The U.S. Indoor Championships has a history of great head-to-head matchups in the men’s 3000m. Between 2010 and 2014, the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, played host to four iterations of the Galen Rupp/Bernard Lagat rivalry.
This year, the anticipated battle between Paul Chelimo and Shadrack Kipchirchir seeks to play a similar role. While the goal will be a top two finish to qualify for the World Indoor Championships, the two teammates will be looking for the victory on Saturday.
3000m Final: Saturday, 4:45 PM MT
Kipchirchir has had a dream 2018 so far — undefeated in three races. His improvement this winter has elevated him into the highest tier of the global distance running. Already strong at the longer distance races, Kipchirchir has added sharp finishing speed to his repertoire this season. He opened his season with a two-day 3000/mile double in which he ran 7:42 and 3:55, both lifetime bests. The next weekend, he took the Millrose Games 3000.
Chelimo has kept a lower profile this indoor season. He’s only raced in one meet where he posted a 7:52/3:58 double at the Camel City Invitational. But Chelimo’s abilities in championship races are well documented by this point. He’s shown himself capable of kicking off a hard pace or, as he did in last year’s U.S. indoor and outdoor championships, run away with the race from the start.
It’s worth remembering that Chelimo won last year’s 2-mile indoor title in Albuquerque by 10 seconds — 10 seconds! In the summer, he won the U.S. 5000m title by seven seconds. Chelimo hasn’t shown any sign that he’s cautious with altitude or that he is willing to play it safe and just run for a qualifying position.
The man in the best position to stop a Chelimo-Kipchirchir (or Kipchirchir-Chelimo) sweep is Ryan Hill. This is an ideal distance for Hill and he’s show that he’s equally adept in slow races in which he can use his powerful kick, or in races that start quick from the outset. Hill took silver at the 2016 World Indoor Championships in the 3000m and finished third, two spots behind Kipchirchir, at this year’s Millrose Games.
If one of those favorites slip up, Woody Kincaid and Garrett Heath are best positioned to take advantage. Kincaid finished just behind his Bowerman Track Club teammate Hill at the Millrose Games in his only appearance of the year. In 2017, Kincaid finished runner-up during Chelimo’s runaway victory at U.S. Indoors so he’s no stranger to Chelimo’s aggressive approach.
Heath was only seventh in the Millrose Games 3000m but had a strong showing in the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, where he finished third in the 1500m.