In the distance events, 800, 1500, 3000 steeplechase, 5000, and 10,000, the USA will send twenty-nine athletes to the World Championships in Daegu. The majority of the distance team (twenty of them) are what I would call veterans, people who have competed at international championships before. Three are college runners, who in addition to competing all spring for their college and competing at the NCAA Championships, managed to place in the top three at the USA Championships to extend their season another two months. Four are first-timers but I think they will become regular wearers of the TEAM USA jersey. Two others are first-timers who in my mind had breakthrough performances at the USA Championships to qualify for what the people in Track Town USA like to call, “the hardest team to make.”
Before naming the veterans, let me ask you a trivia question. No fair looking anything up. Off the top of your head, name the nine (9) USA distance runners who have qualified for the last four international championships (2007 Osaka, 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2009 Berlin, and 2011 Daegu). Ready? Go! Tick-tick-tick-tock.
You probably got Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, and Bernard Lagat right off. You’ve definitely been paying attention if you got Matt Tegenkamp and Nick Symmonds. It’s hard to believe but Galen Rupp and Jenny (Barringer) Simpson also qualified for all four championships, three of them while they were still in college. The often over-looked Jennifer Rhines makes this list, too. Rhines may be overshadowed by the more marketed Flanagan and Goucher, but you cannot deny that Rhines is tough as nails and knows how to run a gutsy race in order to make the team. The ninth member of this exclusive club is Leo Manzano, another scrappy and tough runner who comes through at the championship races (and I’m not just saying that because he’s Shannon Rowbury’s teammate).
Other veterans who will compete in Daegu are:
Kyle Alcorn – ’09, ‘11
- Bridget Franek – ’09, ‘11
- Daniel Huling – ’09, ‘11
- William Nelson – ’08, ‘11
- Khadevis Robinson – ’07, ’09, ‘11
- Shannon Rowbury – ’08, ’09, ‘11
- Chris Solinsky – ’09, ‘11
- Maggie Vessey – ’09, ’11
- Andrew Wheating – ’08, ‘11
Two veterans deserve a special mention for making this year’s team. The two were 800 meter teammates on the 2007 team in Osaka. Both also suffered through injuries that threatened to derail their careers.
Alysia (Johnson) Montano was the 2007 USA Champion but injuries essentially wiped out her 2008 Olympic dreams and her 2009 season. She returned to be the 2010 USA Champion and ran the fifth fastest time in US history in 2010, a world-leading 1:57.34. Her win at the 2011 USA Championships to qualify for her second World Championship team, completes her return to the top of the 800 meter world.
Alice Schmidt was a World Championship qualifier in both 2005 and 2007 and competed at the 2008 Olympic Games, but she was not on top of her game at all in 2009 and 2010. In 2009 she was out all season with a stress fracture. In 2010 her best time was only 2:01 and although she qualified for the USA Championships 800 meter final, she did not run the race. It seemed like her time in the upper echelon of USA 800 meter running had come to an end. Schmidt had other plans, and battled back to place third this year and qualify for her third World Championship team.
The College Kids (3)
Every USA Championship seems to produce at least a couple of college runners who qualify for the international championships. College athletes who have been representing their schools by competing in an indoor season, and at invitationals, conference meets, regionals, and—just two weeks before USA’s—at the NCAA Championships (NCAAs). The college kids are race ready but may have tired legs. On the other hand, leading up to the USA Champs, the non-collegians have often only raced a handful of times. When the two groups meet head-to-head, it is a battle between the peaked but potentially worn out college athlete and the more experienced but possibly competition-rusty post-collegiate runner.
Over the last few years, Galen Rupp and Jenny (Barringer) Simpson have insured that at least two college runners would make the team. Rupp and (Barringer) Simpson are what I consider outliers, as it is pretty unusual for a runner to qualify for international championships during their sophomore, junior, and senior years of college. But that’s exactly what they did in 2007, 2008, and 2009.
Here is a list of collegians who have qualified:
2007 – Aaron Aguayo (3000 SC), Lindsay Anderson (3000 SC), Jenny Barringer (3000 SC), Alysia Johnson (800), Leo Manzano (1500), Galen Rupp (10,000), Michelle Sikes (5000), Duane Solomon (800), Anna Willard (3000 SC).
2008 – Jenny Barringer (3000 SC), Leo Manzano (1500), Galen Rupp (10,000), Andrew Wheating (800).
2009 –Jenny Barringer (3000 SC), Bridget Franek (3000 SC), Geena Gall (800), Galen Rupp (10,000), Dorian Ulrey (1500).
In 2011, three collegians made the team. They are Emma Coburn (another Colorado steeplechaser), Matthew Centrowitz Jr. (another Oregon Duck in a middle distance race), and Charles Jock (the front running UC Irvine 800 meter runner, who escaped war torn Sudan with his family at the age of three by walking for nearly two years through Ethiopia and Kenya).
I’ll introduce the First-Timers and the Breakthrough Performers in part two.