Thursday, June 21, 2012

US Olympic Trials Preview: 10k


Believe it or not, a professional version of the sport we know as track actually exists, and perhaps even more unbelievably, professional track includes events that are longer than one lap.  In fact, every 4 years the top American distance runners compete in a chance to travel overseas to an esteemed competition known as the Olympic games.  This is the same Olympics that will be on television sometime in early August, where we will learn the life stories of various gymnasts, beach volleyball players, and platform divers.  This was the original version of reality television.

Of course, the track events that take longer than a minute to run (i.e. about 45 seconds longer than the average person's attention span in 2012), are rarely televised on the main channels.  The 10K in particular probably wouldn't have much of an advertising draw given that the US runners are often just trying to avoid getting lapped by Kenyans and Ethiopians. The women often fare slightly better than the men in the longer events -- Jenny Barringer won the world championships in the 1500m last year, and UNC grad Shalane Flanagan took home a bronze medal 4 years ago in Beijing.  In many Olympic sports, the top American winning a bronze would be a disappointment.  In distance events, we are the underdogs.  And it's always more fun to root for the underdog to have success anyway.

Tomorrow, the US trials kick off, and the first distance event, the 10K will be held that night.  This is 25 laps around the track (and I thought the 12 1/2 laps in the 5K at Godiva Summer Track was hard enough to keep count...)

Men's Entrants:

Name
Affiliation
Mark
Galen Rupp
Nike
26:48.00
Robert Curtis
Reebok
27:24.67
Tim Nelson
Nike / Oregon TC Elite
27:28.19
Matt Tegenkamp
Nike / Oregon TC Elite
27:28.22
Chris Derrick
Stanford University
27:31.38
Brent Vaughn
Nike
27:40.21
Benjamin True
Saucony
27:41.17
Joseph Chirlee
U.S. Army
27:43.96
Dathan Ritzenhein
Nike
27:50.82
Aaron Braun
adidas / McMillan Elite
27:51.01
Ryan Vail
Brooks
27:51.17
Scott Bauhs

27:51.78
Bobby Mack III

27:53.52
James Strang

28:12.03
Mikhail Sayenko
Brooks / Club Northwest
28:12.42
Josh Simpson
AST
28:12.65
Hassan Mead
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
28:12.74
Jacob Riley
Hansons-Brooks Distance Project
28:12.88
Luke Puskedra
University of Oregon
28:13.91
David Jankowski
ZAP Fitness Reebok
28:14.56
Juan Carlos Trujillo
adidas
28:15.94
Girma Mecheso
Oklahoma State University
28:16.97
Christopher Landry

28:18.62
Jeff Schirmer
ASTF
28:20.22


All of those times are incomprehensibly fast to me.  But Galen Rupp's 26:48 is another level.  That's about 4:18 per mile -- or 64 seconds and change per lap, which is practically an all out sprint for me these days (yesterday at summer track I ran a 63 and was gassed afterward, couldn't imagine doing that for 24 more laps...)

Rupp is the 3 time defending US champ and easily has the fastest time in the field (and the American record).  Unless he trips and badly injures himself, he is going to make the top 3.  I'd be rooting for an upset here, as he is somewhat a peculiar guy, with one of his trademarks being an absurd allergy mask on days when the pollen count is high.  At the same time, he is really the only American who can possibly compete with the Africans in this event.  A 26:48 is even fast at the world level, so he's really our best shot to medal in probably any event longer than 400m.

If you are going to look like this running, you had better be ridiculously fast


The "A" standard to actually make the Olympic team is 27:45, so if someone places top 3, but does not run a 27:45, they can't compete in London.  One of those runners is Dathan Ritzenhein ("Ritz").  Ritz was a high school prodigy -- he won the Foot Locker National cross country meet as a junior and senior, and came close to the US high school record in the 5K -- a 13:44.  Over the years, he has struggled with various injuries, but has still managed to break 13 minutes in the 5K, something only a small handful of Americans have ever done (Rupp being on that short list as well).  I'll be hoping for him to make the team.  We are roughly the same age, which means that by 2016, he'll be over the hill and probably out of the sport.

Also of note is local runner Bobby Mack.  Every now and then he will show up at a road race around Raleigh and destroy everyone.  In this field of multiple sub-28 guys, he is probably an 'also ran'.

Prediction:
Galen Rupp, with the easy win
Dathan Ritzenhein
Bobby Curtis

To avoid accusation of gender bias, here are the Women's times. 

Name
Affiliation
Mark
Shalane Flanagan
Nike / Oregon TC Elite
30:59.97
Amy Hastings
Brooks
31:19.87
Janet Cherobon-Bawcom
Nike
31:33.50
Lisa Uhl
Nike / Oregon TC Elite
31:35.50
Alisha Williams
Boulder Running Company/adidas
32:03.07
Deborah Maier

32:12.47
Meaghan Nelson
Iowa State University
32:14.27
Alissa McKaig
ZAP Fitness Reebok
32:14.51
Allison Kieffer

32:25.69
Tara Erdmann

32:31.15
Katie DiCamillo
New Balance Boston
32:31.97
Alvina Begay
Nike
32:34.76
Rebecca Donaghue
New Balance / New Balance Boston
32:36.05
Sarah Porter
ZAP Fitness Reebok
32:37.22
Addie Bracy

32:37.66
Katie McGregor
Reebok
32:37.83
Kellyn Johnson
adidas / McMillan Elite
32:39.04
Liz Costello

32:40.55
Stephanie Rothstein
adidas / McMillan Elite
32:40.67
Natosha Rogers
Texas A&M University
32:41.63
Adriana Nelson

32:43.48
Katie Matthews
Boston University
32:44.58
Rachel Ward
Ragged Mountain Racing
32:47.97
Wendy Thomas
Boulder Running Company/adidas
32:48.45


The cutoff of 32:48 is 5:14 mile pace.  I'd be surprised if I could run a 5:14 mile at any point this summer.

Flanagan is really the only big name in this list, and she is already running the marathon at the Olympics.  Only 3 women in the field other than her have the "A" standard of 31:45.  So as long as they all finish the race, and no one else runs a 31:45 or better, the Olympic team is already set.  Yes, professional track is bizarre.



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