We have four men that sit underneath the 14:00 mark for 5000 meters this year. That’s the fewest since 2015 when only three men broke the barrier. Two of these athletes have been household names in the event the last three years while two new athletes enter the fold. Behind that top contingent, we have a very deep field with numerous contenders who will be in play for an All-American spot.
Leading this top group is Grand Valley State’s Zach Panning. Panning is the reigning champion from last year where he held off the likes of James Ngandu and others. Coming into the weekend, Panning has to be the favorite. He has a mark of 13:37 this season and is eight seconds ahead of the second seeded athlete (Elias Gedyon). Panning will be doubling back from the 10,000 which is contested on Thursday night. He did it last year and came away with the title in the 5000 so this appear to be a major issue. The biggest question everyone is likely wondering is what will Panning’s strategy be?
The duo of Elias Gedyon and Sydney Gidabuday, both from Adams State, likely pose the biggest threats to Panning. Gidabuday won the 5000 title during indoor season while Gedyon was able to take home the 3000 meter title this past winter. Both used the same strategy of allowing Panning to do all the work up front and then, with a lap left, went around to out-kick him in the homestretch.
Gidabuday holds a personal best of 13:29, but has run "only" 13:59 this season, granted it’s the only time he’s run one this season. As for Gedyon, he has run 13:45 this season and it’s the only time he’s ever run the 5000 on the track (not bad for a debut). Both are entered in the 1500 as well, meaning they’ll have two races under their belts unless there is a failure to make the final.
The other duo that is at the top of the TFRRS list is Western Colorado’s Taylor Stack and Charlie Sweeney. They ran their best races at the Oxy Invitational just a couple of weekends ago. Stack won the event in a strong time of 13:58. Sweeney was right behind him in 3rd place as he ran 14:00. The Mountaineers were All-Americans during the indoor season as Stack took home 8th place in the 5000 and then came back for 6th in the 3000. Sweeney was the 7th place finisher in the 5000. In addition to the 5k, Stack is running the steeplechase as well which would mean he could be racing for three straight days while Sweeney will be attempting the 10k/5k double (like Panning).
Ruben Dominguez from Cal Poly Pomona had the fastest time in the country for most of the season when he ran 14:01 early on at the Mike Fanelli Classic. It was a big mark from Dominguez (despite his best being 14:04 from 2017) as it felt we had another athlete who could compete for a top spot. Dominguez was recently apart of a fantastic conference race that saw him finish runner-up. Eddie King from Chico State is the athlete who held Dominguez off from the top podium spot and his time of 14:06 from Mt. SAC was a seven second improvement. The two CCAA athletes are in a prime position to finish in the top five this weekend as they’re both only entered in the 5000 and will have fresh legs.
Marcelo Laguera is a name that gets forgotten because he didn’t race during the indoor season. The senior Thunderwolf outlasted Panning at the Cross Country National Championship in the fall en route to a surprise title victory. He’s run 14:08 this season and has the #10 fastest time in the country. He will also be doubling back from the 10,000 from Thursday, but could Laguera pull off the same national meet magic that we saw in the fall?
Josh Hoskinson is yet another RMAC athlete who is making the trip to Texas for the 5000 meters. The 3rd place finisher from the indoor season will be coming back to try and improve upon that mark this weekend. He’s solely attempting the 5000 this time around meaning he can run with the lead pack from the gun on fresh legs.
Another name who should be vying for All-American spots are Victor Moreau from Academy of Art. He’s improved in every single race this season and has shown strong, consistent performances over the past few months.
Mount Olive’s Tai Smith has run 14:08 this season which was a 16 second improvement and with fresh legs, he should be able to replicate that. Others like Tanner Chada, Tom Goforth, and Luke Julian all hold nearly identical marks of 14:10 this season. Chada is the only athlete who will be fresh going in as Goforth will be running the 10,000 and Julian will have run the 1500.
The last name to keep an eye on is Daniel Wallis from Queens (N.C.). He will also be running the 1500, but proved during indoors that he has the ability to double after he finished 2nd in the mile and then 8th in the 3000.
