Tracktown, USA: The Basics + Men’s 10K Preview

by Chris McClung

The first big race is tonight with the 10,000m Finals for men and women. I will attempt to approach these previews less like a sports writer or track geek and more like a storyteller.  So, here we go…

(Missed my intro to this blog series? You can catch it here for context)

Before I get to the 10K preview, let’s start with some basic info, so you can follow the events more closely:

The TV schedule

Set your DVRs now. Here is the TV schedule by day with the events to be aired during each TV segment:

http://running.competitor.com/2012/06/news/2012-u-s-olympic-trials-track-field-tv-schedule_54150

 A few things to note:

– Some of the events are shown on NBC Sports HD (channel 1640 for AT&T Uverse and 1646 for Time Warner), and some are shown on NBC (channels 4 or 1004 on AT&T and 4 or 1521 on TW). Note the differences. In general, weeknight races will be shown on NBC Sports and weekend races on NBC.

– The TV schedule at the above link shows TV times in Eastern time, while the events listed under each segment show their Pacific start time. That is ridiculously confusing. Subtract 1 hour from the Eastern times to match our TV times, and add 2 hours to the event schedule to see which events will be shown live during each segment. Note: the downtime between each event will be used to replay events taking place before live TV kicks on.

– I will give you event-specific info before each event preview and will use only Central Times, so you will know exactly when/where to watch.

Olympic Qualifying Basics

This can be confusing for the distance events because Olympic Qualifying times become a factor to make the team, and not all athletes in the field will have reached the Olympic Qualifying times. You will hear about A standards and B standards, Olympic standards and Olympic Trials standards. Boiling it down to the basics, the US will send 3 athletes to the Olympics in each of the previewed events.

And, those 3 athletes who qualify will be the 3 athletes in the race with the highest places that ALSO have run the Olympic Qualifying “A Standard” time in that particular event (either prior to the race or in the race itself). For this reason, race tactics become interesting because certain athletes in the field will need not only to place highly but also a specific time in order to make the team. Both time and place matter.

It should also be noted that, since these Trials also serve as our National Championships this year, there are athletes who race in certain events who may choose not to go to the Olympics in that event even if they qualify.

Now to the 10K…

10,000m Event Preview

The Basics

  • Date: Today, Friday, June 22
  • Start times and TV Schedule: Men at 8:45 pm CST, Women at 9:20 pm CST
  • Channel: NBC Sports HD (1640 for ATT, 1646 for TW)
  • Olympic A Standard times: Men – 27:45 (66.6 seconds per lap), Women – 31:45 (76.2 seconds per lap)
  • Start list: http://www.usatf.org/events/2012/OlympicTrials-TF/entry/status.asp

Men’s Preview: Former Olympians vs. the Other Guys

This is the deepest men’s 10K field at the Trials in recent history. With 8 runners holding the Olympic A standard, and another 5 within 10 seconds of it, this race is setting up to be good and fast. Your top 3 finishers will almost certainly run faster than 27:45 (66.6 sec laps) and make the Olympic Team. The one question will be… who in the field is willing to keep the pace honest from the start?

Of the 13 runners who have a legitimate shot, 3 of them – Galen Rupp, Dathan Ritzenhein, and Matt Tegenkamp – were Olympians in 2008 and are your favorites. The other 10 contenders are all hard-working, blue-collar runners, each of them will need some magic but any could find themselves on the podium. Those 10 contenders (in no particular order) are Robert “Bobby” Curtis, Chris Derrick, Bobby Mack, Ben True, Brent Vaughn, Tim Nelson, Scott Bauhs, Ryan Vail, Joseph Chirlee, and Aaron Braun.

Here of some of the stories to watch:

Galen Rupp – The Lebron James of US Distance Running

Galen Rupp is the Lebron James of distance running. Plucked from a soccer field at age 12, he has been coached by Alberto Salazar (the great American marathoner) and essentially sponsored by Nike since then. His athletic development has occurred with a silver spoon in his mouth, and he has both fans and critics because of it. For the longest time, critics claimed that he couldn’t close… couldn’t finish (sound familiar Lebron fans?), but now his finishing kick is one of the most devastating in the field. Given his recent form, it will take a serious mishap or choke job for him to lose this race.

The big question with him: will he help his training partner Dathan Ritzenhein with early pacing because Dathan still needs his Olympic A Standard time? [Note: you can read about Dathan in my blog from the Olympic Marathon Trials here). He attempts to make the team in the 10K after missing it in the marathon.] Either way, look for Galen to keep the pace honest early and then close hard and fast with his punishing kick to get the win.

Chris Derrick – The Bridesmaid

Chris just graduated from Stanford. Chris’s running career so far can be summed up with one phrase: “Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.” He finished his running career at Stanford as arguably the fastest American collegiate never to have won an NCAA title. He finished 2nd, 3rd, or 4th in NCAA final races 8 times, always right there and every time outkicked. Can he win tonight? Probably not. Can he make the team and cast off his demons from college? We shall see…

Bobby Mack – The Scrapper

Bobby is one of the athletes who still needs the A standard (and a lot to go right) in order to make the team. He will surely go for it though.  He is that kind of guy – a fighter. In the past year, Bobby has 3 US titles (in cross country, road, and trail), but still has no sponsor. He has a Master’s Degree but currently works at a local running store in North Carolina to make ends meet and to get the gear he needs to furnish/support his 100+ mile weeks. Will he get the last laugh and prove his would-be sponsors wrong, laughing all the way to London?

Aaron Braun – The Hard-Working Dad

Aaron is probably the least known but most accomplished and versatile runner in the professional ranks at the moment. He trains with Team McMillian Elite in Flagstaff, Arizona, a team sponsored by Adidas under a similar model as Rogue Athletic Club. In the past 18 months, Aaron has finished on the podium in races ranging from one mile to 10 miles… oh, and he became a dad in the process (8 months ago).  He recently lowered his 5K personal best to 13:20, which means that he now has the credentials that give him an outside shot to make the team here. As one of the few fathers in the field, can he make his new daughter proud?

My prediction: The race will be honest from the start but stay close with a pack of 5-7 until the final mile. Rupp and Ritzenhein will make the team with a “surprise” 3rd like Curtis, Derrick, or even Braun sneaking in with a fast finish.

Check back this afternoon for my preview of the women’s race.

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