PALO ALTO (02-May) -- The air was cool, dry and still at Cobb Track & Angell Field on the campus of Stanford University here tonight, and 14 men and 11 women achieved 2019 IAAF World Championships qualifying marks across three disciplines. However, only three athletes --Dutchwomen Sifan Hassan and Susan Krumins and Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha-- obtained the more difficult 2020 Olympic qualifiers.
About a third of those qualifiers (8) came out of the women's 10,000m where Hassan made a successful debut at the distance in 31:18.12, helped by excellent pace-making from reigning world steeplechase champion Emma Coburn who lasted 6600 meters before retiring. Hassan's time was comfortably under the world championships standard of 31:50.00 and cleanly inside the Olympic standard of 31:25.00. Krumins finished a close second in 31:23.81 to just get under the Olympic standard.
Hassan and Krumins had to work hard in the second half of the race after the main group fell 14 seconds behind Coburn at the 6000-meter mark. Taking direction from her coaches, Hassan picked up the pace in the last five laps, and ran two sub-69-second circuits to close the race and lock in her time. She said she never really felt completely comfortable tonight; circling the track so many times was a little disorienting for her.
"I was just nervous because I haven't done this long on the track," she told reporters after her victory. "You have a lot of time to get nervous and scared."
Krumins, who thanked Hassan for taking up the pace in the second half, said she had to dig deep to make the Olympic Games standard, running the final lap in 68.6 seconds.
"I was hoping it would feel easier," a relieved Krumins admitted. She continued: "The last lap I had to do 68 or something and I said, 'can I do this?' I was like, 'why even ask myself? Just fucking do it.'"
Behind the Dutch duo the next six women got under the world championships standard: Camille Buscomb of Australia (31:33.04), Ayuko Suzuki of Japan (31:33.62), Carrie Dimoff of the Bowerman Track Club (31:42.88), Dominique Scott of South Africa (31:43.18), Natasha Wodak of Canada (31:43.26), and Ellie Pashley of Australia (31:43.51).
The most qualifiers came out of the men's 5000m led by a superb performance by the world record holder for the indoor mile, Yomif Kejelcha who clocked a world-leading time of 13:10.72. He ran his final two laps in 56.6 and 57.6 seconds, respectively. Behind him, Kirubel Erassa of the American Distance Project dropped his career-best time by six seconds to finish second in 13:17.23.
"I've been training in Ethiopia for two months," said Erassa. "I trained with the best out there and they gave me a lot of confidence. So, I was running with confidence here. No fear."
Also getting under the 13:22.50 world championships qualifying standard were Andrew Butchart of Scotland (13:18.16), Isaac Kimeli (13:18.19) and Robin Hendrix (13:19.50) of Belgium, Justyn Knight of Canada (13:20.80), Drew Hunter of adidas/Tinman Elite (13:21.18), Gerard Geraldo of Colombia (13:21.31), Jordan Gusman of Tinman Elite (13:21.35), Eric Jenkins of Nike Oregon Project (13:21.71), Josef Tessema of American Distance Project (13:22.28), and Sam Parsons of Germany (13:22.32).
In the women's 5000m, only Jenny Simpson of New Balance (15:21.12), Rachel Schneider of Under Armour (15:21.44) and Amy-Eloise Neale of Great Britain (15:21.58) got under the world championships standard of 15:22.00. It's remarkable that they ran that fast given the slow early pace (9:26.5 through 3000m). All three women had to close in under 63 seconds for the final lap to make sure they got the time.
"Oh my God, we cut it close!" said Simpson. "I looked up at 1000 (meters to go) --and this is why you always travel with your coach-- because my coach was like, you've got to get going!"
Unfortunately, the men's 10,000m never really got going. When a big pack went through halfway in 14:05 --far to slow to threaten either the world championships standard of 27:40.00, never mind the super-tough Olympic Games standard of 27:28.00-- it became a race for the win. Ben True dropped in a 64.5-second lap with four laps to go, gapped the field, and went on to win in 27:52.39. He was clearly disappointed that he missed the world championships standard by nearly eight seconds, although he revealed that success in the 5000m was his primary goal for the year.
"That's the way it is," True lamented. "I kind of knew coming in today that I might have to do some work. I was really hoping that I wouldn't have to do more than 2-K of work." He added: "It wasn't going to be today."
The final two world championships qualifiers came out of the men's steeplechase which was won by unheralded Oklahoma State sophomore, Ryan Smeeton, a Canadian. Following the always-smooth Travis Mahoney for most of the race, Smeeton smoked the last lap in 62.9 seconds and clocked an NCAA-leading 8:27.90. He lowered his personal best by a whopping 13.3 seconds.
"Coming in her today and do that is phenomenal," said a stunned Smeeton. "Completely unexpected."
Mahoney held on for second place in 8:28.76, also getting a world championships qualifier.
In the other middle and long distance events here tonight, Clayton Murphy of the Nike Oregon Project (3:37.59) and Jessica Hull of the University of Oregon and Australia (4:12.08) won the 1500m; George Espino of Southern Utah (1:48.44) and Hannah Green of the Nike Oregon Track Club (2:01.61) won the 800m; and Allie Ostrander of Boise State (9:45.66) edged Adva Cohen of the University of New Mexico and Israel (9:45.71) in the women's steeplechase.