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In Episode 44 we share pre-race thoughts from past guests who are running in the Olympic Trials in L.A. on Saturday (and a few who aren’t). When asked who may surprise to the upside, Nick Arciniaga and Tyler McCandless had the same answer. Gregg and Brenn offer their predictions. True to form, Gregg plays it right down the middle while Brenn plays the longshots. On your mark, get set…
As elite marathoners reboot between their big spring and fall races, it’s time to take a peak into the future. The 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are set for Feb. 13, 2016 in Los Angeles. It’s a wide-open field, and we’ve included some names that haven’t yet given the marathon a go, but a lot can change in a few years. Let us know who you think will make the team. And if you happen to be one of the elites ON the list, yes, you may vote for yourself!
The more you follow track and field, the more interesting it becomes. For the merely curious and the obsessive distance fans, here are a few questions to illustrate the drama of the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships (which begin in earnest today and continue through Sunday in Des Moines, Iowa):
1) Will Ben True finish in the top 3 and make it to Worlds? True is focused on the 10,000 tonight, though he also is entered in the 5,000. True is unlike the others: Rupp, Ritz, and Chris Derrick, his primary competition in the 10,000, are sponsored by Nike and train in Oregon. True is sponsored by Saucony and runs for Mark Coogan (who also coaches Abbey D’Agostino) in Hanover, New Hampshire. True graduated from Dartmouth in 2008 after achieving All-American status in running and Nordic skiing.
2) Speaking of Dartmouth, will Dartmouth junior Abbey D’Agostino follow a dominant NCAA season with a victory in the 5,000? Jenny Simpson offers far stiffer competition than anyone D’Agostino faced in college this year. Simpson has the track speed, and given the likely heat in Des Moines, Abbey D’Ag will be hard pressed to take the race from the front from several laps out. Not to be forgotten are the other participants in last year’s dramatic Olympic Trials showdown, Julie Culley, Molly Huddle, Kim Conley, and Julia Lucas. Shalane Flanagan and Mary Cain are also entered, though it would be a surprise to see either run it in addition to the 10,000 and 1,500, respectively. If they were to run, Flanagan would be the more likely of the two to challenge for the win.
3) Will Nick Symmonds win his sixth consecutive championship in the 800 with his patented slingshot kick? Part of what makes the 800 such a thrilling race is the multitude of come-from-behind victories. Symmonds is particularly good at this. With apologies to Khadevis Robinson, he’s facing stronger competition now than he has before. Duane Solomon beat him at the Olympics last year, and Erik Sowinski beat Solomon indoors earlier this year.
4) Will Mary make Moscow? Probably. And though we aren’t rooting against her, it will also be interesting to see how she handles a disappointing race, assuming she ever runs one. Given how genuinely enthusiastic she has been while running well and how levelheaded she seems, she would likely be gracious should she underperform. One way or another, she’s got a long future in the sport.
5) Will Leo Manzano find lightning in a bottle (again) and reverse his early season slump? And if he were to win, might it be in a Nike singlet? The unsponsored silver medalist has been sporting a non-descript sea blue Nike top in races this year, and in an interview about contract negotiations with the company, noted “it is what it is.” His bargaining power would be hurt none by winning the race, though since he’s wearing Nike anyways while not under contract, he’s actually providing the company a marketing alternative to the ubiquitous powder blue tops that have sprouted this year.
This Sunday’s NYC Half Marathon may not have as deep an elite field as last year, when 15 men went sub-1:02 and five women broke 1:10, but what it lacks in depth it makes up for in star power and interesting debuts, particularly on the men’s side. Here’s a rundown of the big names:
- Wilson Kipsang, the Olympic bronze medalist in the marathon who also owns three sub-2:05 times including a stellar 2:03:42 in Frankfurt two years ago. Kipsang’s PR in the half is 58:59, easily the best in the field.
- Bernard Lagat, the track superstar making not only his half marathon debut, but also his first race longer than 5000 meters and first on the roads longer than the Fifth Avenue Mile.
- Dathan Ritzenhein, the two-time Olympian who set a PR in the Chicago Marathon last fall with a 2:07:47 and has a half-marathon best of 60-flat at the World Championships in 2009.
- Abdi Abdirahman, a four -time U.S. Olympian with a 1:00:29 PR in the half.
- Deressa Chimsa of Ethiopia, who finished second in the IAAF Half-Marathon Championships last year and has a 1:00:51 PR in the half.
Here are our staff predictions for the men’s race. A women’s preview will come later.
Gregg: 1) Kipsang, 2) Ritzenhein, 3) Lagat. While I’m not quite crazy enough to pick Ritzenhein for the surprise win, I think he has a much better chance than people realize. He’s focused on this race as opposed to using it as a tune-up for a spring marathon like Kipsang who’s running London, and Abdi who is running Boston. Ritz is coming off his best marathon performance but the half is still his sweet spot, and he ran a great one last fall in Philly, turning in a 1:00:56 just before his strong performance in the Chicago marathon. Lagat will eventually be a major threat in the marathon and half-marathon, but my guess is it will take a race or two to get fully adjusted to the long distances.
Editorial side note: Ritz caused a firestorm among race fans last month for saying that the World Cross-Country Championships, which he is skipping in favor of the NYC Half, were “no longer significant.” He apologized soon thereafter. Now I understand why people were offended, and a world championship is nothing to be scoffed at. However, I also think Ritz had a point, however poor his choice of words. World Cross may have one of the deepest fields in running, but it’s basically a well-guarded secret to all but the most hardcore race fans in the U.S. Marketing of the race appears to be very limited, and the IAAF dropped the 2012 edition of the race and made it biannual. On the other hand, New York Road Runners, the host of the NYC Half and the NYC Marathon, is doing a better job of anyone of marketing the stars of the sport, and oh by the way getting them some paydays. If we want pro runners to gain higher visibility among fans in the U.S., then what is the best place to showcase their talents – on the streets of New York, zooming past Times Square ahead of 15,000 other runners? Or in Bydgoszcz, Poland?
Brenn: 1) Kipsang, 2) Lagat, 3) Chimsa. I’m not buying the Ritz hype. By a loose application of the transitive property, Lagat beats Chris Derrick (Millrose 5,000m, 2012), Derrick beats Ritz (X-C, 2013), Lagat beats Ritz. I believe the distance at which Ritz would currently beat Lagat is 17 miles and up. Kipsang’s stated goal for this race is 60 minutes, while Lagat’s is 61 minutes. I think Chimsa will try to go with Kipsang, and Lagat will pick him off late. If the temps as currently forecast are in the 30s, I’d bet the “over” on 60 and 61.
As for Bydgoszcz, Poland, the city is hosting World X-C once again after hosting in 2010, which is a head scratcher given that, on the IAAF website, one reads “international sport federations such as the IAAF need to be pro-active when trying to reach new audiences and find new hosts for their events.” In 2010, the Polish men finished 18 out of 21 teams (beating, among others, Iraq), and the women 12th out of 12. Poland did not field teams at the last world X-C champs in 2011, though one of its cross country skiers, Justyna Kowalczyk, has won several world titles and Olympic gold.