2024 U.S. Olympic Trials: Distance Events, Athletes and Storylines to Follow

By David Melly

June 19, 2024

CITIUS MAG will be heading West in just a few days and we’re popping up with New Balance for the most thrilling 10 days of track and field in America. We’re servin’ track and field scoops with our coverage. Catch us at the CITIUS MAG Scoop (presented by New Balance) pop-up right next to Prince Puckler’s Ice Cream at 19th Avenue and Agate Street – just a two-minute walk from Hayward Field.

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The most exciting week of track and field on American soil is finally here: the 2024 USATF Olympic Trials! We’ve been watching eagerly all season, rooting for our favorites and scoping out the competition to try and figure out which Americans have the best shot at making the team for the Paris Olympics – and who might have the best shot at a medal once they get there.

Nothing beats the drama of the U.S. Trials. Unlike many other countries, which select their teams based on a combination of championship results and committee decisions, Team USA sets its team in the most objective way possible: top three at the Trials make the team. Of course, those athletes need to have achieved the Olympic standard or World ranking, so there still might be some numbers to crunch while athletes are handed those little American flags, but in most cases, it’s simple. You’ve got to perform your best on the day to book your ticket.

All the action kicks off Friday, June 21 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. And it will all be televised and/or streamed by the NBC/Universal networks. (The easiest way to watch is with a Peacock subscription.) You can also find all the helpful links to follow along at home below:

Below, we break down everything you need to know about the distance events at the U.S. Olympic Trials. You can read our sprint events preview here and our field events preview here. Without further ado, here’s a preview of the top Americans to watch, their chances of making Team USA, and their potential to make a splash in Paris:

Bryce HoppelBryce Hoppel

Justin Britton / @JustinBritton

Men’s 800 meters

First round: Thursday, June 27th, 7:30pm E.T.

Olympic standard: 1:44.70 Americans with standard: 6

State of the event: In the years since the departure of David Rudisha from the top of the international racing scene, the men’s 800m has become one of the most volatile and unpredictable events in the sport. Tokyo Olympic champ Emmanuel Korir picked up a World title as well in 2022, but he’s having an awful go of it so far this season, running only a 1:50.38 and failing to advance out of the heats of the Kenyan Trials. Reigning World champ Marco Arop has been the epitome of consistency so far this spring, winning four of four individual races and opening his outdoor season with a 1:43.61. He’s probably the favorite by a slim margin – but he’s only the sixth fastest man in 2024.

The world leader – thanks to a stunning Kenyan Trials performance – is 19-year-old Emmanuel Wanyonyi, who clocked a blazing 1:41.70 to land at #3 on the all-time list. But Arop beat him head-to-head at the last two World Championships (although it’s fair to suggest that Wanyonyi is only just now entering his prime). The athlete turning the most heads before Wanyonyi’s big run was Algerian Djamel Sedjati, who’s run a pair of 1:43s with a final 150m kick that looks almost superhuman. That trio are some of the big names who were absent when American Bryce Hoppel picked up his World Indoor gold in March, but Hoppel will have to find a way to beat them all if he’s going to replicate the feat in Paris.

Top contenders: With the perpetually injury-prone Donavan Brazier out for the season, Bryce Hoppel is well favored to pick up his seventh national title (counting indoors). Hoppel’s raced a bunch both indoors and out this year and only lost once, to Sedjati at the Stockholm Diamond League meet. Unless he picks up an injury of his own it would be surprising to see him fall to domestic competition.

But that isn’t to say that the U.S. doesn’t have a bunch of strong contenders, with seven entrants under 1:45 this season and Tokyo Olympian Isaiah Jewett looking strong behind Hoppel at the LA Grand Prix. But Jewett and fellow former NCAA phenom Brandon Miller will have to take down the current NCAA studs, Sam Whitmarsh and Shane Cohen, as they look to extend their seasons. Cohen is 0.27 seconds off the standard, but it’s highly possible that it’ll take sub-1:44.70 to make the team anyway.

