USATF Outdoor Championships, Day 1: The Tale of two 10k’s

By Sam Fariss

EUGENE – To wrap up the first day of the USATF Outdoor Championships, men and women took to the track to run 10,000 meters for the final two events on Thursday. After a day filled with preliminaries and the first halves of multi-discipline events, the distance runners were able to settle in at Hayward Field with near-perfect conditions.

The women’s race was up first, and the field was filled to the brim with talent. Nike/Bowerman Track Club teammates Karissa Schweizer, Elise Cranny, and On Athletics athlete Alicia Monson are no strangers to competing in Eugene. However, it was Cranny who finished in 32:12.30 and strode away with the national title this year.

Alicia Monson, Elise Cranny, USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Hayward Field, University of Oregon, July 6-10, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

Cranny’s eyes seemed glued to Monson’s heels and stayed close behind her as the remaining lap count dwindled, and Monson looked strong, leading the race with 800 meters left. The Bowerman athlete ran a blazing final 300 meters to pass Monson and earn the first-place finish. Monson trailed by just over five seconds, earning 2nd place in 32:17.51.

“I thought Alicia might take it at some point. I just tried to be ready,” Cranny said.

The race pace picked up as the athletes passed the 10-minute mark and finished off the first 1600 meters. Monson gradually crept up the pack but did not lead until only four laps remained, a sight familiar to fans of the distance athlete. With a mile and a half to go, the two athletes joined Schweizer in the top five runners, along with Ednah Kurgat and Natasha Rogers.

Rogers finished the race in 3rd place, followed by Weini Kelati in 4th.

Monson had been on a hot streak, finishing 2nd in the 10,000m in San Juan Capistrano, California earlier this year, as well as 8th in the 5000m at the Paris Diamond League meeting and 4th in the 3000m at the Oslo Diamond League meeting. She and Cranny will be attempting to make a strong appearance in the 5000-meter competition later this weekend.

“I was trying to convince Jerry [Schumacher] to let me do the 1500m,” said Cranny. “Sunday, Monday night I was waffling.”

Schweizer, who had not competed in 50 weeks due to a torn calf muscle, was looking to make her comeback statement but fell just short of a top-three finish, earning 5th place with a time of 32:32.10.

Schweizer and Monson competed in the 5000-meter finals at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. Cranny, Monson, and Schweizer seem poised to represent the United States as the only field athletes with the necessary qualifying time at the World Championships.

Joe Klecker, Woody Kincaid, USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Hayward Field, University of Oregon, July 6-10, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

The men’s event seemed to be a Nike and On Athletics showdown once again. Sam Chelanga, Sean McGorty, Grant Fisher, Conner Mantz, and Woody Kincaid made up almost a quarter of the entrants representing Nike and Bowerman, while Joe Klecker with On Athletics was working to defend his national title from 2022.

Klecker, Fisher, and Kincaid all entered the race with the World Championships’ standard but by the end of the 25 laps around the track, Kincaid earned the win with a time of 28:23.01.

“It was my kind of race. Not fast, not slow, a little bit windy, “ Kincaid said. “Right in my wheelhouse.”

Fisher, Kincaid, and Klecker seemed to be mirroring Monson’s race strategy, which had finished just moments before theirs began, staying toward the middle of the pack, but the trio began moving up in the standings with 10 laps to go.

Chelenga pushed to the front of the group with six laps remaining, followed closely by Chelimo and McGorty. A couple laps farther into the race, Mantz moved into the lead and seemed to be throwing the hammer down, daring his competitors to surpass him.

Woody Kincaid, USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Hayward Field, University of Oregon, July 6-10, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

The top five runners with under 1200 meters remaining were Fisher, Klecker, Kincaid, McGorty, and Mantz. Even the USATF.TV commentators were discussing Kincaid’s famous closing kick and the fact that it appeared as though Fisher and Klecker were trying to build a big enough lead to avoid having to deal with it.

In the final lap, Kincaid picked off both his Nike teammate Fisher and Klecker, who ended up finishing in second at 28:24.50. McGorty passed by Fisher as well to earn 3rd place at 28:24.96. The top 10 runners all finished under the 29-minute mark.

Day two of the US championships will kick off around 11 am PST on Friday. The second day of competition will host the finals events in the decathlon and heptathlon as well as the women’s high jump, men’s triple jump, and both sections of the 100-meter dash.