champion and current 5000m WR holder race head-to-head against the Diamond League 5000m champion and the road 5k WR holder, we watched them each time trial separately.
I am banging my head against the wall wondering how this stuff happens. The absolute bare minimum would be to encourage the two best guys — who are already in the same stadium on the same weekend! — to race each other.
Overall, the record chasing didn’t pan out as planned Friday night as Francine Niyonsaba narrowly missed the 2-mile WR of 8:58.56, again running 8:59.08. Then in the women’s 5000m, the world record holder Letesenbet Gidey was beaten by the road 5k world record holder Ejgayehu Taye, 14:12 to 14:24.
(If you’re confused why the 5000m and 5k world records are different, that notation is the difference between track and road distances.)
I am sure this will be a lesson learned for all meet organizers and we’ll never see another time trial replace what would otherwise be an entertaining race…
Should’ve closed with the Bowerman Mile 💎
Some traditions should be left alone. Normally the Prefontaine Classic caps off the big day of racing with its marquee event, the Bowerman Mile. However, this year things got shifted around because the Men’s 100m was going to be Olympic final quality — though it did lose a little of its luster when the reigning Olympic champion pulled out.
If you paid $270 million dollars to build a temple to the Greek goddess of victory, then you want the image of Jakob Ingebrigtsen wearing your logo to be the last thing people remember. He dominated the field, running 3:49.76, and leading the last 900 meters. In a savage post-race interview, the likes of which Jakob has increasingly treated us to, he said in response to having to run alone, that "you can't be disappointed with people not being better, unfortunately."
Instead, the late-entry of Trayvon Bromell, donning the lone New Balance singlet in the field, spoiled the party to close out the weekend. Following a false start a week ago in Birmingham, Bromell bounced back to show off his top-end speed, winning over a stacked field in 9.93 (-0.2). In pre-race interviews, Noah Lyles kept saying that he was going to try and spoil someone’s day — that theoretical person’s day was still ruined — just by Bromell.
The best moments from the Prefontaine Classic included:
Michael Norman went 43.60 for the number one time in the world. He always runs well in Eugene. Is this finally the year he medals?
Elaine Thompson-Herah won the 100m in 10.79, but Sha’Carri Richardson’s 10.92 for second is a super encouraging result for her!
Much was made of the slippery ring conditions, but even with a more conservative technique, Ryan Crouser threw 23.02m!
The rematch had to wait as Athing Mu recovers from Covid, but Kelly Hodgkinson ran 1:57.72 to win the 800m.
Faith Kipyegon put on a clinic to post her fifth career sub-3:54 race as she won in 3:52.59. Do you know how hard it is to find a rabbit for her?
In partnership with the UA All Out Mile
The Under Armour All Out Mile returns this summer on Global Running Day. Join me and runners from all over the world to run your fastest mile from June 1st through June 5th.
Last year I finished 2nd out of almost 10,000 runners when I ran a 4:09 after a solid month of training and definitely could have run 4:01 if the time trial didn’t get tactical. This time around, I am coming at it from the strength side of things. (And I’m setting the stage for a slower time with some preemptive excuses.)
Register for free now at www.uaalloutmile.com and join The Lap Count’s team!
This is the Ivy League? 🌱
A friend called me and asked if I was going to do a story of the Princeton men, and after my initial response (“like a hit piece?”) I decided I should, after learning that the Tigers are sending 16 athletes to the National Championships in Eugene. College rivalries die hard, but still, my reaction to that bit of news was simply — of course they should have!
I am swallowing my Lion pride and will extend some backhanded compliments as to why Princeton (and most other Ivy League schools) should be amongst the very best in the country at track. There are about 37.7 billion reasons why.
Have you been to Princeton? When you think of what a college campus looks like, it’s that. Combine that with being either the first or second highest ranked school in the country every year, and you’re probably getting the impression that it’s a pretty desirable place to live for four years — if you can get in.
Although the average SAT score for admitted students is north of 1500 and the acceptance rate is 5%, that doesn’t really apply to athletes. In the Ivy League, coaches are given slots that they can use on high school athletes to more or less guarantee their admission, with some stipulations. There is a thing called the Academic Index, which basically sets some requirements for the average classroom performance of an incoming recruiting class.
Essentially, admissions might say, “ok you can bring in fifteen guys, but they have to average a 1350 and 3.7, but no one can have less than a 1200 or 3.4.” (I am making these numbers up.) Then it is up to the coach to recruit “smart” kids, who may or may not be fast, to balance out the “less-smart” kids who are likely very fast. If you want the kid with mediocre grades that ran 1:50 for 800m and is inches above the academic floor, that’s fine — just find a couple 1:54 “AI guys” who have perfect scores to balance him out. This is why you shouldn’t be impressed just because someone goes to school “just outside of Boston.”