More names to watch: Another collegian worth mentioning is D2 phenom Wes Ferguson and his 1:45.06 PB as he looks to race his way onto a bigger stage. And speaking of college-age guys with a shot, 21-year-old Hobbs Kessler is entered here – although if the 1500m breaks his way earlier in the Trials program, he’ll probably scratch. But if betting on experience is more your thing, you can’t count out Clayton Murphy or Isaiah Harris, who always seem to find a way to run their best in the championship part of the season.

Athing MuAthing Mu

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

Women’s 800 meters

First round: Friday, June 21st, 7:17pm E.T.

Olympic standard: 1:59.30 Americans with standard: 8

State of the event: Until very recently, the women’s 800m conversation was all about the battle between American Athing Mu, the Olympic champ, and silver medalist Keely Hodgkinson. But in the last year or two, Kenyan Mary Moraa has entered the chat in a big way with her unpredictable racing style and prodigious talent. Moraa took the World title in 1:56.03 last year, but is looking beatable after picking up a couple Ls in her last few races. She lost to Hodgkinson at the Prefontaine Classic and to total unknown Lilian Odira at the Kenyan Trials.

Odira’s listed PB on World Athletics before this season was 2:11.73 (she ran 1:59.27 to win Kenyan Trials) and she had only three posted results (all 400s in 2023) between 2019 and 2024, so she’s an intriguing wild card who clearly is about to get a lot of international racing experience for the very first time. In all likelihood, Moraa, Mu, and Hodgkinson will still be the top athletes to watch in Paris, but anything can happen.

Top contenders: Speaking of Mu, no one really knows what kind of form she’ll enter Trials with as she’s yet to race in 2024 and reported hamstring discomfort in training as her reason for withdrawing from the Pre Classic. But if history is any indication, even a not-yet-100% Athing Mu is still head and shoulders above everyone else on the American racing scene. That disparity may be further exacerbated by the fact that Team USA’s usual ringers, Ajee’ Wilson and Raevyn Rogers, are struggling a bit this spring – but count them out of Trials contention at your own peril. The most consistent runners on the circuit this spring have been Sage Hurta-Klecker of OAC and Nia Akins of the Brooks Beasts, both of whom have run sub-1:59 on multiple occasions this season.

More athletes to watch: Like the men’s race, the athletes looking to sneak into a top three spot are largely young up-and-comers, like NCAA champs Juliette Whittaker, Roisin Willis, and Michaela Rose. 20-year-old Addy Wiley closed out her season last year with a 1:57.64 in Switzerland, but she hasn’t been quite on that same level yet in 2024. The 800m is traditionally a young runner’s event, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of them break out at Trials.

Yared NuguseYared Nuguse

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

Men’s 1500 meters

First round: Friday, June 21st, 8:22pm E.T.

Olympic standard: 3:33.50 Americans with standard: 4

State of the event: Most observers of recent dynamics in the men’s 1500m assume that two of the three podium spots in Paris will be taken up by Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Josh Kerr… but the lack of rabbits in the Olympic final means that anything can happen if things get tactical. If the battle comes down to a blistering kick and smart positioning, guys like Jake Wightman or Yared Nuguse could quickly become a big problem, and even a slightly-misjudged attempt to keep things honest up front could work out in Olli Hoare’s or Timothy Cheruiyot’s favor. Once you get the racing off the Diamond League circuit and into a three-round championship format, it’s not quite the two-man race it looks like on paper.

Top contenders: The aforementioned Yared Nuguse will be very, very hard to beat on U.S. soil, simply because he has the tools to win many different kinds of races. His blistering speed and sub-3:30 level fitness mean you can’t outrun him and you’ll be hard-pressed to outkick him… but that doesn’t mean that Cole Hocker and Cooper Teare won’t try. And Hocker’s World Indoors teammate Hobbs Kessler seems to have figured out how to navigate the rhythms and challenges of the pro circuit over the past few seasons, so he’ll enter his second Trials in a much better position than he was as a freshly-turned-pro high schooler.

