Extremely Early Women’s 1500m U.S. Olympic Trials Predictions

By Mac Fleet

May 15, 2024

We’re about a month and a half out from the 1500m finals at the U.S. Olympic Trials, and track fans across the 50 states are undoubtedly counting down the days on their calendar using a giant red marker. Both finals are gonna be a good one – a true treat of a title card that’s setting some of the biggest names in American distance running on a collision course toward Eugene.

Here’s part 2 of my still-way-too-early picks to make the team for Paris. You can find last week’s picks from the men’s field here.

Elle St. Pierre’s quick return to the top of U.S. and global relevance since giving birth just over a year ago has been nothing short of astonishing. Everyone knew she was fit going into the Glasgow World Indoor Championships, but I don’t think any of us were prepared to see her take home gold against such a deep field, especially in a fast race (she won in 8:20.87). St. Pierre is back and better than ever. To give herself the best shot at being top three – and winning, which she undoubtedly is angling to do – Elle wants this race fast, and she’s proven herself unafraid of making that happen. 

2021 was proof: In that race St. Pierre set a Trials record by leading nearly every step of the race, winning in 3:58.03. The only thing preventing her from controlling this 1500m race wire-to-wire would be a taxing 5000m final, which will be contested three days before the 1500m prelim. The odds of that 5000m final being fast? Very, very slim. Most of the big names that would usually be contending for Olympic spots in the longer distances aren’t quite firing on all cylinders at the moment – which has me thinking the 5000m will be a relative cakewalk for St. Pierre, setting her up to take home two gold medals in Eugene.

If World Indoor gold wasn’t enough, let’s also remember that St. Pierre ran a 4:16.41 mile to set the American record at Millrose indoors and has made every senior U.S. team she’s tried out for: 2019, 2021, 2022 (indoors), 2022 (outdoors), and 2024 (indoors again). It would be very, very shocking to see her miss out on her second Olympic berth if she shows up to Eugene healthy.

Who is the one person who I think has a shot at taking down a 5k-1500m doubling Elle? Nikki Hiltz. The defending U.S. 1500m champ has done nothing but get better since last June, taking home gold (again!) at this year’s U.S. Indoors, and winning their first global medal: Silver at the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow.

They’ve opened up this outdoor season with a strong pair of 800m wins and I can guarantee everyone in the final will be building their race strategies based off of Nikki’s closing speed. Nikki certainly won’t be helping push the pace and will be hoping for a slow first 600m, as their best shot at winning and even making the team will be in that more tactical 4:01-4:06 sweet spot.

We will never forget the New Balance sweep of the 1500m at the 2021 Olympic Trials.We will never forget the New Balance sweep of the 1500m at the 2021 Olympic Trials.

Kevin Morris/@KevMoFoto

Cory McGee has gotten it done year after year after year in the 1500m and if you think I’m tired of saying the word “year,” think again. In fact, I think this year will be no different. 

As difficult as it is to not have Emily Mackay – that’s World Indoor Bronze Medalist Emily Mackay, to you, and also to me – in the top three, I just think the years of experience at this type of event that Cory brings to the table will elevate her to one of those magical top-three spots. The pressure of Trials can be crippling, and yet, at the last three U.S. Championship finals Cory has made the team, running between 4:00 and 4:05. The key takeaway there is that she doesn’t have to have a perfect race like some others to be a contender. Also let’s not forget, Cory made her first team in 2013! No one in this field has been doing it longer. With 2021 Olympian Heather MacLean coming back from injury and sub-four runner Josette Norris possibly prioritizing the 5000m, being able to consistently run 4:00 should be enough to land you on the podium this year.

An interesting note while projecting the men’s and women’s 1500m teams: on the men’s side, four of the nine men the U.S. has sent to the past three global championships have been collegiate athletes. Only three collegiate women in total have made the finals over the same time range, with Addy Wiley’s fifth place showing last year making her the highest-placing collegian out of that group. 

That’s gotta be part of the reason why – at least at this point – the contenders on the women’s side feel more crystalized: they don’t seemingly emerge from the ether as they do for the men. That and a lot of the top 1500m runners for the women aren’t currently prioritizing the event, such as Athing Mu, Elise Cranny, or Karissa Schweizer.

I’m excited to see how these final few weeks play out, and watch as each of these athletes round into form so we get a clearer picture of who will be fighting for those top three spots in Eugene. Who knows, maybe somebody like Sinclaire Johnson, who’s made World teams in the past but who’s also only posted one recent result – a 4:13 showing at Payton Jordan – can find their sea legs after time off for injury. In which case I’ll have some serious thinking to do before writing my “Not Terribly Early 1500m Predictions” essay in a couple of weeks.

Mac Fleet

Mac, who possesses one of the best runner names of his generation, lived up to the billing as a two-time NCAA 1500m champion and eight-time All-American as an Oregon Duck.