Emily Sisson, Karissa Schweizer, and Alicia Monson finished top three in the women’s 10,000 meter final at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials on Saturday in Eugene, Oregon, to claim their spots on Team USA, competing at the Tokyo Games later this summer.
Sisson, a first-time Olympian and two-time world championships finalist in the 10,000 meters, trains much of the year in Phoenix, which may account for her skill in handling the heat. It was 87 degrees on the track at Hayward Field by the end of the race, but Sisson nonetheless set an Olympic Trials record, finishing in 31:03.82.
After disappointment at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, where Sisson, 29, dropped out late in the race, she turned back to the track. Little did she know it would be more than a year until she’d get her second chance at an Olympic berth. Sisson took control of the large train of contenders on Saturday by the fifth of 25 laps and remained in the lead until the finish.
Her coach, Ray Treacy, prepared her for what was to come by telling her to focus on her strength, which as Sisson explained, “my strength is my strength.” She followed the race plan to go out at approximately 75-second laps and squeeze down the pace in the last five laps.
“It was hot and it was a grind, but I’m really happy with that,” Sisson said, later adding that the marathon Trials broke her heart. “It was so hard to go through. I don’t feel like I had a chip on my shoulder or felt like I needed to prove anything because of that…it was just a really hard day.”
Sisson said after the race on Saturday, she had gone “all in” in making the team.
“This is the fittest I’ve ever been, so I’m really happy it worked out today,” she said.
Schweizer, a member of the Bowerman Track Club, also placed second in the 5,000-meters at the Olympic Trials and she hopes to run both events in Tokyo but will evaluate with her coach. She finished the 10,000 meters on Saturday in 31:16.52. Schweizer said she prefers the 5,000 meters, but joins a small group of women that includes Deena Kastor, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, and Molly Huddle who have qualified for both events at the Games.
“I hope to double. That’s a brutal race to run to not race it [in Tokyo],” Schweizer said. “I’m excited to have qualified and have the opportunity to evaluate that.”
Should Schweizer, 25, forgo her chance to compete in the 10,000 meters at the Olympics, U.S.A. Track & Field would go down the list of finishers who also have run the Olympic standard. The next two are Elise Cranny (fourth) and Rachel Schneider (fifth), who also qualified for the Games in the 5,000 meters. Sixth place on Saturday went to Sara Hall, who also suffered disappointment at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, where she was unable to finish.
Rounding out a trio of rookie Olympians in the 10,000 meters is Alicia Monson, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin who trains with the On Athletic Club, coached by Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein and based in Boulder, Colorado. The 23-year-old, who finished in 31:18.55 was the 2019 NCAA 5,000-meter champion. She was unavailable for comment after the race on Saturday, taken to the hospital as a precaution for what appears to be heat-related illness.
The race was rescheduled to 10 a.m. Pacific from its original time later on Saturday to try to avoid the forecasted trip digit temperatures.
In a larger-than-average field, 43 women were scheduled to start the race.
Prior to the race, some voiced concern that the qualifying standard might be too soft—that the depth of U.S. talent in women’s distance runner (and the advent of super spikes) justified a tighter qualifying time than 32:25, a time that 50 women hit during the window.
Although the leaders had to negotiate heavy traffic, often weaving in and out of lanes one and two, it didn’t seem to bother them. Schweizer said it was actually helpful to have others to key off of throughout the last half of the competition.
“You’re never really in no-man’s land,” she said. “It helps you kind of break the rhythm of the race. It’s just kind of nice sometimes.”
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.