More names to watch: Fans of the blue collar racing mentality would love to see Empire Elite’s Eric Holt finally break through in a big way at a U.S. championship, and seeing Holt take former World champ Jake Wightman to the line in New York gave Holtamania diehards plenty of hope. But perennial final-makers like Holt, Johnny Gregorek, Henry Wynne, and Sam Prakel have a whole crop of hungry collegians to contend with, including UW’s magic trio of Luke Houser, Joe Waskom, and Nathan Green.

Houser and Green didn’t look fantastic at NCAAs, but those guys know how to run well in a tactical race. NCAA runner up Elliott Cook is having quite the season (and will be looking for that Oregon home crowd bump), but he doesn’t yet have the racing pedigree on this level. And if fan support made teams, Craig Engels and Matthew Centrowitz would coast to spots on Team USA – but instead, the veterans will have to race their way into contention.

Emily MackayEmily Mackay

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

Women’s 1500 meters

First round: Thursday, June 27th, 8:23pm E.T.

Olympic standard: 4:02.50 Americans with standard: 9

State of the event: When Faith Kipyegon announced her withdrawal from the Pre Classic earlier this season, there was some sick hope that a bumpy buildup might finally bring the six-time global champ back down to earth and give the mere mortals a fighting chance. But with Kipyegon’s utterly dominant wins in both the 1500m and the 5000m at the Kenyan Trials, it’s looking again like a race for silver between a cadre of strong Ethiopian contenders and folks like Laura Muir, Ciara Mageean, and Jessica Hull. But none of those three won World Indoor gold this winter. However, Elle St. Pierre (in the 3000m) and Freweyni Hailu (in the 1500m) did. And Haliu – along with her compatriot Diribe Welteji – did both manage to hand Kipyegon a rare loss at the road mile World Championships last fall.

Top contenders: St. Pierre is the reigning Trials champ and U.S. leader at 3:56.00. She’s managed to come back from childbirth even faster and sharper than before. The only knock on St. Pierre is that she’s double-entered in the 5000m and, if all goes according to plan, will head into the 1500m final having raced roughly eight miles across four rounds over nine days on her legs. But St. Pierre is a monster when it comes to both training and racing, and if anyone can handle the workload, it’s her. Which isn’t to say that she’ll have it easy, as the field features U.S. champs Nikki Hiltz, Elise Cranney, and Sinclaire Johnson. Plus St. Pierre’s own New Balance Boston teammates Heather MacLean and Emily MacKay have had strong spring campaigns as well. The most intriguing question: is this the year when someone manages to both run sub-four in the final and still miss the team?

More names to watch: As if the field wasn’t crowded enough, the Team Boss duo of Dani Jones and Cory McGee will be mixing it up at the front as well. Addy Wiley only has a season’s best of 4:02.78, but she’s less than a year removed from a sub-four performance. And if the 5000m or 800m doesn’t work out, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see OAC’s Josette Andrews or Sage Hurta-Klecker doubling back with a vengeance.

Grant FisherGrant Fisher

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

Men’s 5000 meters

First round: Thursday, June 27th, 11:03pm E.T.

Olympic standard: 13:05.00 Americans with standard: 9

State of the event: When international contenders are dropping surprise sub-12:40s left and right, it’s hard to judge just what a 12:5x performance is worth on a global stage these days. The LA Grand Prix turned out to be something of a Paris preview, featuring a ton of major contenders including Olympic 5000m champ Joshua Cheptegei and Olympic 10,000m champ Selemon Barega. Yet American Grant Fisher was only two spots and less than a second off a top-three finish. That’s comparable to where he ended up in 2022, most memorably finishing 4th only 0.17 seconds off the podium in the Eugene 10,000m. Fisher is the closest anyone’s been to a U.S. distance medal since Paul Chelimo’s bronze in Tokyo, but others like Abdihamid Nur and Woody Kincaid have shown flashes of podium-level potential in the past. That said, to do so they’ll have to go through guys like Cheptegei, Barega, and of course – reigning World champ Jakob Ingebrigtsen, should he choose to double.

