By Jonathan Gault
May 28, 2021
A number of America’s top long-distance runners descended on Portland, Oregon this weekend for a final Olympic Trials tune-up at the Portland Track Festival. Friday was the first night of the two-night meet and featured steeplechase and 10k, with Portland-based stars Galen Rupp, Sean mcgorty, and Courtney frerichs all races. The evening was a success for Frerichs, who took a steeple victory in 9: 21.13, but less for Rupp and McGorty, who were beaten in the 10k and the men’s steeplechase respectively.
Perhaps one of the most interesting developments has come from the track: on the competition timing site, Shelby houlihan, which was due to debut in 2021 tomorrow, is not on the 1500m start list. LetsRun contacted Houlihan’s agent Stephen haas to confirm whether Houlihan did indeed cross out but did not receive a response upon posting.
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Here are the biggest things we learned after the first night of racing in Portland.
Mason Ferlic wins the steeple, Sean McGorty 3rd; the trials are going to be a lot of fun
The big move in tonight’s men’s steeplechase came with three laps to go, when the US military Benard Keter dropped the pace from 69 to 64. He pulled away and spun onto the field, and in the end only one man was able to respond like Mason ferlic pushed his way back, then passed Keter after the last corner to grab a win of 8: 18.79. Keter was second in 8: 20.40 with Bowerman Track Club’s Sean mcgorty in third in 8: 22.75.
The victory was important for Ferlic for several reasons. On the one hand, it was his first win in any steeple since winning the NCAA title for the University of Michigan in June 2016. And second, he beat fellow Olympian McGorty (and Keter). . Most impressive was the way Ferlic won this race. Keter’s strong push with three laps to go is the kind of movement you will see in an Olympic practice final, and the way one reacts to such a movement – especially in the steeple, with barriers to navigate like a only tire – is the key. Ferlic made the right decision by restraining himself and perfectly measured his effort; when Keter started to slow down, Ferlic was there to knock him down late as he still had some extra gear to use.
Keter has always run very well for second place – his 8:20.40 was a six-second game and added his name to the growing list of Olympic contenders. The other notable result was a place behind him. McGorty has such impressive flat pbs (3: 36/7: 37/13: 06) and looked so good on his steeple debut at 8:20 – the fastest in American history – that it seemed well on the way to an Olympic place in the bell tower.
Tonight was a reminder that it’s not that easy. During his debut at Mt. SAC, McGorty had a teammate / pacemaker Evan jager to lead the way and was able to run with the leaders all the way and kick late for the win. This time, Keter put the field to the test with a 64-second lap late, and McGorty didn’t react well to the sudden acceleration, giving up several spots before battling on the last lap to take the third.
Tonight wasn’t a total disaster for McGorty. But it was certainly not a step forward. He ran slower than when he started and got beaten by two guys he will have to face with an Olympic spot on the line at Ferlic and Keter. The only advantage is the experience: he has now run twice as many steeples as he has done tonight, and he was faced with a scenario similar to what might happen in a championship race like the Trials. . It’s up to McGorty and the coach Jerry schumacher make the necessary adjustments by then.
Speaking of the trials, the male steeple is going to be a lot of fun. The trail tends to be predictable (see: the female steeple in the US right now), but since Jager has yet to complete a steeple since 2018, there is a lot of uncertainty in the male steeple in the U.S. approach to testing. Which makes it a very entertaining race.
Courtney Frerichs dominates the female steeple
Speaking of certainty and uncertainty, it is virtually certain that Courtney frerichs, who looked great walking away late to win the women’s steeple tonight in 9: 21,13, and Emma Coburn, who ran 9: 08.22 today in Doha, will be on the US Olympic team again this year. The only question is Colleen Quigleyhealth. If Quigley, 28, who has not run a steeple since July 2019, is in good health, she will be the third member of the team. Otherwise (and we don’t think she’s been healthy because she hasn’t run recently) third place is wide open, as tonight’s results show.
Outside of Quigley, Frerichs and Coburn, no American had run faster than 9:28 in the Olympic qualifying window. That changed tonight as a Colorado alum Valerie Constien executed a 10 second bp of 9: 25.53 for the second and Mel Lawrence (3rd in the US in 2018) clocked a two-second bp of 9: 27.34 for the fourth. Both are now serious contenders for the Olympics if Quigley is not right.
The fourth member of Team USA in 2019, Allie Ostrander, was also in action tonight, but could only score sixth in 9: 38.72 in his first steeple since the 2019 Worlds.
Suguru Osako wins in 10km battle of former NOP teammates as Galen Rupp is 4th in 28:00
The main storyline leading up to this one was the return of Galen Rupp, who hadn’t run on the track since January 2018. If Rupp had run a 10k at this point in the last two Olympic cycles, no one in America could have touched him. But tonight’s effort showed that he was truly in a different phase of his career, focusing only on the marathon. While Rupp was still there on the last lap when the kicks started, he couldn’t manage any faster than a 65-second final lap to run 28: 00.37 as a former Nike Oregon Project teammate. Suguru osako sprinted to win in 27: 56.44. Surprisingly, Osako immediately doubled up and ran the second set, almost winning that too (he was second in 29: 04.28 to Acer Iverson29: 04.00).
Rupp wasn’t even the best American as Jacob thomson blown by him with 200 to go and finished second in a 12-second bp of 27:57 to reach the Olympic Trials standard of 28: 00.00. Thomson joins a small group of Americans for beating Rupp over 10,000 meters. From the 2010 Payton Jordan 10000, where Chris Solinsky beat Rupp to take the US record, there were only two 10ks in which Rupp lost to an American: the 2017 US champions, where Rupp finished 5th, and tonight.
There has been speculation as to whether Rupp would run this race to earn an Olympic Trials qualifier so he could run on his home track at the reconstructed Hayward Field. Rupp told Runner’s World’s Sarah Lorge Butler after the race he plans to run the Practice if accepted to compete, but he might struggle to enter. It missed the automotive standard by 0.37, and there are currently 25 Americans with the standard for a target field size out of 24 (Rupp is # 26 on the list). Frankly, we’ll be shocked if the USATF doesn’t find a way to get Rupp into the field – although he can do it with scratches anyway.
Caroline Kipkirui wins the 10,000 women
We are not sure what the Kenyan Kipkirui, a 14:27 5000m performer, was doing while performing the Portland Track Festival other than picking up the guaranteed $ 1000 in prize money (more will be added depending on the number of viewers watching the races, as explained. here). She didn’t seem eager to pursue the Olympic standard of 31:25. In a 15k road race a few weeks ago in Texas, Kipkirui shared 31:08 for his first 10k en route to a salary of $ 3,000. Whatever Kipkirui was doing here, she was the class of the pack, leading the pack and winning in 31: 44.06. 2020 American Marathon Olympian Molly seidel was the top American, with a bp of 32: 02.19 for third.
Kipkirui is also listed in the 5000 of tomorrow where she will face Karissa schweizer and others.
Talk about tonight’s action on our messgaeboard.