Extremely Early Men's 1500m U.S. Olympic Trials Predictions

By Mac Fleet

May 8, 2024

We’re just 46 days away from the U.S. Olympic Trials men’s 1500m final in Eugene, and fans could not ask for a more exciting leadup with USA’s biggest and best names, as well as intriguing upstarts, all coming into form right on time.

Here are my current favorites to make the team:

Returning U.S. Champion Yared Nuguse has to be considered the overwhelming favorite, not only to make the team, but to win the Trials final. Yared, who just last week won the Penn Relays pro mile in 3:51.06, has been on a head-spinning streak of performances over the last 12 months that includes: a Diamond League win, a 3:43.97 American Record in the Bowerman Mile, two U.S. titles, and a silver medal at the World Indoor Championships. Let’s also not forget this isn’t Yared’s first Trials rodeo either – he placed third in 2021 while still running for Notre Dame.

While I think Yared can win many different ways, his best shot is making the last 800m fast… like really fast. And if there is anything to nit-pick about how Yared races, it’s that he can seem uncomfortable running in packs, so stringing the race out to give himself enough space to open up that signature stride and secure a spot on the team as a possible medal contender.

Just behind Nuguse in my unofficial official power rankings are the SoVA duo of Cole Hocker and Cooper Teare. With both athletes finally re-settled outside of the Eugene vortex and back with coach Ben Thomas, all is right in the world. They’re like that Kobe and Shaq highlight reel meme with Ben Thomas playing Phil Jackson’s role, knowing exactly what pace to prescribe and how much rest to assign in his unique training philosophy.

Hocker is back to his high-performing ways after dealing with a minor injury last year. Because of that abbreviated build, Cole’s incredible talent was really put to the test. His 2023 outdoor season began just one month before USAs – and he opened up in 3:34.14 over 1500m. He then went on to place 3rd at the U.S. Champs and ultimately 7th in the World Championship final in Budapest, running 3:30.70. He also wound up running 3:48.08 at the Bowerman Mile. Those aren’t the sorts of performances you expect from anybody rounding into shape off a shortened lead-up - but Cole Hocker isn’t just anybody.

Cole has carried that momentum into 2024 by taking hardware over 1500m at both U.S. Indoor Champs (gold) and World Indoor Championships (silver) and has shown fitness early this outdoor season, running 13:08 over 5000m in an all-to-popular U.S. trend of four-person races.

Hocker’s fitness and foot speed means he could sit on Yared attack over the final 100m, just like in the 2021 Olympic Trials where he chased down a squeezing Centrowitz and took home his first national title. But that isn’t his only shot at winning. Cole has shown himself capable of navigating any style of race and has no issue being boxed in while the meters count down, as he’s extremely confident shooting even the slimmest of gaps.

Now onto his teammate. Is Cooper Teare, the 2022 U.S. 1500m champ, back-back? If we can agree to forget last year’s early exit at USAs, I think so. And I’m not just basing that off of this year’s U.S. #1 3:32.16 performance (another four-person banger of a race – but hey, they’re just playing the game by the rules) or his B.A.A. road 5k win. It was how Teare celebrated in that 5k that has me thinking he’s going to Paris. He has his edge back, a chip on his shoulder, and that makes him dangerous.

Although Cooper sits atop the U.S. season best list, I’m wagering he wants this Trials final to go as slow as possible. His U.S. title winning time in 2022 was 3:45.86, which saw him blaze a sub-38 final 300m. And guess who was buried deep in 11th place in that kicker's race? Yared Nuguse. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some team tactics from Hocker and Teare if both make it through to the final – a 62-second first 400m could do them wonders.

And here’s the dreaded “best of the rest” section:

Forgive me, track gods, for I have sinned by placing some of these names in “the rest” category. I know a couple of these characters will be texting or tweeting about their omission as favorites – and should they make the team, I’ll never hear the end of it. But this is about a race where, ultimately, three guys make the team, and who am I to equivocate?

Hobbs Kessler has done everything right this year. I mean… everything. He’s cleaned up his inconsistent performances. He’s started racing with intention. He ran a 3:48 indoor mile! He even brought home a bronze medal from the World Indoor Championships. By all standalone measures he should be a favorite to make the team – but I’ll need a few more race results this outdoor season, other than a 3:56 road mile in Germany, to feel great about his chances ahead of the three guys I’ve already mentioned.

When I think about how Matthew Centrowitz announced that this will be his final season, I feel like Vin Diesel watching Paul Walker drive off into the sunset. But just like CGI-Walker, the 2016 Olympic champion isn’t quite dead, yet. Just this past weekend, Centrowitz clocked his fastest 1500m since 2021, running 3:35.39 and continuing his upward trend over the last 24 months since having knee surgery. It looks like there's just enough life left in those legs to make every washed-up 30-something middle-distance runner start to believe. For Centro to make this team, it needs to be a 3:34-3:36 type of race, and Craig Engels has to be in third with 100m to go.

If we’re using history as a guide to the future, at least one collegiate is placing in the top three. Whether they have the standard or ranking is a whole other thing, but in 2021 it was both Cole Hocker and Yared Nuguse, 2022 it was Jonathan Davis, and in 2023 it was Joe Waskom. Who could it be in 2024?

Assuming Nico Young declares for the longer events, the shortlist is UW’s trio of Joe Waskom, Nathan Green, Luke Houser and NAU’s Colin Sahlman. The Huskies have proven over and over they excel in championship finals and Sahlman is on an absolute heater of a 2024 outdoor season, having already run 3:33.96 for 1500m and an eyebrow-raising 1:45.63 800m. And frankly, I trust Andy Powell and Mike Smith to not mess things up.

Before I add to my list of angry texters, humor me while I rattle off a handful of other names that could prove to be the darkest of dark horses, or who could at least make the final more interesting in Eugene: Sam Prakel, Henry Wynne, Craig Engels, Josh Thompson, Vince Ciattei, Johnny Gregorek – these are the savvy veterans who’ve shown enough form recently to not be discounted – and Eric Holt, who races like Laser from American Gladiators would if he were a 3:51 miler.

Stay tuned for next week when I’ll share my too-early predictions for how the women’s 1500m will play out at the Trials.

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.