Top contenders: When Fisher left Bowerman Track Club and rejoined his high school coach in Park City, Utah, there was some understandable doubt about how the new setup would serve the American record holder. But having since posted a 12:51 indoors and a 26:52 10,000m outdoors, Fisher has shown he’s still the same runner – and coming off a 1500m PB at the NYC Grand Prix, he clearly hasn’t lost any speed. But guys like Nur, Kincaid, and Fisher’s former teammate Sean McGorty always show up and show out in these races as well. There’s a reason why Fisher has been atop the U.S. men’s distance scene for years, but only has one national title to his name so far.

More names to watch: There’s a bunch of 1500m runners entered with the potential of doubling back to the 5000m, including Yared Nuguse, Cole Hocker, and Cooper Teare – but it’s unlikely some or all of them will be back for more if they make the team in the first event. Nico Young and Paul Chelimo will be doubling back from the 10,000m and either riding high on a qualifier or angrily out for revenge. And in a tactical race or one with unexpected withdrawals, it wouldn’t be crazy to see one of the guys who’s a reliable fixture on the pro circuit all year break out – someone like Ahmed Muhumed or Olin Hacker of NAZ Elite, or Morgan Beadlescomb of Very Nice TC. There are more than a few collegians in this one aside from Young, including newly-minted NCAA champ Parker Wolfe and last year’s NCAA XC champ Graham Blanks, but it’d be a bit of a surprise to see them level up to the pros and still do just as well right off the bat.

Elle St. PierreElle St. Pierre

Justin Britton / @JustinBritton

Women’s 5000 meters

First round: Friday, June 21st, 9:22pm E.T.

Olympic standard: 14:52.00 Americans with standard: 8

State of the event: Women’s distance running has leveled up across the board, with seemingly impenetrable barriers like 14 minutes in the 5000m and 29 minutes in the 10,000m coming under threat left and right. The world record in this event has been broken three times by three different athletes since 2020: first by Letesenbet Gidey, then by Faith Kipyegon, then by Gudaf Tsegay. All three are still around and still running well, and Kipyegon’s rapid and successful transition to the 5000m places her in the driver’s seat to pick up more hardware in her new event.

And the new world record holder over 10,000m, Beatrice Chebet, has historically been even better at 5000m and will certainly be helping her countrywoman boost the medal count for Athletics Kenya. Is an American medal out of the question? Certainly not, and after Elle St. Pierre took down Tsegay head-to-head in Glasgow, it feels more likely than it did six months ago. But the top of the 5000m is one of the hardest events to crack right now and it’ll take a truly special performance to break into the podium.

Top contenders: Elle St. Pierre has to be the heavy, heavy favorite here as the U.S. leader (and with, sadly, the injury of American record holder Alicia Monson) at both 1500m and 5000m. The 5000m is arguably the event that better suits her strengths, and it’s first in the schedule, so it would be a shock to see anyone – let alone three people – knock her off the team. The next fastest American this year, Weini Kelati, is focusing on just the 10,000m, which opens the door for Karissa Schweizer and Elise Cranny to channel their recent sub-14:50s into another Olympic berth. Those three are probably the safest bets for the Olympic spots, but they’re not total locks with NCAA champ Parker Valby making her first real foray into pro racing.

