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Karissa Schweizer was the clear favorite coming into the U.S. Championships 10,000-meters Friday night at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. Her personal best was more than 20 seconds faster than the next woman in the field, and she raced with that confidence, composed the whole way—always knowing she could win in the end.
All 20 women ran in a pack for the first half of the race. They came through 5,000 meters in 15:50, but soon after, Alicia Monson, 24, took the lead and dramatically quickened the pace. Schweizer, 26, was the only other athlete who could go with her. The two ran alone, one behind the other, lap after lap after lap.
The new Hayward Field features a massive jumbotron, which introduces a strategic dimension to the race: In the late stages of the race, Monson looked up and could see that she and Schweizer were more than 30 seconds ahead of third place. “I knew I was going to make the team, but at the end of the day I still wanted to win,” Monson said.
Referencing the sense of foreboding she could feel with Schweizer latched onto her, Monson said, “I’ve seen Karissa run like a 4-minute 1500. She’s got speed and she’s right on my tail.” Schweizer waited until the final 200 meters to make a move, but it was a decisive push into the lead. After running a 64-second last lap, Schweizer won in 30:49.56. Monson finished next in 30:51.09, a new personal best. This is Schweizer’s first U.S. title.
Both Schweizer and Monson ran the second 5K in under 15 minutes.
“Normally I don’t wait that long to take the lead,” Schweizer said. “It was a new tactic I was trying and I’m excited by how it played out.” Schweizer, who runs for Nike’s Bowerman Track Club, says being able to trust her speed at the end of the race is a testament to how well her training is going this year. She also says her only plan coming into the race was to match any moves and maintain contact with the leader while remaining as comfortable as possible.
Monson, who runs for the On Athletics Club, is only in her second year as a professional athlete but has already established herself as one of America’s top distance runners. Monson’s coach, Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, told her, “Any time in the second half of the race when you feel like going, just go, and don’t leave the door open.” Monson said she ran according to the plan. “I didn’t want to have a seven person footrace at the end,” she said.
After battling Emily Infeld, 32, back and forth down the home stretch, Natosha Rogers, 31, finished third in 31:29.80 to secure the final qualifying spot to the World Championships. Infeld finished fourth in 31:30.04.
“I’ve been working on my kick a lot,” Rogers said.
“I thought I had it with 100 to go,” Infeld said, fighting her tears with laughter. “I was in good position. I raced how I wanted to race, but it just wasn’t enough.” Infeld placed third at the World Championships in this event in 2015 and has been the only American to earn a spot on the podium in the event in 15 years.
Infeld said she will compete in the 5,000-meters at the U.S. championships at the end of June and still has hopes of qualifying for the world championships.
Rogers will compete in her first world championships this summer after “coming to USAs now for 10 years.” She said the reason for her success this year is that she’s cultivated more balance than ever before and her relationship to running has been more about having fun. “My training used to be like life or death, and it shouldn’t be like that,” she said.
Rogers said she’s missed one too many of her friends’ weddings and decided to take a trip to Colombia for a wedding midway through her track season this year. “It was time to give back to my friends because they’ve all been so supportive of me,” she said.
“In 2012, when I was a junior in college I was second at the Olympic Trials, and they took fourth and seventh instead of me, and I’ve always had that chip on my shoulder because I belong at that world class level,” Rogers said. “It took me 10 years to prove that again.”
Elise Cranny, the fastest American in the event this year and the second fastest ever, pulled out of the competition the day before. “I haven’t been feeling like myself in training,” she said on Instagram. “I’d love nothing more than to be out there competing for a spot on Team USA, but I just don’t feel ready to compete right now.”
Cranny said she plans to compete in the 5,000 at the U.S. Championships at the end of June.
Weini Kelati finished fifth in 31:39.90. Sarah Lancaster was sixth. Stephanie Bruce, who has announced this will be her final year of racing, was seventh.