2017 USATF Outdoor Championship: 5,000 meters preview

By Kevin Liao

June 21, 2017

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This race should be a strange one. As of this writing, six of the top eight entrants are expected to focus on events other than the 5,000 meters. Shannon Rowbury, for instance, will contest heats of the 1,500 meters on Thursday before the Friday night 5,000 meter final. It’s hard to imagine she will opt to race the 5,000 meters, despite the fact she’s the American holder in the event. As a result, the race might end up being a match-up among the top runners who didn’t make the 10K team the night before.

Star/Favorite to watch

I’m naming Shelby Houlihan, assuming Rowbury and Molly Huddle don’t run this event. Houlihan had a strong indoor campaign, winning U.S. titles at one-mile and two-miles, but has raced sparingly outdoors, including an 11th place finish in the 1,500 meters at Pre Classic. However, runners in Jerry Schumacher’s camp have shown to be able to peak at championship races without stellar early season races. Given her track record, there’s reason to believe Houlihan can do the same.

Dark horse pick

Natosha Rogers has had a strong comeback season. Seen as an up-and-comer back in 2012 when she won the NCAA 10k title, Rogers suffered from injuries and briefly left the sport. Now she’s back and is being coached by guru Steve Magness. She ran 15:08.29 at Oxy, so don’t be surprised if she’s in the mix in Sacramento.

Fun fact/Stat

Karissa Schweizer, the junior from Missouri, won the NCAA cross country, indoor 5k, and outdoor 5k titles. I don’t have a fun fact here and am too lazy to do real research, but I have to imagine not many people have done this. She’s a baller and will certainly be in the mix late in the race.

Predictions of who makes the team:

1. Shelby Houlihan: For the aforementioned reasons.

2. Marielle Hall: She ran a solid 15:11.02 at Pre Classic, and given her prior championship performances, should be ready to go in Sacramento.

3. Natosha Rogers: Not just a dark horse pick, but someone who genuinely can make the team. Look for a PEAK PERFORMANCE.


Unfortunately, last year’s Olympic Trials champ Bernard Lagat appears to have finally called it quits. Looking at the entries, only five men in my mind have a legitimate shot at the U.S. team — Paul Chelimo, Eric Jenkins, Ryan Hill, Ben True and Hassan Mead.

Star/Favorite to watch

America’s star in this event has to be Rio silver medalist Paul Chelimo. I mean, who else has such a stellar Twitter feed AND a country music song written about him? Chelimo had a solid indoor season and ran decently at the Pre Classic, where he was seventh in the 5k in 13:10.11. There’s no reason to think he’s not the favorite heading into Sacramento.

Dark horse pick

Honestly, nobody. I see the aforementioned five men with a real shot of making the team — Chelimo, Jenkins, True, Hill, and Mead. I have a hard time seeing anyone else in the mix, especially those doubling back from the 10k run in brutal heat the night before.

Fun fact/Stat

Did you know Eric Jenkins is a super duper secret rap star? No, I’m not joking. Watch/read this and be ready to be amazed.

Predictions of who makes the team

1. Paul Chelimo: No question.
2. Eric Jenkins: He’s run some solid doubles earlier this spring. A fresh Jenkins should be able to make this team.
3. Ben True: He broke the American 5k road record in Boston in April but since then ran poorly at Pre Classic, where he ran just 13:28.24. No reason to think he won’t bounce back from that.
**I’m only not picking Hassan Mead because I’m assuming he makes the 10k team and will scratch this race.**

Kevin Liao

Sacramento-based amateur runner, photographer and writer. Once interviewed Taoufik Makhloufi in French. Enjoys politics a lot. Follow him on Twitter @RunLiao.