More names to watch: OAC’s Josette Andrews hasn’t raced since indoors, so it’s a little unclear what kind of shape she’ll come into the Trials with – but with a 14:46.51 from January, she’s not too far removed from Olympic-caliber performance. Similarly, the jury’s out on how Puma’s Natosha Rogers will bounce back from her marathon debut in Orlando, but she’s been a contender on the track in recent years as well. And while they haven’t quite shown peak performance yet this year, it wouldn’t be crazy to see new moms Rachel Smith or Abbey Cooper in contention. Plus, you can never count out Emily Infeld in a championship – although she’s in the camp of needing to chase the standard as well as a top-three finish if she wants a trip to Paris.

Woody KincaidWoody Kincaid

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

Men’s 10,000 meters

Final: Friday, June 21st, 10:27pm E.T.

Olympic standard: 27:00.00 Americans with standard: 3

State of the event: The most recent fireworks over 10,000m took place in the respective Kenyan and Ethiopian Olympic Trials, which both featured a slew of sub-27 performances, headlined by Yomif Kejelcha’s world-leading 26:31.01. Like the 5000m, the 10,000m podium has seemed ever so slightly out of reach for Americans in recent years, but Grant Fisher should be able to contend on the right day in the right style of race. Let’s not forget, Fisher’s own PB in the event is 26:33.84.

Top contenders: This is likely to be a four-man race for three spots, regardless of where their finishing places shake out. Fisher, NAU’s Nico Young, and Woody Kincaid have the Olympic qualifying mark and Paul Chelimo is within the ranking quota – and no one else is particularly close. So unless something truly insane happens, these guys are all entering the race knowing that there’s really only one other person that they have to beat to claim a spot on Team USA. It’ll be fun to see how Young stacks up against the more experienced racers – but racing conservatively versus vying for the win is probably the smart move.

More athletes to watch: It’s highly unlikely that anyone else claims an Olympic berth, but at least you can beat a bunch of guys and claim a little prize money and bragging rights. The athletes who’ll be looking to make the world ranking system look silly include Drew Hunter of Tinman Elite, Olympic Marathon Trials survivors Conner Mantz, Sam Chelanga, and Zach Panning, and Brooks Beast Dillon Maggard.

Weini KelatiWeini Kelati

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

Women’s 10,000 meters

Final: Saturday, June 29th, 9:09pm E.T.

Olympic standard: 30:40.00 Americans with standard: 2

State of the event: It’s worth noting that Alicia Monson’s American record in this event is now a whopping 67 seconds off the world record set in Eugene in May. That’s not to knock Monson’s incredible achievements as a distance runner, but just to level-set just how high the likes of Gudaf Tsegay, Beatrice Chebet, Letensenbet Gidey, and Sifan Hassan have raised the bar. Tsegay and Chebet will likely once again do battle over 10,000 meters in Paris, and even if the pace is slow early, the caliber of athlete needed to get on the podium is likely a 29-low type. It’s not impossible for an American to crack the top six or so, but a medal-winning performance would require multiple other athletes having off days at the same time.

Top contenders: With Weini Kelati skipping the 5000m and running fresh, she’s gotta be considered the favorite. She’s also the only entrant with the 30:40.00 qualifying standard (as Monson has withdrawn), and without reigning champ Elise Cranny in this event, there’s one less lethal set of legs for a frontrunner like Kelati to worry about. After the 5000m takes place, we’ll have a better sense of where runners like Natosha Rogers, Karissa Schweizer, and Rachel Smith stand, fitness-wise, but rest assured, anyone who does make the team in the shorter event and doubles back should be considered a threat.

And anyone who’s watched any NCAA races this year knows what Parker Valby can do alone, so it will be fascinating to see how she stacks up against pro competition. We’ve unpacked in great detail what she’d have to do to make the team, but the short version is: she’s gotta run at least moderately fast and finish as close to first as possible.

