By Jarrett Felix
The U.S. Championships are in the books and what a championships it was! Here my three quick thoughts on each event. Feel free to share your own thoughts as well!
1. Nick Symmonds is a Brooks Beast
Yes, that was a lame pun, but let's look at his weekend. He ran three straight season bests, ending with a 1:44 mark and a gold medal in the U.S. Final. Now it may not have been a loaded field, but the fact that Symmonds could 360 from completely toast to back in the World Championship medal discussion that quickly amazes me. I'm a big Symmonds fan and am rooting for him to have success in Beijing although things will get a lot trickier for him at Worlds. That field should be very crowded with talent and his World Finals streak will be in jeopardy.
2. Rounds Matter
Symmonds highlighted this afterwards and it's extremely important to remember. Navigating each prelim is tricky and you need strength to go with speed in order to maintain your performance from round to round. 3 hard 800ms in 4 days while still trying to be tactically sound and conserve energy for the finals is absurdly tricky, especially for rookies and that left guys like 1:43 man Boris Berian on the sidelines while Symmonds was grabbing gold.
3. Clayton Murphy is a name to remember
The true soph from Akron finished an impressive 4th in the championships and, like Symmonds, ran three straight season bests to do it. He was closing hard on Cas Loxsom thanks to what he has proven is a phenomenal kick (he utilized this kick to sneak through in both rounds as well as his NCAA prelim).
The dude went from 1:50 to 1:45 in a blink and, considering his age and the lack of depth in the event, Murphy is arguably a favorite for the 2016 Olympic team. The dude has killer range (has run 30 minutes for 10k on trails) and clear his strength pays dividends over the course of 3 rounds.
Rumor is, however, he may move to the 1500 next year. That could be fun.
1. "Everything is Fine Mom, Just Got A Little Excited"
I was at home watching the NCAA championships on TV in 2011 when Robby Andrews went from last to first in an epic 800m final against Charles Jock, running a 1:44.71. That was a thrilling night that featured me yelling at the TV and my mother being very concerned we were getting robbed.
Thankfully, no one was home on Saturday night. Robby does it again with another absurd kick to hawk down Blankenship and Manzano and edge his way onto the team. With 125 to go he just hit another gear and blasted off through the field, it was amazing and it was classic Robby.
He left the field way too much room and had to get a little lucky the last stretch as Blankenship was doing a bit too much looking around and not quite enough racing.
The key for Robby this time around was timing things better. He has run like this basically his whole life and it can be effective in the right setting. In 2012, he tried to pull a similar move but went way too hard from 400m to 200m, tried to pass on the outside, got stuck on the turn and was spent for the last 50. This time, he was patient on the turn (maybe too patient) and waited to burst until he could slingshot wide off the turn.
It worked out a bit better this time around.
2. We Still Have Some Work To Do
Neither Manzano nor Robby has the "A" standard of 3:36.20 that they need to guarantee their spot to Beijing meaning that neither is locked in to a spot just yet. So even though Ben Blankenship is likely heartbroken and hopping fences, he could still end up on the team.
Now I would be very surprised if Leo didn't get that 3:36, but Robby is a bit more of a question mark. I'm optimistic he can do it, but I believe he has only run that kind of mark once before in his life (2012 Oxy) so it's far from guaranteed.
3. Ducks on the Pond
How about this for a stat, Oregon alumni/current students in the final included Centrowitz, Wheating, Geoghegan, Winn, Alexander and MacNamara, which accounts for half the final. And all those guys you could argue had amazing weekends.
Centro looked absurdly good, incredibly smooth while still running a 52.0 last lap. It's not crazy to think he's the favorite for gold in Beijing. I don't think it's true, but it's not crazy.
Wheating rebounded for 5th after a bit of a shaky season, good news for him looking ahead as he tries to build off this. Geoghegan was up in the mix for an impressive amount of the race considering he has been focused on longer distances all spring/winter (he sees himself as a miler). And then Winn and Alexander had huge days as well, especially considering Alexander didn't even make NCAAs. This race for Winn coupled with his post NCAA 1500 that got him here in the first place, has to feel great.
