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Elise Cranny Wins the 5,000 Meters to Make Her First Olympics

Karissa Schweizer and Rachel Schneider finish the podium to earn their spots at the Tokyo Games.

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It was hot on Monday. Very hot. But the 94 degrees at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, didn’t scorch Elise Cranny’s chances of winning the 5,000 meters at the 2021 Olympic Trials, finishing in 15:27.81 and earning her first trip to the Games.

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Cranny’s Bowerman track club teammate Karissa Schweizer (15:28.11) was second and Rachel Schneider, who trains in Flagstaff, Arizona, was third (15:29.56). Abbey Cooper, who got her Olympic qualifying time in the semifinal round was fourth, though all three podium finishers are entered into the 10,000 meters this week and should one of them make the team in that event and decide to scratch the 5,000 meters, Cooper would take the spot.

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Under the conditions, the race went out slow, until Cranny, 25, and Schweizer, 25, decided to squeeze down the pace in the final mile. Then four remained and it was Schneider, 29, who was able to put a gap on Cooper to grab her first Olympic berth.

“[The heat] is what made it tactical and slow in the beginning. I don’t think anyone wanted to take it, so that definitely played a factor,” Cranny said. “Just trying to stay as calm as possible, knowing it’s probably not going to feel very good no matter what pace you’re running.”

Schweizer said the goal was to stay relaxed and conserve energy throughout the whole race.

“With a mile to go, we were going to make it hurt,” she said.

RELATED: Karissa Schweizer: “We’ll Be Ready When It Matters”

All three women are heading to the Olympics for the first time.

“It feels like a dream come true. Honestly, it still hasn’t really sunk in,” Schneider said. “But to get to go represent our country on the highest stage, the Olympics, is a huge honor and something I’ve worked so, so hard for.”

Schweizer and Cranny are both training partners with Shelby Houlihan, the American record holder in the 5,000 meters. They said it’s been a stressful and emotional time for the Bowerman Track Club since Houlihan announced a week ago that she had tested positive for nandrolone, a banned substance, and is serving a four-year suspension (she says that the steroid entered her system from consuming pork and she is fighting her ban). 

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“It was a tough week leading up to the Trials…super devastating,” Cranny said. “She’s the reason we’re here and we were able to do what we did today. She’s just totally elevated our team to a whole new level.”

Editor’s Note: This story is part of our  2021 U.S.A. Track & Field Olympic Trials coverage. You can find all of our stories here.