Men’s 10K - Bernard Lagat to Make His Debut
The tradition of historic 10K races at Payton Jordan will live on in 2016. This year’s potentially record-breaking field of performers includes Bernard Lagat, who will run the distance for the first time competitively. The ageless wonder has already broken multiple masters world records since turning 40 in 2014. His longtime coach, James Li, told FloTrack that Lagat is aiming to run under 28 minutes in his debut, which would give him the Olympic standard for Rio. The 41-year-old ran 27:48 last May at the Manchester Road Race, but has yet to attempt the 25-lap race on the track. The fastest 10K run by anyone 40 or older is 28:30, which Martti Vainio ran in 1991. So far this year, the two-time world champion has run 7:41 in the indoor 3K at USA Indoors and 13:38 at the Carlsbad 5000m, which broke his previous masters world record.
Lagat will face a slew of serious contenders hoping to notch Olympic standards as Sam Chelanga, Brian Shrader, and NCAA contenders Futsum Zienasellassie, Martin Hehir, Colin Bennie, and Pierce Murphy all toe the line with the hope of dipping under 28 minutes. Chelanga recently won the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile in 48:26 and finished third at the New York Half in 61:43. Shrader clocked a 13:50 5K at Mt. SAC Relays and boasts a 28:28 10K PR. Zienasellassie claimed another All-American honor on the indoor track by finishing fourth at this year's NCAA Indoor Championships, and ran a personal best of 13:37 in the 5K at the Bryan Clay Invitational. Syracuse teammates Hehir and Bennie are riding a year-long high after they helped their team win the NCAA Cross Country Championship in the fall, and continued their success on the track. Colorado’s No. 1 runner Murphy will take his first stab at the 10K after running a season’s-best 13:38 in the 5K at Mt. SAC Relays.
Women’s 10K - Best in the NCAA & World Finalists Collide
The women’s 10K features a number of headliners, namely defending NCAA champion Molly Siedel and All-American Dominique Scott-Efurd. Seidel took the collegiate scene by storm last year when she won the NCAA Outdoor 10K and continued her success with cross country, indoor 3K and indoor 5K titles. Scott-Efurd recently traveled to her native South Africa to compete at the South African Championships, where she finished second in the 1500m in 4:14. To be selected to the South African Olympic team, Scott-Efurd must meet an Olympic standard of 32:15 in the 10K this weekend at Payton Jordan. Scott ran four seconds faster than that at last year’s Payton Jordan Invitational. All-American Erin Finn of Michigan will also be in the mix after finishing second at the NCAA Indoor Championships with a PR of 15:23.
In addition, three-time New Zealand Olympian Kim Smith will race her first 10K in three years after surgery, giving birth and a near-death experience almost forced her to quit the sport altogether. Thankfully, Smith’s tough, resilient attitude got her through the ordeal, and now she's contending to make her fourth Olympic team. Smith made her comeback at the Stanford Invitational a few weeks ago, where she finished third overall in 15:32—just a few seconds off the Olympic standard. FloTrack caught up with Smith after the Stanford performance to hear more about her unbelievable comeback.
RELATED: From Surgery, to Giving Birth to Near Death Kim Smith is Back
Another interesting match-up will be former Oregon teammates Alexi Pappas and Jordan Hasay taking on the 10K for the first time ever together. Pappas and Hasay’s friendship made headlines in 2013 when Pappas enthusiastically cheered for Hasay during the 2013 Payton Jordan 10K. Pappas’ words of encouragement, which included, “You look like a mermaid,” and “Here’s the thing: you are a princess,” helped guide Hasay to a PR of 32:06 (shown below).
Men’s 5K - Pros and NCAA Studs Do Battle
Between Chris Derrick making his return to the track, super-frosh Grant Fisher debuting in the 5K, and a ridiculously large number of quality pros and collegians, the men’s 5K is poised for some breakout performances. The Bowerman Track Club will be led by 2013 Worlds finalist Derrick, who has been sidelined for months due to ongoing injuries. This race will mark his first since running 63:41 for the half marathon in January. He will be joined by teammates German Fernandez and Mo Ahmed, who boast PRs of 13:25 and 13:10, respectively. Fernandez recently made his 10K debut at Stanford Invite with a 28:06 (shown below).