More athletes to watch: Reformed middle-distance runners like Elly Henes and Emily Lipari are always a threat in a kickers’ race, but should they finish top-three there will need to be a quick set of calculations about rankings and performance points to know how they’ll fare in Olympic selection. And if it’s warm out, you can’t count out the possibility that Virginia-based marathoner Keira D’Amato could outlast a whole bunch of humidity-deprived West Coasters and finish high up in her second Olympic Trials of the year.

Kenneth RooksKenneth Rooks

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

Men’s Steeplechase

First round: Friday, June 21st, 7:49pm E.T.

Olympic standard: 8:15.00 Americans with standard: 2

State of the event: In recent years, the story of the men’s steeplechase has been simple: Soufiane El Bakkali takes first, Lamecha Girma takes second, and someone else takes third. That doesn’t look particularly likely to change this year, with both El Bakkali and Girma demonstrating sufficient early season fitness, but the law of large numbers alone would suggest that Girma will one day flip the script on his Moroccan rival. On the U.S. scene, just sending three athletes to Paris isn’t a total given, but there are enough guys in the mix who are either flirting with the 8:15 barrier or could produce a ranking high enough to make the roster that it’s probably better odds than not that we get three qualifiers.

Top contenders: Current and former U.S. champs Kenneth Rooks and Hillary Bor are the cream of the crop in this one, and although Rooks’s Portland Track Fest performance was 0.08 seconds off the standard, he’s well within the qualifying ranking quota. Bor and Anthony Rotich have been doing this long enough that they should be up near the front when it counts, but despite Rotich entering with the top seed he hasn’t been able to beat domestic competition with any consistency.

More athletes to watch: Former NCAA standouts Duncan Hamilton, Matthew Wilkinson and Alec Basten all seem poised for a breakout performance, but they’re evenly matched with more experienced pros like Isaac Updike, Dan Michalski, Travis Mahoney, and Mason Felic. Who comes out on top is anyone’s guess. And while it would be a huge surprise, old-timers will surely be rooting for American record holder Evan Jager to make one last team after a rocky couple years of injury and comeback attempts.

Val ConstienVal Constien

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

Women’s Steeplechase

First round: Monday, June 24th, 8:59pm E.T.

Olympic standard: 9:23.00 Americans with standard: 9

State of the event: Nine minutes ain’t what it used to be in the women’s steeplechase. More and more, sub-nine performances are what it takes to pick up a global medal, and the list of Americans who’ve gone under the barrier has exactly one name on it: Courtney Frerichs. Unfortunately, both Frerichs and Emma Coburn, fixtures of Team USA for most of the last decade, are missing their shot at the team due to untimely injuries. That leaves it highly unlikely that we’ll see red, white, and blue on the podium in Paris this year unless someone levels up in a big way over the summer.

Top contenders: Tokyo Olympian Val Constien is back from a 2023 ACL tear with a vengeance and a new PB, and she’s well positioned to make her second team. Defending champ Krissy Gear was something of a surprise winner at USAs last year, but she won’t be sneaking up on anyone this time. And the 2022 and 2023 NCAA champions will both be in the mix and repping On, as Courtney Wayment and newly-minted pro Olivia Markezich have proven their ability to consistently perform in the 9:10s.

More athletes to watch: Big time jumps aren’t uncommon in the women’s steeple, and that’s exactly what it’ll take for someone else to find themselves in a top-three position. Coburn/Bosshard disciple Gabbi Jennings has proven her mettle on the Diamond League circuit this year and could very well knock a few more ticks off her PB and find herself in contention. And if you like comeback stories, Allie Ostrander is back and clocking lifetime bests as she looks to make her first global steeplechase team since 2019.

Thanks for reading! Follow along with all the Olympic Trials action on the CITIUS MAG YouTube channel, Twitter, and Instagram and don’t forget to subscribe to the CITIUS MAG newsletter for daily updates from Eugene.

David Melly

David began contributing to CITIUS in 2018, and quickly cemented himself as an integral part of the team thanks to his quick wit, hot takes, undying love for the sport and willingness to get yelled at online.