1. US Steeple is the best it's ever been
3 guys under the meet record at the meet with another two around 8:20. It's crazy that Jager, who appears to be in the best shape of his life, was pushed for so much of this race by excellent runs by Cabral and Huling. Huling has become something of the Manzano of making teams in this event as year after year he is there at the front. Cabral is making big steps forward and returning to the promising state he was at for 2012. Could we get three guys in the final at Worlds to challenge the Kenyans?
Misleading question, the Kenyans will likely roll over our boys considering they have at least the top 2 steeplers in the world, but we could still get three guys into the finals of things break right. And Jager is without a doubt a medal threat.
2. Where Does Cory Leslie Go Next?
I'm probably one of the only guys interested in this, but I'm curious what Leslie will decide to do looking ahead. He has run 3:34-3:35 type marks almost consistently in the 1500m and although that doesn't get you much, it's arguably a more impressive performance than he has been able to throw down in the steeple to date. The 1500 on the U.S. Scene is very deep, but the steeple is arguably tough to crack as the pace tends to be honest and the top three have been head and shoulders above lately.
Plus Kebenei and Bayer are just getting started on the pro steeple circuit and already have massive potential.
3. I feel bad for Stanley
Dude has had some unfortunate falls. Add this to the list. He wasn't going to make the team in all likelihood but he could have grabbed a PR and first alternate position (you never know what happens between now and then).
I felt worse for Leah O'Connor but this won still makes me upset. Fall down seven times ....
1. Rupp can't do the 5k
Not sure if it's the fact that he's always doing 10k-5k doubles or if he just doesn't have enough speed, but the dude has struggled kicking on the Diamond League Circuit as well when he has fresh legs plus he owns a 3:50 mile PB. Run on sentence aside, I'm just not sure I get it.
I mean this thing was definitely slow and the dudes had a long week, but it's tough to see him get his doors blown off in the 5k when he just torched everybody with a kick in the 10k. I'm confused.
Dudes had a hard week so you gotta respect the fact that he still made two teams with everybody and their mom asking him how much he cheated.
2. Ryan Hill is legit
Although Rupp is probably still our best bet to place well at Worlds, Ryan Hill is no fluke. The dude has quietly been producing in a variety of races against top competition. Prior to today it had been mostly indoors, but the guy is just a racer and his mile background helps him kick off a slow pace (2013 he also closed sub 4). He has made a world championship final before and handled it well and that was a long two years ago. He has grown a lot as a professional since and now he has the confidence that comes with US gold. Look out.
3. Sorry Garrett Heath and David Torrence
These guys are pretty unlucky. They have been excellent over the years, running killer times everywhere from 800 to 5k but neither can find the right event to make a team. They had tried in the 15 in the past but couldn't quite navigate the kicking mess to the finals. So they move up this year, battle hard, but neither can quite get on the team. Unless Rupp decides to scratch the 5k (highly unlikely, but not impossible) or True doesn't grab the 5k A standard (he's probably gonna get it) then Heath gets on the team.
It's hard because I want our best guys in Beijing representing the red white and blue, but I also want guys like Heath or Torrence to be rewarded every once in a while for their hard work. I'd love to see Heath in China even if it means he is bounced in the prelims.
1. Rupp is light years ahead of the rest of the country
If you watched the race, you saw it too. I'm sure you did. My friend and I were just texting about it the whole time. Another runner (I think Tyler Pennell) stepped on Rupp's shoe and he decided, screw it in done with you kids and then bang it was immediately over. Wow.
2. True Wants to Scratch
If you are a Shadrick Kipchirchir fan, I have great news for you! Assuming True gets the A standard in the 5k, he has said he will scratch the 10 to focus on the shorter distance.
That's an intriguing choice and also means 4th place finisher Kipchirchir (formerly of OK State) will be rewarded for pushing all the way to the line. He has a brilliant close and is most likely going to have to pack some travel bags for Asia.
Shadrick fans go wild!
3. Hassan Mead makes a team!
I've heard lots of great things about this guy, who is a good friend of my ex-coach. I once got a snap chat from Mead indirectly through my coach right before he destroyed the Payton Jordan 5k. So naturally because I'm that guy, I wanted him to become as famous as possible so I could float that line.
Plus the "I heard he's a great guy from a bunch of people" thing. I suppose that too.