EUGENE (06-Jul) -- Capping a full night of distance action here at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, Olympians Elise Cranny and Woody Kincaid took the 10,000m titles at the Toyota USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships with sizzling last-lap sprints. Cranny, who represents the Nike Bowerman Track Club, got the best of USA record holder Alicia Monson of the On Athletics Club, running her final circuit in 62.6 seconds and finishing in 32:12.30. Kincaid, who represents Nike, came out on top after a fierce four-way battle with Grant Fisher, Joe Klecker, and Sean McGorty. Kincaid's last lap of 54.8 seconds could not be matched by the others and he beat Klecker by 1.5 seconds in 28:23.01.
Tactics Played A Big Role
PHOTO: Woody Kincaid celebrates after winning the 2023 USATF 10,000m title in 28:23.01 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
It was no surprise that both races were tactical affairs, and both started off at a crawl.
"The pace felt easy, but the anticipation that you knew that the longer we kept running 68, 70-second laps it was just going to get really hard, really quick," said Klecker, who represents the On Athletics Club. "So, when Grant made that move to the front it did not feel good to go cover it."
That move came with three laps to go when Fisher, the USA record holder, blasted a 60.4-second circuit which broke open the race. Only Kincaid, Klecker and McGorty were able to follow, and two-time Olympic 5000m medalist Paul Chelimo was dropped (he would finish fifth). At that point, Fisher was confident about his strategy.
"I squeezed it down a bit," he told reporters. "I thought I squeezed it well enough to shake some people off, but have something at the end. Just called it wrong; just didn't have enough at the end."
Indeed, in the final lap Fisher got rolled-up by all three of his remaining rivals and ended up finishing fourth in 28:25.61. Kincaid knew that if he could just keep Fisher reasonably close he would have the sprint speed to beat him.
"I thought Grant was going to push from further out," Kincaid explained. "Grant was actually in a tough position where he knew he had to drop me, right, because he had trained with me for so long (Kincaid was formerly with the Nike Bowerman Track Club). I actually had less pressure, right? I knew I could out-kick Grant and Grant knew I could out-kick him, so it's on him to try and beat me."
By virtue of finishing first and second, respectively, and possessing the necessary qualifying standard of 27:10.00, both Kincaid and Klecker secured their spots on Team USATF for next month's World Athletics Championships in Budapest. Third place McGorty, who doesn't have the standard, has to hope that he can rise far enough in the World Athletics points ranking to get a spot, something which won't be known until the end of the month. If he doesn't, Fisher would get the team spot because he has the standard and was next in line in the finish order.
In the women's contest, it was Monson who shook up the race in the final four laps, running a 69.5-second circuit. That only left her and Cranny in contention for the win. Natosha Rogers was alone in third, a position she would maintain until the finish. Cranny said that under coach Jerry Schumacher she had trained for both the 1500m and 10,000m for these championships, only choosing the longer event at the last minute (she may also do the 5000m on Sunday). She was ready to run fast at the end tonight.
PHOTO: Elise Cranny winning the 2023 USATF 10,000m title in 32:12.30 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
"We were kind of trying to decide between the fifteen and the ten," Cranny said. "I was trying to convince Jerry to let me run the fifteen, and so I think towards the end I was like, if I can't run the fifteen then... I'm going to kind of channel a fifteen at the end of a 10-K."
Monson finished second in 32:17.51, and both she and Cranny secured their team spots for Budapest because they both had met the entry standard of 30:40.00. Rogers, who ran 32:22.77, does not have the entry standard. Like McGorty, she would either have to rise enough in the World Athletics rankings to make the team, or try to meet the standard by the end of the month, which she said would be very difficult.
"That's going to be a very tough move," said Rogers, who represents Puma. She will also compete in the 5000m on Sunday where she has the standard.
Frerichs Advances In The Steeple Despite Falling
What would normally be a routine qualifying race for Olympic silver medalist Courtney Frerichs of the Nike Bowerman Track Club turned into a near-disaster when she fell after hurdling the first barrier going into the third lap of Heat 2. After falling, Frerichs knelt and lowered her head to protect herself, letting the field pass by. She then got up and began to chase the field. She admitted to being a little rattled.
"I didn't get back to training every day until some time in March," said Frerichs, who had ankle surgery last December and caught COVID at the World Athletics Championships here in Eugene last August. She continued: "I think there were some nerves. It's not ideal to come in and have this be your first steeple of the season, but it's what made the most sense."
Frerichs ended up finishing eighth in 9:47.36 --a faster time than the winner of Heat 1, Logan Jolly-- so she advanced to Saturday's final on time. Emma Coburn, the 2017 world champion, easily won the second heat in 9:36.69.
"The funny thing with rounds of the steeple is that the advantage of leading, and getting a clear water jump, and getting a clear hurdle actually is pretty great," said Coburn. So, it's natural to want to be in that spot." She added: "So, it was good."
Also advancing to Saturday's final with a good chance to make the podium were Courtney Wayment and Madie Boreman who, like Coburn and Frerichs, have the World Athletics Championships entry standard of 9:23.00.
In the men's steeplechase Olympian Mason Ferlic led all qualifiers with a 8:24.14 clocking in Heat 1. With America's top two steeplechasers of the last ten years, Evan Jager and Hilary Bor, not competing here, Ferlic sees an opening to not only get to Budapest but win a national title. He was the NCAA champion in 2016.
