Going For Gold: 5000

You can view all of the NCAA entries by clicking the link here. Keep in mind that the names are listed by their seed in the entry list. There may be one or two switches for the sake of formatting.

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3k Steeple

Grant Fisher (Stanford)

The Stanford ace will once again be in the title conversation after another strong spring season. After pulling off the upset over Knight last spring, Fisher will look to do the same thing again in 2018. His closing speed is top notch and if the pace at Nationals begins to slow like it did last year, there's a very good chance that he can sling off the curve and repeat as the champion.

Andy Trouard (NAU)

Trouard and Fisher have both shown that sitting on Knight's shoulder and unleashing a kick off the curve could be the most effective strategy when fighting for a title. Trouard will need to find the same great positioning that he had during indoors if he wants to replicate his title performance.

Sean McGorty (Stanford)

The Cardinal veteran has had a very strong comeback in the spring of 2018 with a personal best of 3:40 in the 1500 and a seasonal best of 13:41. McGorty may not have the same fitness that he did in 2016, but he still has quite a bit of endurance and has developed some speed along the way. His kick is solid, but it won't be enough in just the final straightaway. If he's able to start his kick from 400 meters out, he may be able to get enough of a jump on the rest of the field and pull away for his first national title.

Edwin Kurgat (Iowa State)

The ISU sophomore runs like a veteran. He's incredibly patient, knowns when to respond to certain moves, and has enough turnover to stay competitive at the end. His Stanford Invite and West Regional Championship 5k's shows that he likes to work from behind and gradually move up to the lead pack. If he's able to start from the middle of the chase pack instead of towards the back, he may not need to expend all of that energy moving to the front. That may leave him with enough closing speed to contend with the elites.

Connor McMillan (BYU)

Connor McMillan continues to blow away my expectations with each race. He's had a variety of strong races with excellent times. His personal bests of 13:38 and 28:09 this season shows that he can thrive in fast races. At the same time, he's got some decent turnover which was beneficial for him in his West Regional performances. If the pace is slower and McMillan is capable of hanging on to the outside of the top group, he may have a shot to respond to the final kicks and moves being made.

Dillon Maggard (Utah State)

In a year with so much depth and talent, Maggard has not been given the recognition he deserves despite a hitting a new PR of 13:30 at Payton Jordan. As talented as Maggard is, his closing speed isn't as strong as some of the other competitors in this field. If he's able to get a jump on the field by making his surge in the middle of the race (or a little after), he might get enough distance on the rest of the field to pull off the win.

Cole Rockhold (Colorado State)

Rockhold tweeted out last week "Every time I run well it's called an upset". I'll confess, I may be guilty of that, but we (along with most knowledgable running fans) knew that Rockhold was going to qualify for Nationals unlike the announcers. But I digress...

After running 13:40 at the Stanford Invite, 3:40 at Bryan Clay, and out-kicking Maggard at the Mountain West Championships, Rockhold looks like someone who could threaten for the title. Admittedly, it would still be an upset if Rockhold went on to win, but he's at least capable of pulling it off. With a solid kick and 3:40 1500 speed, Rockhold will need to position himself within the top pack if he wants to take the win. If he doesn't let them get away, guys like Knight, Trouard, and Fisher may be in trouble.

Colby Gilbert (Washington)

The Washington senior is an aggressive runner who will rarely let the lead pack go if he's having a good day. He's given Cheserek a run for his money a couple of times and I expect something similar this weekend. The only thing I notice is that in championship racing, he's always a few rows off from the lead group. Gilbert may want to position himself near the leaders with two or three laps to go if he wants to compete. Against a field like this, he can't bank on a come from behind win.

Zach Perrin (Colorado)

At the West Regional Championships, Zach Perrin finished 6th in his heat. However, I think it seemed somewhat obvious that he was easing up and still had a bit more to give. With 1:49 speed, almost no one in this field has the turnover that Perrin has. He was less than a second away from upsetting Fisher at the Cardinal Classic and I think that in a perfect tactical scenario, Perrin is capable of crossing the line in first.

Clayton Young (BYU)

BYU has a wide array of talent with guys who can run from the front or kick in a final sprint. I think when you're looking at guys like Clayton Young, I'd like to see him take out the pace out a bit harder and eliminate anyone who likes to rely on their finishing speed. If Young and his BYU teammates can collectively do that at the front of the pack, the rest of the field will struggle to find a way around them as the final few laps near.

Rory Linkletter (BYU)

Much like teammate Connor McMillan, Linkletter has a super underrated kick. Just look at what he did in the 10k at Nationals last spring or his finish in the 10k at the West Regional Championship. If the pace is slower, Linkletter has a shot of chasing down the top group from 400 meters out. He just needs to make sure that guys like Knight, Fisher, and Trouard are within reach.

Cooper Teare (Oregon)

Teare may have started his kick a little too soon at the West Regional Championships, but timing certain moves is an easy fix. He'll need to position himself at the front a bit earlier in the race and delay his kick for about another 200 meters. If he can stay patient, his 3:59 mile speed could play a huge role in the NCAA finals.

