With a chance to represent the United States at the Track and Field World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, at the end of this summer, the American middle distance and long distance runners will look to finally end the East African dominance in the multi-lap events.
Over the past few world championships, American runners, led by the indomitable Bernard "Kip" Lagat have proven to be worthy competition to the Kenyans and Ethiopians, but few medals have come. With promising young runners Chris Solinsky and Andrew Wheating experiencing major breakthroughs last season, could this finally be the year Americans surpass the East Africans?
Nick Symmonds has the experience in the 800.
Nick Symmonds enters as the defending US champ. A 2008 Olympian and 2009 World Championships finalist at 800 meters, Symmonds has a knack for coming up big in the last 200 meters of a race, especially in front of his home fans of Eugene, Ore. Although he has not raced well so far this season, Symmonds has the experience in championship style racing, and should benefit from the "homefield" advantage of Hayward Field.
If anyone has a kick to rival Symmonds, it is Robby Andrews of UVA, the current NCAA 800 meter champion. Andrews also knows how to unleash a ferocious kick in the last seconds of a race. If anyone will knock off Symmonds look for it to be Andrews.
UC Irvine runner Charles Jock is coming off a gutsy runner-up finish at NCAAs, taking the race out hard and barely being edged out by Andrews. Look for Jock to again take the pace out hard and hold on for third.
Andrew Wheating looks to be the favorite with Bernard Lagat's status up in the air.
The metric mile is much more wide open, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Bernard Lagat's status in the event. Although he will not race the 1500 in South Korea, Lagat is entered in the race at USAs. Lagat has proven time and again that no one in the United States can kick with him when it comes to championship racing, but Lagat has never faced the wonder boy Andrew Wheating in such a race. Wheating burst onto the world scene last summer, running 3:30.90 for 1500 meters.
While Lagat may just be using this race to sharpen his speed for the 5000 meters, there is a chance he may not stay in it, choosing to focus solely on the 5000. Without Lagat, this is Wheating's race to lose. If Lagat does choose to race the 1500, it is hard to pick against the wily veteran. Look for Lagat to try and take the kick out of Wheating, starting a long drive to the finish from farther out than the speedier Wheating would like.
Other runners who should be in the mix include Russell Brown, who is largely untested in championship racing; David Torrence, a fan favorite; and local stud Matt Centrowitz, Jr., the NCAA champ.
Leo Manzano and Lopez Lomong have both made US teams in the past but have been wildly inconsistent. Nevertheless, both could pull out a big-time performance and make the team.
The 1500 looks to be one of the most wide open races on the track and will provide plenty of excitement for the Track Town faithful.
Age has not slowed Bernard Lagat.
The 5000 looks to be another doozy of a race with Bernard Lagat squaring off against Chris Solinsky.
Lagat, the American record holder, and Solinsky, the second fastest American at 5000 and American record holder at 10000 meters, have battled it out at this distance before, with Lagat always getting the better of Solinsky. Lagat is the clear-cut favorite going into this event, but Solinsky has stated that his goal is to win the World Championship this year. He will have to go through Lagat to reach this goal.
Moving up to the 5000 as age sapped the former miler of speed, Lagat still makes it look easy with his smooth, gliding stride. He has already picked up a victory in the Pre Classic two-mile race over a stacked field, making them look as if they were standing still as he pulled away in the last 200 meters. This race will likely come down to a kick. Solinsky's only hope is to make his move with two or three laps to go and try to grind down Lagat.
Galen Rupp and Matt Tegenkamp should also be in the mix to make the team, although it is uncertain whether Rupp is focusing on the 10000. Tegenkamp, the American two-mile record holder has been inconsistent the past two seasons, but you can never count out a sub-13 runner in a race like this.
Can Solinsky turn down the challenge of Galen Rupp?
The 10000 meters has the potential to be one of the most hotly contested distance events. Is there a rivalry brewing between Chris Solinsky and Galen Rupp and their coaches Jerry Schumacher and Alberto Salazar? After what went down at the Pre Classic this year, it certainly seems so.
For those who missed it, Rupp made a late entrance into the 10000 at Pre, hoping to make a run at Solinsky's American record of 26:59. Solinsky, who had been nursing a hamstring injury, had not planned on running the 10000 but stepped up to defend his record. It seemed the two would clash for the record, but Rupp pulled out at the last minute, citing allergy issues. Solinsky, hampered by his injury, was forced to drop out after only 3000 meters. After the race, Solinsky intimated that Rupp's entry may have just been a ploy to draw him into the race.
While Solinsky has stated that his goal is to win the 5000 title, he hardly seems like the type of person who would pass up a chance to compete against Rupp and cement his status as the country's top 10000 meter runner of all time. Look for the pace to be slow early on, with Solinsky leaving Rupp in the dust over the last few laps, much like he did when setting his American record last year.
Tim Nelson stands out as the likely third member of the team in an otherwise unspectacular field.
The steeplechase usually gets the lowest billing amongst all distance races on the track. Not many stars choose to run the steeple, but Dan Huling, a former USA team member in the steeple has run well this season. He has run nine seconds faster than his closest competitor.