"That was classic Mason Ferlic right there," Ferlic joked. "Look, I want to come in and win a title this year. It's open."
Centrowitz Squeaks Into 1500M Final
Matthew Centrowitz, the 2016 Olympic 1500m champion, was able to advance to Saturday's 1500m final, but only just. Running in the first of three heats, the 33 year-old ran with the leading group for the entire race, keeping up with North American record holder Yared Nuguse who set the pace at the front. Nuguse ran a hot 3:35.37 to win the heat, and Centrowitz faded to sixth in the homestretch. However, his time of 3:37.36 was the third and final time qualifier.
"Something I've lacked all year is a little bit of a pop," said Centrowitz. "I felt pretty good kind of throughout, and then I've just really been kind of flat the last hundred in a lot of races. I don't know. I've been kind of searching for answers the last few weeks."
All the favorites advanced --Nuguse, Joe Waskom, Johnny Gregorek, Hobbs Kessler, Sam Prakel, and Cole Hocker-- except for Cooper Teare, who finished fourth in the third and final heat and was eliminated. Teare is on the start list for Sunday's 5000m, however.
In the women's 1500m qualifying defending champion Sinclaire Johnson of the Nike Union Athletics Club was the fastest qualifier, winning the second of three heats in 4:07.84. She just edged Olympian Heather MacLean in a spirited sprint.
"I felt Heather coming up on me the last hundred and I'm not here to lose," said Johnson. "So, I don't care what it takes to cross the line first."
Also advancing was Huntington University star Addy Wiley who won the first heat over Olympian Cory McGee, 4:09.53 to 4:09.62. Olympic 800m champion Athing Mu finished third and also advanced.
"I felt really relaxed, really controlled," said Wiley, who is only 19. She continued: "I got the top three and that's what really matters."
Nikki Hiltz, Emily McKay and Dani Jones went 1-2-3 in the third heat and all advanced. Hiltz mounted a powerful sprint in the final 100 meters to take the win.
"I know it's a prelim, but a race is a race and I'm trying to win as many as possible," said Hiltz, who ran a personal best 4:18.38 for the mile in Oslo on June 15.
Favorites Advance In The 800M
In the preliminary rounds of the men's and women's 800m all of the favorites advanced. On the men's side reigning NCAA champion Will Sumner of the University of Georgia had no trouble winning the first of four heats. He took the lead at 200 meters, was first to 400 meters in 53.07, and held the lead to the tape and won in 1:46.49, the second-fastest time of the day. He took a few looks back in the homestretch, but Luciano Fiore of the Empire Elite Track Club was safely behind him and finished second in 1:46.62, a personal best.
Sumner said that after the conclusion of the NCAA season in June that he had just tried to maintain his fitness and not "do anything crazy." He said that he felt comfortable at these championships.
"So far it's about the same, I think," he told reporters. "The environment's a little different; now I'm doing it for myself rather than my team. Other than that, it feels pretty similar."
Bryce Hoppel comfortably won the second heat in 1:47.87, and Isaiah Harris followed him to take second in 1:48.13. Neither athlete appeared to be straining.
"The plan was just to get through the rounds and get to the next day," Harris said. "Take every race one race at a time, treat every race like a final. I wanted to get top three; got second and it felt good. He added: "I've had really consistent training. I'm excited."
Olympians Clayton Murphy (1:46.36) and Isaiah Jewett (1:46.55) won the third and fourth heats, respectively, and Murphy posted the fastest time of the day. He stayed behind early leader Abe Alvarado, then pulled away from the field easily in the final 200 meters.
"Yeah, it was nice to kind of get a good session in there and blow out the pipes, whatever you want to call it," Murphy said in the mixed zone. "Yeah, I was positioned well, was able to wait, open up there and for sure save a couple of gears. But, damn, is it hot. I think that's like the biggest thing. No matter how fast a runner, no matter how fit you are, hot is hot."
On the women's side, Nia Akins was the fastest qualifier, winning heat three by over one and a half seconds in a snappy 1:59.09. Two collegians, Stanford's Juliette Whittaker (2:00.74) and Louisiana State's Michaela Rose (2:00.79), finished second and third and also advanced to the semi-finals.
"I've been feeling really good so I'm excited by that," said Rose.
Raevyn Rogers won the first heat in 2:00.08, the second-fastest time of the day, off of a fast first 400 meters by Sammy Watson (57.98). Rogers led Roisin Willis and Ajee' Wilson down the homestretch to get the win. Watson, who faded in the last 50 meters, held on to finish fifth and managed to advance on time in 2:01.71.
"I don't take the 800 lightly," said Rogers after a reporter suggested that she looked relaxed in her approach to today's heat. "You know, you can't. Nowadays and every year, it gets faster and faster. So, I feel like if you try to go in it safe you'll find yourself coming up short. Willis (2:00.23) and Wilson (2:00.32) also advanced in second and third place, respectively.
Sage Hurta-Klecker won the second heat comfortably in 2:01.48, but was a little nervous to watch her husband Joe Klecker race the 10,000m later in tonight's program.
"I'm not a big fan of watching the 10-K," said Hurta-Klecker, tongue-in-cheek. "I love the 10-K. You know, it's a long race to be nervous for."
USA Track & Field reported that 5,311 ticketed spectators watched today's action. These championships continue tomorrow with only two distance events on the program, the semi-finals of the men's and women's 800m.