Amon Kemboi (Campbell)

Kemboi has simply been incredible. He ran 3:39 at his conference championships, defeated Linkletter at Mt. SAC with a 13:37, and ran 28:55 in his second 10k ever. The Campbell sophomore has a ton of potential and enough fitness to battle with the top tier elites (including Knight). My thoughts? Just go to the front. Maybe not right away, but after the halfway point there's no reason why Kemboi can't be in the lead pack. He has the range to contend in a fast or tactical race. If his dominant performance at the East Regional Championships was any indication, he'll have a shot at winning it all.

Vincent Kiprop (Alabama)

We may be impressed with Kiprop's endurance and stamina, but his kick is insanely good. Even in a fast 10k, he out-kicked Lopez Lomong and did the same thing in the East Region 10k. Obviously, this isn't the 10k and he wasn't able to hang with Kemboi in the semifinal at Regionals. That said, there's plenty of turnover left with Kiprop and he could do some serious damage if he's still in the race with 300 to go.

Ben Veatch (Indiana)

Speaking of athletes with great kicks, Indiana frosh Ben Veatch is certainly in that conversation. I would argue that Veatch has a kick that's just as good as some veterans, but he'll occasionally delay his final kick a little too late. Whether it be BIG 10's or East Regionals, the top group always seems to slip away. He'll need to be in contact with the leaders if he wants to reap the benefits of his closing speed.

Chartt Miller (Iona)

Much like Teare, Miller has a 3:59 mile PR to his name which could come in handy when a fast finish is needed. The Iona senior has extensive experience, but he'll need to make sure that he stays in contact with the leaders (which is usually half the battle). If the pace is lagging and the field is crowded, Miller will need to take that time to quickly work his way to the front if he wants a chance at winning it all.

Jaret Carpenter (Purdue)

Carpenter has thrived in fast races while struggling in slower, more tactical meets (think BIG 10's). The tempo will need to be quicker if Carpenter is going to get into a rhythm and stay comfortable among the top group. At the same time, he'll need to one of the first men to make their surges in the final laps. Kemboi and Kiprop began to quickly drop the pace during the final moments of the East Region 5k which caught Carpenter's chase pack by surprise and forced them to play catch up. If the Purdue sophomore can be assertive and decisive, he'll at least stay competitive.

Philo Germano (Syracuse)

Aside from the final 100 meters of his East Regional 5k, Germano looked incredibly strong. He has developed a decent amount of speed for someone who is long-distance oriented. I think a pace just under 14 minutes and better timed surge/kick could be the deciding factor in how well he performs. He has the strength to cover most moves, now he just needs to time them correctly.

Alfred Chelanga (Alabama) + Gilbert Kigen (Alabama) +

Lawrence Kipkoech (Campbell)

I'm putting these three together because their racing style is so similar. I think a quote from NAU coach Mike Smith may be appropriate here. That quote was, "When in doubt, hit the gas" and that's exactly what these three runners epitomize. This trio is a group of aggressive runners who like to run hard, get out of traffic, and dictate the pace. Personally, I like having these guys in the field. With most championship races becoming slower and more strategic, everyone thinks that they have the kick to win (although most don't). However, if this group displays the full extent of their front-running abilities, I think they could shock a few people. At the very least, they'll give themselves a shot.

Justyn Knight (Syracuse)

Knight's section should have come after Chelanga, but there isn't much to talk about for the man who ran 13:18 earlier this season. Whether the race is fast or slow, crowded or strung out, Knight will find a way to fight for the win. He'll be favored to take home the title if he can find a way to handle the competitors who will come flying off the curve. His positioning and timing will be the decisive factors in a tactical race.

Conor Lundy (Princeton)

I'm not gonna lie, I honestly didn't expect to see Lundy qualifying for Eugene. He doesn't even show up in the top 100 (for any event) on TFRRS. With that in mind, Lundy has nothing to lose. He's an exceptional young talent that still has a lot to learn, so what's stopping him from going out there and mixing it up with the NCAA elites? Who knows? If the pace is slow enough (and it usually is), Lundy might find himself an ideal position while his competitors are caught in the crowd of legs behind him.

Zach Long (Tennessee)

There was so much to like about the Stanford Invite 5k. Long had beautiful execution as he got to the front, found a great spot on the shoulder of the leaders, and simply sat there for most of the race. While guys like Day, Rockhold, and a handful of professionals fought for position, Long was happily running on the exterior of lane one. When the final sprint began, Long had the best position and enough energy to out-kick a 3:56 (altitude) miler in Tyler Day. If he can do the same exact thing at NCAA's, we could see a huge upset. If you don't think Long has the wheels to close with the top guys in the final 200 meters, just remember that he ran four 1500 meter finals throughout the season (six if you count a DMR anchor and SEC prelim). His speed development could be the difference maker in this race.