This race is going to be fast from the get-go. After seeing what happened during the indoor season, there is no chance that Panning is going to let this get slow. He wants to run his race hard and he’s going to force everyone else to do the same. We mentioned that Gidabuday and Gedyon stalked him during indoors, and they’ll likely do the same this time. How will Stack and Sweeney respond to a quick pace? There will be a chase pack, but the question is how many will decide to break away from that group and how early. You’ll likely see a five to six man race turn into a three-man race fairly quickly.
Zach Panning, Grand Valley State
Sydney Gidabuday, Adams State
Taylor Stack, Western Colorado
Josh Hoskinson, Colorado Mines
Elias Gedyon, Adams State
Marcelo Laguera, CSU-Pueblo
Daniel Wallis, Queens (N.C.)
Victor Moreau, Academy of Art
There is an overwhelming favorite and it’s Caroline Kurgat. The Alaska Anchorage senior has been rewriting record books this season and has already won the 5000 and 3000 titles during the indoor season. She’s been able to separate herself from most of her competition and has done it in convincing fashion.
She’s coming back as the reigning champion in the 10,000 and 5000 and there doesn’t really seem to be anyone who can challenge her in the late stages of a race. She’s run 15:40 this season and it’s 20 seconds faster than the second seed. I don’t think that there is anyone that can knock her off the top spot.
The challengers will likely put up a strong fight until the very end. Eilish Flanagan from Adams State has run 16:00 this season, Leah Hanle has run 16:02, and Julia Howley has run 16:10. After that, no one has run faster than 16:30 this season, making it tough to see anyone else being apart of that lead group. Flanagan will be doubling back from the steeplechase, Hanle will be coming back from the 10k, and Howley will also be coming back from the steeple. Will any of these ladies be able to have fresh enough legs to run with Kurgat long enough to give themselves a chance at the end?
Looking at the rest of the field, it’s led by Haleigh Hunter-Galvan from Adams State. She’s run 16:30 this season and she’ll likely be apart of the steeplechase final the day before. Allie Ludge from Grand Valley State has also run 16:30 this season and she will also be coming back from another race in the 1500.
Two names who have shown some definite range are Chloe Cook from Colorado Mines and Casey Monoszlay from Cal Poly Pomona. Cook was a mile and 3000 meter qualifier during the indoor season. She was an All-American in the mile, but didn’t have the greatest double back in the 3000. Meanwhile, Monoszlay has posted a top 25 mark in three events this outdoor season (800, 1500, 5000). She’s chosen the longer events as her strongest ones and if she can stick around the pack long enough, her leg speed should give her a shot at an All-American bid.
Eileen Stressling of Azusa Pacific and Gina Patterson of Grand Valley State both have personal bests better than their marks from this season. They’ve run 16:32 and 16:36 respectively this season, but have marks in the 16:20's for their personal bests. They’ll likely need to return to this form to have a chance at an All-American bid. Both women will be doubling with the 10,000 as their first race and that might be their best race.
The rest of the field is pretty similar in their times. However, Hanna Groeber of Grand Valley State was an All-American during the indoor season. Despite her having the #13 fastest time this season, she has the experience to be successful. Also, be sure to keep an eye on Ida Narbuvoll of U-Mary who was 9th during indoors. She’s another name who should be considered to have success on the big stage.
Other names to watch for include Lauren Bailey from Indianapolis, Alexa Shindruk from Central Washington, and Malena Grover from Adams State.
This is Kurgat’s race to lose. I’m not entirely sure how she will win it, but there’s the obvious two options. Bide her time and then strike late (causing everyone to fall off) or go straight from the gun. If I had to guess, she will bide her time. It’s going to be a strong race for 2nd place and it’s probably going to be a group of four to five women chasing silver.
Caroline Kurgat, Alaska Anchorage
Leah Hanle, Mount Olive
Eilish Flanagan, Adams State
Julia Howley, Simon Fraser
Gina Patterson, Grand Valley State
HaLeigh Hunter-Galvan, Adams State
Allie Ludge, Grand Valley State
Ida Narbuvoll, U-Mary