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What to Expect at the Men’s 10,000m Olympic Team Trial Friday Night

A quirky year, a stacked field, and a hot night in Eugene means almost anything can happen.

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2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trails

Men’s 10,000m Preview

When: 7:25 p.m. PDT, Friday, June 18

TV Coverage: The men’s 10,000m won be televised during the 7-10p.m. (ET) NBC Sports Network live coverage on Friday evening, but it might be included in the 10-11 p.m. (ET) show on NBC that follows. Both shows will stream on Peacock.

Who to Watch

With three-time Olympian and American record-holder Galen Rupp in the field, the men’s 10,000m doesn’t seem quite as wide open as expected earlier in the week when it appeared he was going to scratch. 

The 35-year-old Rupp is probably still the cream of the crop, but he said he won’t run both the 10,000m and the marathon in the Olympics, so this race could just be a training tune-up, if he actually starts at all. Whether Rupp will be running to win, running to finish among the top three, running to accompany other Nike runners in the race, or even run halfway and drop out is entirely unknown, but his presence could change the scope of the race. 

Otherwise, it’s hard to prognosticate who has a better path to the Olympic team, both because there are several runners with similar abilities and Olympic-qualifying seed times, and because, well, it’s been a quirky year without much head-to-head racing. Plus, it’s a 10,000m race in hot weather at Hayward Field with a forecast calling for 80-degree weather when the race begins. Almost anything can happen.

Lopez Lomong (27:04) has the best seed time and was at the top of his game in 2019 when he won his second straight U.S. 10,000m title and also added his first 5,000m national championship, but that’s a long time ago for a 36-year-old who has only race once in the past year or so (13:26 in the 5,000m a few weeks ago). On paper, Lomong’s Nike Bowerman Track Club teammate Grant Fisher, 24, (27:11), who is the U.S. leader in the 5,000m this spring (13:02), should be in the mix as the race starts to wind up in the final laps, but so should Nike BTC’ers Woody Kincaid, 28, (27:12) and rejuvenated Eric Jenkins, 29, (27:22).

Emmauel Bor (27:22), a 33-year-old runner with U.S. Army program based in Colorado Springs, has run well this spring, but he has raced sparingly and has only run the 10,000m on the track once in his career (in late May). First-year pro Joe Klecker, 24, (27:23), of the On Athletics Club, has only has two 10,000m races under this belt in his career (both since December), but he showed grit in finishing third at the Sound Running meet on May 14, plus he’s also run a 3:37 PR in the 1500m recently and might be one of the fastest closers in the field if it comes down to a kick. 

Meanwhile, 35-year-old veteran Ben True (27:14), who is running unattached after getting dropped by Saucony, is in the mix for what figures to be one last chance to make his first Olympic team. If there’s a sentimental favorite, it’s True, who trains in Hanover, N.H., and has been enduring the real-world stresses of losing his full-time job last winter and being an expectant father. Meanwhile, 36-year-old Sam Chelanga is 11 years from his 27:08 PR, but his recent comeback has shown flashes of his former self.

Those are the only athletes who have secured the Olympic qualifying standard of 27:28, so if any other runner hopes to make the team, they’re going to have to push the pace. U.S. Army runner Leonard Korir, 34, (27:34), who was a 2016 Olympian in the 10,00m after finishing second at the Trials, is capable of doing that, but more likely he’ll just run with the lead pack as long as he can. One or more of the fast collegiate athletes in the field — Georgtown’s Robert Brandt (27:39), BYU’s Conner Mantz (27:41) or Norther Arizona’s Abdihamid Nur (27:42) — could decide to go for it off the front early, but with Rupp and other veterans in the field, it’s not at all likely they’d get away and be able to hold on for the full 25-lap race. That kind of tactic would only likely force a faster pace from the top runners in the field after the first mile or so. There’s too much at stake in this race, so what’s likely to happen is that the top eight guys will bunch up and start off somewhere around 27:45- pace (4:28 per mile) and then it will become a battle of attrition as the pace increases from there. 

The 10,000m Field

Listed by hip/bib number

1. Sam Chelanga, Columbia, S.C., Unattached (27:42)

2 Reid Buchanan, Boulder, Colo., On Running (27:58)

3 Jacob Thomson, Boston, Tracksmith (27:57) 

4 Girma Mecheso, Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S. Army (27:49) 

5 Frank Lara, Boulder, Colo., Tracksmith/Roots Running (27:43)

6 Abdihamid Nur, Flagstaff, Ariz., Northern Arizona (27:42)

7 Eric Hamer, Fort Collins, Colo., Colorado State (27:44) 

8 Biya Simbassa, Flagstaff, Ariz., Unattached (28:01)

9 James Mwaura, Spokane, Wash., Gonzaga (27:50)

10 Marty Hehir, Philadephia, Reebok Boston (27:57)

11 Galen Rupp, Portland, Ore., NIKE (28:00)

12 Conner Mantz, Provo, Utah, BYU (27:41)

13 Isai Rodriguez, Stillwater, Okla., Oklahoma St. (27:52)

14 Diego Estrada, Flagstaff, Ariz., Unattached (27:57)

15 Dillon Maggard, Logan, Utah, HOKA ONE ON (27:54)

16 Zach Panning, Rochester, Mich., Hansons-Brooks  (28:01)

17 Joe Klecker, Boulder, Colo., On Athletics Club (27:23)

18 Ben True, Hanover, N.H., Unattached (27:14)

19 Robert Brandt, Washington, D.C., Georgetown (27:39)

20 Leonard Korir, Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S. Army (27:34)

21 Woody Kincaid, Beaverton, Ore., NIKE/Bowerman Track Club (27:12) 

22 Emmanuel Bor, Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S. Army (27:22)

23 Grant Fisher, Beaverton, Ore., NIKE/Bowerman Track Club, (27:12)

24 Eric Jenkins, Portland, Ore., NIKE (27:22)

25 Lopez Lomong, Portland, Ore., NIKE/Bowerman (27:04)