For a long time, the lack of scholarships was the great equalizer, but things changed a few years ago when the most affluent schools realized that earmarking a few dollars to help pay for tuition won’t dent the endowment. Now for individuals whose family makes less than $160,000/year, tuition is fully covered. And it’s a sliding scale — families making $250,000/year are still receiving significant need-based financial aid. Each Ivy League school may have a slightly different program that is better or worse depending on specific situations, but here’s the catch — most match each other’s offers.
Whereas a fully-funded NCAA men’s track team maxes out at 12.6 scholarships, there is no limit to how many athletes at an Ivy League school are paying no tuition. Do you know how much easier it is to comply with Title IX when you eliminate 85 football scholarships? This is why Princeton has 68 men on their roster compared to the number one ranked team in the country, Texas, that has 46.
The only disadvantage that the Ivy League has is that there are no fifth years because they kick you out once you’re finished with an undergraduate degree. There are some workarounds since some five year programs exist, but for the most part, teams would rather redshirt a freshman to have the 23-year-old version of themselves competing. Oh, and I guess classes are hard.
Sinclaire Johnson joins the sub-4 club ♣️
Sinclaire Johnson had herself a weekend at the Pre Classic knocking almost five seconds off her 1500m personal best from 2019 to run 3:58.85 – the seventh fastest ever by an American. The former NCAA Champion from Oklahoma State joined the Bowerman Track Club after college, but after two years with the group made the switch this off season to become part of Pete Julian’s Union Athletic Club. I caught up with her to hear about the breakout performance.
Big personal best this weekend! 3:58.85 to finish fourth in your first Diamond League race. Did you know that was coming?
I felt like training indicated that I was ready — we didn't really know exactly what I was ready for, but I was ready for something big. Going into the race, we had a really aggressive plan of swinging for the fences. In the worst case scenario, we fall short and I still break four. So that's kind of what I did.
And I was shocked at the time, just because I felt like we were running fast, but I didn't think it was that fast. Not only breaking four, but breaking it by like a good margin — I was just super stoked with the whole race. I competed well and gave myself a good shot at placing high. It was exciting to see it all coming together on that day because there's so many variables that go into race day. Just because you're fit doesn't mean you're going to perform the way you want.
You didn't have much of an indoor season, but I could tell almost immediately watching you race outdoors that you looked like your old self again. What happened over the winter that allowed you to come out swinging, but also kept you from racing earlier?
I actually had a bad injury in the fall — a stress fracture in my femoral neck. I didn't run for three months in the fall until November, so that's why I didn't do indoors. I was coming around in fitness, but I wasn't exactly ready to race so I did some pacing and then the DMR.
And mainly because my confidence was shot after last year — I just did not feel like myself. I had so many races where I just wasn't confident at all. And so I didn't want to start off the year knowing that I wasn't in the best shape.
Instead I had so much time to train and stack together a ton of weeks. And I found that every week I came back from injury just got better and better. By the time it was April, I felt like I hadn't had all that time off. I put in a lot of time in the gym and cross-training in the fall.
After two tough years that weren’t quite as exceptional compared to 2019, you join a new team and start things off with an injury. How did you mentally handle that situation? Because that seems like it’d be stressful!
I mean, it was. In August we thought it was a labral tear and an MRI showed a small tear, which is only fixable if you do surgery. But it wasn't significant enough to get surgery so we kind of treated it as that.
And as I was going through this injury, I was also having conversations with Jerry and Shalane about leaving Bowerman then also having conversations with Pete about trying to join Union. I was trying to join the team but letting him know, “Hey, I'm also injured and I have no idea what's going on!” So, yeah, very stressful.
But I felt like as soon as I made the switch, I was immediately in such good hands. David (our strength and conditioning coach) wanted to get more imaging done and so it felt like progress. And eventually we found out it was a stress fracture in my hip. It's not an ideal situation to come to a new group saying you want to join, but not be running. But they saw past all of that and knew I’d eventually be healthy and would do whatever to help me get back.
What was that communication with Jerry like about the coaching switch? It is obviously working out as you're running great and I'm sure that strength is working nicely with the speed. But how’d that unfold?
I had been feeling this way for quite some time. It was hard because Jerry was occupied with everyone getting ready for Tokyo. So I kind of had to sit on it, which probably was a good thing, to think about if this is what I wanted to do.
