FIERCE KICK BRINGS KINCAID FIRST OLYMPIC BERTH AND USA TITLE
By Rich Sands, @sands
(c) 2021 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission.
EUGENE, Oregon (18-Jun) — After 23 relatively conservative laps of the men’s 10,000-meter run at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Track & Field here tonight, the real racing finally began. And when it was over two circuits later, Woody Kincaid had made his first Olympic team, using a devastating last-lap sprint to win the race in 27:53.61.
His training partner Grant Fisher (27:54.29) finished second, with Joe Klecker (27:54.90) grabbing the third and final spot for Team USA at the Tokyo Games.
With the Hayward Field crowd still buzzing after Ryan Crouser’s world record in the shot put earlier in the evening, a field of 25 runners set out on a windy evening, with temperature at 24C/75F. For a moment on the second and third laps it looked like NCAA cross country champ Conner Mantz of Brigham Young might try to push the tempo fast enough to hit the Olympic qualifying standard of 27:28.00.
Alas, he soon backed off and a variety of runners, including Georgetown’s Robert Brandt, took turns at the front.
Not even 4000 meters into the race, disaster struck for reigning national champion and two-time Olympian Lopez Lomong. The 36 year-old pulled up lame and, in obvious pain, left the track.
Emmanuel Bor moved to the lead at 4400 meters and set the pace through 5000 (13:57.04). Then, between 6400 and 8800 meters Brandt did most of the front running, steadily clicking off 68-second laps. This was far too slow to hit the standard, and the realization that it would come down to a final burst for the line began to set it.
Kincaid was lurking near the back of the pack for most of the way. “I was pretty far back at 5K, but I know we have a long way to go,” he said of what was going through his mind. “If I’m as tired as I am right now, everybody else is feeling it too. I just waited for it to come back to me.”
Two-time Olympic medalist (and University of Oregon grad) Galen Rupp —who has already qualified for Tokyo after winning the marathon trials last year— moved into fourth with seven laps to go, much to the delight of the crowd.
Sixteen men were still in contention at 9000 meters after a series of comfortable 68-second laps when Reid Buchanan stormed to the front with two laps to go. That’s when the things started heating up. The penultimate lap went in about 63 seconds, then at the bell, Fisher moved to the front, with Kincaid and Klecker on his heels as the trio pulled away from their rivals.
With 200 meters to go the Olympic team was set, the only question remaining was the order of finish. Kincaid smoothly accelerated past Fisher onto the homestretch and covered the final 100 meters in 12.54 seconds, capping off a 53.47 last lap. Fisher covered that final circuit in 54.53 to hold off Klecker for the runner-up spot. All three men were first time Olympians.
“The last four laps were exactly as I imagined it — just making that hot move and staying on it,” noted Kincaid, who attended the University of Portland and said he felt a home field advantage at Hayward. At that point he knew he was in good shape to make the team. “The last lap is the easiest part of any race because it’s everything you got. Getting into position to win is the hard part.”
Ben True (27:58.88) finished in the unlucky fourth-place position, ahead of Mantz (27:59.37) and Rupp (27:59.43). True, 35 and competing without a sponsor, missed making the 2016 team in the 5000m by finishing fifth, just 48/100ths of a second out of third place.
Kincaid says he plans to double back in the 5000, which begins with the heats on Thursday. He is the fifth-fastest American of all time at that distance, with a personal best of 12:58.10.
Fisher —one of the few high school boys to break four minutes in the mile— only made his debut at the 10,000 distance this year. “A 10-K is a long time to be out there,” said the Stanford grad, who won the NCAA 5000m title in 2017. “I’m very used to 5Ks and 1,500s. I’ve been doing those since high school. But I’ve never really been a super high mileage guy, and a lot of guys I’m competing against have more miles in their legs than I do.”
His first attempt, in February, yielded an impressive 27:11.29, which immediately put him in the conversation for the Olympic Trials. “If you asked me six months ago if I thought I had a shot I’d say maybe, but over the last few months I’ve gained confidence,” he said.
Klecker made his 10,000 debut last December, clocking 27:35.57 wearing road shoes. He improved to 27:23.44 last May in spikes, getting his Olympic qualifying mark. He was a two-time NCAA runner up at Colorado, in the indoor 5000 as a junior and cross country as a senior. He comes with an impressive distance-running pedigree. His mother, Janis, was a 1992 Olympian in the marathon, while dad Barney once held the U.S. record for 50 miles.
“Both my parents have just played such a supportive role,” Klecker said. “They never pushed me into things. They have just always been there for me when I have questions for them. I was able to succeed because it was me pushing myself.”