The pro field will also feature an outdoor debut by former Stanford All-American Garrett Heath, who made headlines in January by taking down two-time Olympic champion Mo Farah at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country Meet. In addition, steeplechase Olympian Don Cabral will test his endurance in the 5K, and U.S. Army athletes Shadrack Kipchirchir and Leonard Korir are returning from a solid 1-2 performance at the Stanford Invite 10K.
An interesting experiment will be Stanford All-American Grant Fisher's debut in the 5K distance. The 19-year-old tested his long-distance chops in cross country with a 17th-place performance and his first All-American honor. In track, Fisher has already posted PRs of 3:42 in the 1500m and 7:50 in the indoor 3K, which broke the American junior record on an oversized track. He will be joined by several standout NCAA athletes such as teammate and 3:53-miler Sean McGorty, Syracuse All-American Justyn Knight, Virginia Tech All-American Thomas Curtin, Colorado All-Americans Ammar Moussa and Morgan Pearson, Washington’s Aaron Nelson, Oregon’s Jake Leingang, and Portland’s Woody Kincaid and Reid Buchanan.
Women’s 5K - Kim Conley, Sally Kipyego, Abbey D AND SO MUCH MORE
After posting then-world leads in everything from the 1500m to the 5K, Kim Conley decided to forgo the championship portion of the indoor season in favor of a solid block of training at altitude. The Payton Jordan 5K will be the first indication of the Olympian’s fitness as Conley runs her first race since the Washington Invitational 5K, where she posted an indoor PR of 15:09.
Watch Conley's 15:09 5K performance in Seattle:
She will face stiff competition from pros such as Sally Kipyego, who made her debut in the marathon last October. The 26.2-mile experiment didn’t go as planned, so the Payton 5K will be Kipyego’s attempt to make her second Olympic team after she earned a silver medal in 2012 for Team Kenya.
Conversely, Abbey D’Agostino has raced frequently on the track in 2016, highlighted by a fifth-place 3K finish at the World Indoor Championships. Laura Thweatt will make her second appearance at Stanford after winning the Stanford Invitational 10K in a world-leading time and massive PR of 31:52. 2015 World Championship finalists Stephanie Garcia and Nicole Tully will also put their 5K wheels to the test after posting indoor PRs of 8:53 and 8:59, respectively, in the indoor 3K.
Former NCAA champions Kate Avery and Emily Sisson will also contend with the pace. Avery is returning from a successful cross country season in Great Britain, where she won all but one of four races. After winning two NCAA titles her senior year, Sisson graduated last summer and has since maintained a low profile, but will make her outdoor season debut this weekend.
Men’s 1500m - Evan Jager, Bowerman, Plus Top NCAA Contenders Roll Out
Key members of the Bowerman Track Club will make their outdoor season debuts—steeplechasers Evan Jager and Dan Huling, German Fernandez (also entered in the 5K), and Lopez Lomong are entered to compete. American record-holder Jager blasted the fastest 1500m ever run on American soil at the Portland Track Festival last June when he beat Garrett Heath in 3:32.97.
Huling is returning from his best World Championships finish ever after closing for fifth overall in the steeplechase last August.
NCAA contenders will also test the waters with pro fields as 3:53-miler Izaic Yorks leads a host of quality student-athletes. Oregon’s sub-four trio of Sam Prakel, Matthew Maton, and Blake Haney will look to post solid marks after successfully winning the NCAA Indoor team title. Colorado All-Americans John Dressel and Ben Saarel will represent for the Buffaloes, and All-Americans Jacob Burcham (Oklahoma) and Cerake Gebrikidane (Oklahoma State) bring the midwest talent.
Check out the full list of accepted entries and don't miss the 2016 Payton Jordan Invitational broadcast live Sunday on FloTrack!