When he finally got back from Tokyo, I sat down with him and Shalane to address it. At this point, I had really made up my mind that I wanted to leave and I expressed the concerns that I had. And these were concerns that I had voiced throughout the year. So none of it was really like the first time they heard it. But I said I wanted to leave after I told him why. And there wasn't really a divergent path as he wanted to continue what we were doing. And so I think once he said that, it really made up my mind like, this is just not a place that's going to work out for me.
Just to confirm, it was all training related?
Yeah, it was all training related. I know a lot of people asked me if it had to do with Shelby and stuff, but it really didn't. And I know last year was such a different year with our team going through all that, but it really took his mind off of the rest of us. And I felt like a lot of us kind of went under the radar — he wasn't paying as much attention to each individual as he probably would have in a normal year.
So I do recognize that. But at the same time I tried to voice concerns throughout the year and it didn't feel like I was ever being heard. I felt like it was always going in one ear and out the other about training. And so I ultimately was like, well, I want a relationship with a coach that's going to be a collaboration. And this just felt like it was going to be his training or not.
Just for those who don't know, what is the big ideological difference between the way Pete approaches the 1500 versus Jerry?
The main difference is volume and amount of strength and aerobic work, which is why Bowerman has been so successful in the 5000m/10000m. Everyone is so strong in that group. There's a lot of emphasis on high mileage, but also really, really long tempos. Whereas with Pete, I obviously do that stuff, but it's just much more manageable for me. Coming from more of an 800/1500 background, I had never done a tempo over three miles before. To go from that to ten miles of tempo work, which was standard — I couldn't adapt to that at all. And so now we found middle ground and it's anywhere from four to six, max, and I think that's my sweet spot when it comes to strength work.
Something I like about Pete is he's definitely into racing and I think of you as a racer. So on that front, how did it feel to watch your DMR record go down after you had issued the challenge to everyone? I'm maybe starting something.
I would have liked us to have been invited to the race. Obviously it was a New Balance event and focused on the New Balance athletes. And I totally understand that. But I think it would have been really cool — because we invited every single training group to come race us at the Lilac Grand Prix — and no one came.
It's a DMR, it doesn't really matter. No one's winning medals and no one's making any money off of this — it is just for fun. It would have been cool to have both teams there. I mean it's all fun and games, though. It's not like I’m really that bothered by it.
You can settle it at USA in the 1500. We’ll take team scores.
Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥
North Carolina high school junior Rocky Hansen beat fellow class of ‘23 stud, Lex Young at the RunningLane Track Championships in a PB of 4:00.76 to 4:01.52.
Ethiopia’s Andualem Shiferaw broke the course record at the Ottawa Marathon running 2:06:03 to win $24,000. Canadian Kinsey Middleton won the women’s race in 2:30:09.
Concurrently, it was the 10k champs in Ottawa as Ben Flanagan (28:42) defended his men’s title and 40-year-old Natasha Wodak (32:42) won the women’s.
This is an incredible commercial promoting the World Championships that got me feeling like it’s allergy season. We need way more of this!
Oregon’s Micah Williams ran 9.86 (+0.7) PB at the NCAA West Regionals. Julien Alfred of Texas and St Lucia, ran 10.81 (+1.7) — she entered the season with a previous best of 11.39!
Power couple Tara Davis and Hunter Woodhall, who were previously sponsored by Champion, have announced they are now representing lululemon.
You may remember when Johnny Gregorek ran a 4:06 mile in blue jeans to raise awareness for mental health? This year, Makenna Myler ran a women’s world record of 4:37 wearing denim — which doubles as her outright PB!
Bolder Boulder took place this weekend in Boulder. It was a rare double American victory as Aliphine Tuliamuk was the first woman to win it since Sara Slattery in 2006 and Leonard Korir became the first guy since 1984. If you’re curious what the budget looks like to put on a 50,000+ person race, check it out.
Femke Bol set the WR* for the 300m hurdles in Ostrava 36.86 — which is honestly insane. The American women’s dominance in the 400m hurdles could be under threat this summer from the bronze medalist. That sounds crazy, but she is younger than Sydney McLaughlin and three inches taller — which if you’re Dutch and looking for reasons to believe they’re decent ones.
The Olympic and world silver medalist, Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia ran a world leading 7:58.68 for the steeplechase in Ostrava. That’s the first sub-8 since 2018.
The 2016 Olympic 1500m champion, Matt Centrowitz, shared via Instagram that he underwent knee surgery for a meniscus tear. The last time there was a Centro-less outdoor global championship was Berlin in 2009.
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