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Bring on the Heat: The Top Contenders in the Men’s 5,000m Olympic Trial

The rescheduled 5,000m final will be run Sunday morning. Here's who to watch in the field of veterans and upstarts.

Men’s 5,000 Final Preview

When: 10 a.m. PST, Sunday, June 27, 2021 

TV Coverage: The men’s 5,000-meter run final will be shown live on NBC’s Peacock livestream service at 11 a.m. PDT/2 p.m. EDT (for those without access, live updates will be posted on our twitter feed).  Highlights will be shown during NBC’s live broadcast from 4–5:30 p.m. PDT/ 7–8:30 EDT. 

The men’s 5,000-meter run final at the U.S. Olympic Trials on Sunday, June 27, will be hot, but probably not because of a blazing pace. The final was moved from 4:30 p.m. start time to 10 a.m. because of the heat, but temperatures are still expected to soar into the 100s by early Sunday morning, meaning it’s highly unlikely that the race will start off with a hell-bent-for-leather pace. 

“Everyone has to run in the heat,” says Woody Kincaid, who is doubling back in the 5,000 after winning the 10,000 on June 18. “It’s not a game-changer in any sense. It’s going to be hot in Tokyo and this will be a good representation of how they will run, if they make the team. The plan is to make the team in the 5,000, but it’s going to be a fight for those top three spots.”

Paul Chelimo was third in the 5,000 at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials but went on to earn the silver medal in Rio. He’s still the class of the field at age 30, but he missed some training and hasn’t raced much (13:09.90 indoors in March and a 7:41.69 3,000m in May) after spending time in Kenya after the untimely death of his brother in the spring. He looked just fine winning the second semifinal heat on Thursday in 13:36.66 so expect him to challenge for the win.

“It’s been a journey, it’s been tough,” Chelimo says. “Losing my brother a month and a half ago led to the worst situation I never wanted to have, but it is what it is. I’m really, really fit now and I’m where I want to be. I came here and qualified for the finals, and the finals should be fun. I don’t want anything less than the win.”

Kincaid, 28, and his Nike Bowerman Track Club teammate Grant Fisher, 24, are coming off their superb 1-2 finish in the 10,000m on June 18, but they’re still hungry for more. They headed to the high-altitude environs of Park City, Utah, during the interim, but looked fresh in finishing 2-3 in the first semifinal race. Fisher’s 13:02.53 leads the U.S. list during the outdoor season.

At 33, Emmanuel Bor is the second-oldest athlete in the field but he’s inspired to try to make the Olympic team alongside younger brother, Hilary Bor, who won the 3,000m steeplechase to secure his second straight Olympic berth. Bor has run better over 10,000m in the outdoor season (27:22 in May, but only a 10th–place 28:05 in the Olympic Trials on June 18) but he did clock a 13:05.60 indoors back in March.

Eric Jenkins has revived his career this year after several down years that followed his sterling 2016 campaign. The former University of Oregon star finished a heart-breaking fourth in the 5,000 at the Olympic Trials that year, missing out on an Olympic berth by .06 seconds. He hasn’t run a world-class time since he clocked a 13:13 in 2017, but his 13:20 effort a few weeks ago shows he’s fit, even if lacking the all-out closing speed he possessed in 2016.

Jenkins ran competitively through the first half of the 10,000m final on June 18, but then dropped out with 3k to go. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a meet like this fighting for a spot on a team, and I couldn’t relax and I let the moment overwhelm me,” says Jenkins, 29, who looked good wining the first 5,000 semifinal on Thursday in 13:43.18. “I’m going to go into with the same mindset as I did with (the semifinal) and that’s race to win. You look at the guys who will be in the final and it’s a star-studded field.”

The sixth and final runner who has the Olympic standard is Cooper Teare, one of several young college runners in the race. The 21-year-old University of Oregon star won the NCAA Championships two weeks ago at Hayward Field in 13:12.27 and he’ll have the home crowd of Eugene faithful behind him. Other young stars to keep an eye on are 18-year-old Northern Arizona University freshman Nico Young (13:24.26), Eduardo Herrera of the University of Colorado (13:24.46) and the BYU duo of Conner Mantz (13:24.78) and Casey Clinger (13:24.90), who have been training with Olympic marathoner Jared Ward. 

Lastly, a shout-out is well-deserved for veteran Garrett Heath, who at 35, turned in a wicked kick in his semifinal race to snare an automatic qualifying spot for the final. The former Stanford All-American has numerous top-five finishes at U.S. championships in his career and a seventh-place showing in the 1,500m at the 2010 World Indoor Championships. Heath was 13th in the 5,000m at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Given that only six runners in the 16-runner field have already met the 13:13.50 Olympic qualifying standard, the race will very likely come down to those six runners, even if one of the other runners sneaks into the top three. (Several key contenders scratched from the 5,000 prior to the semifinals, including Joe Klecker, Lopez Lomong, Sean McGorty and Cole Hocker.)

5,000-meter Run Field

By hip/bib number, with season-best time

  1. Emmanuel Bor, 33, Colorado Springs, Colo., Nike/U.S. Army, 13:05.60
  2. Garrett Heath, 35, Seattle, Wash., Brooks Beasts Track Club, 13:25.72
  3. Thomas Ratcliffe, 23, Chapel Hill, N.C., North Carolina, 13:20.88
  4. Conner Mantz, 22, Provo, Utah, BYU, 13:24.78
  5. Eric Jenkins, 29, Portland, Ore., Nike, 13:20.18
  6. Nico Young, 18, Flagstaff, Ariz., Northern Arizona, 13:24.26
  7. Cooper Teare, 21, Eugene, Ore., Oregon, 13:12.27
  8. Ian Shanklin, 22, Raleigh, N.C., North Carolina State, 13:23.48
  9. Grant Fisher, 24, Portland, Ore., Nike Bowerman Track Club, 13:02.53
  10. Morgan Beadlescomb, 23, East Lansing, Mich., Michigan State, 13:21.40
  11. Eduardo Herrera, 23, Boulder, Colo., Colorado, 13:24.46
  12. Hasaan Mead, 31, Beaverton, Ore., Nike Oregon Track Club Elite, 13:22.11
  13. Robert Brandt, 24, Washington, D.C., Georgetown, 13:19.11
  14. Paul Chelimo, 30, Colorado Springs, Colo., Nike, 13:04.60
  15. Woody Kincaid, 28, Beaverton, Ore., Nike Bowerman Track Club, 13:24.64
  16. Casey Clinger, 22, Provo, Utah, BYU, 13:24.90