Doha-n't Miss Out ⏱️

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Lap 168: Sponsored by Brooks Running

"We know how to have fun but we really know how to focus to get our job done. We help each other to get there. I want to be successful but I want my team to be successful. I want to be successful with them."

Marta Pen Freitas, a two-time Olympian for Portugal, has been a member of The Brooks Beasts Track Club since 2019. She has her sights set on representing her country again in 2024. Whereas fans tend to see professional track and field athletes a dozen or so times a year for races, she peels back the curtain on the day-to-day team culture that has led to much of the team's success in recent years.

CITIUS MAG and Brooks Running are bringing you along for the journey all throughout the 2024 season with Beasts: Unleashed. Episode 1 and Episode 2 are out. Episode 3 featuring World champion Josh Kerr is out on Thursday.

The Men’s 200m Gets Spicy 🌶️

Olympic year Kenny Bednarek has arrived.
(Photo by Marise Nassour for Diamond League AG)

Across the last three global championships, just three different men have been on the podium of the men’s 200m more than once: Noah Lyles (3rd in 2021, 1st in 2022, 1st in 2023), Kenny Bednarek (2nd in 2021, 2nd in 2022, 5th in 2023), and Erriyon Knighton (4th in 2021, 3rd in 2022, 2nd in 2023). 

Lyles, as the two-time reigning champion, is coming off a banner year in 2023 and a strong indoor season to start his 2024 campaign. He hasn’t lost a single 200m race since the Tokyo Olympics and enters this cycle as the favorite in both the 100m and the 200m. The problem? When you’re on top, there’s nowhere to go but down.

Now, don’t get us wrong: Lyles is still the top dog until proven otherwise, but even with the 200m being his stronger event, there are still reasons to wonder how long his reign atop the event will last. Knighton has trended one place better each of the last two years, and while it feels like he’s been on the circuit as long as anyone else, remember: the world junior record holder just turned 20 in January. He’s raced sparingly this year, with only a 20.21 indoor 200m in February on his card so far in 2024, so he’s a big question mark headed into the meat of the season. But as he gets older, stronger, and more experienced, the sky is certainly the limit.

Lyles hasn’t shown up in a 200m yet outdoors, but a quick trip to the Bahamas for a few strong anchor performances on the U.S. 4x100m was enough to remind us that he’s fit and ready to throw down. One guy who has been racing frequently – and well – is Kung Fu Kenny. Bednarek skipped indoor but kicked off his spring with a 46.00 400m down in Florida in March, clocked a pair of 100m wins at Tom Jones and Kip Keino, got the stick around with Lyles in Nassau, and then really made a splash in Qatar this past weekend with a world-leading 19.67 200m at the Doha Diamond League, beating training partner and friendly rival Courtney Lindsey by an impressive 0.34-second gap. That’s an outright personal best by a hair (his previous was 19.68), and after the two Chinese Diamond League meets yielded lackluster results in the sprints, it sends a loud and clear message that Bednarek shouldn’t be forgotten. One guy who was definitely paying attention? Noah Lyles.

What’s really crazy is that the biggest threat to Lyles’s first Olympic gold may not be a compatriot.. Another ascendent 20-year-old by the name of Letsile Tebogo officially entered the chat on the senior level last year with World silver and bronze in the 100m and 200m, and like Knighton, he seems to get faster by the month. Most recently, he’s dropped some mind-boggling sub-44 400m splits for Botswana at World Relays, and though Lindsey beat him by thousandths in the 200m at Kip Keino, he still has a 19.71 season’s best and plenty of over-distance racing under his belt. (Sidenote: we maybe should be putting more respect on Lindsey’s name in this section, as he and Tebogo are the only men with two sub-20 performances so far this year.)

What about the Olympic champ? Or the other recent sprint medalists? Well, so far we haven’t seen much in terms of fast times from the likes of Andre De Grasse, Fred Kerley, or Christian Coleman, but it is worth noting that De Grasse is a notoriously effective championship peaker and his season’s best headed into Tokyo was only 19.89. And one guy who beat Kerley and Coleman this past weekend, Brit Zharnel Hughes, is coming off a breakout 2023 season that included PBs at 100m (9.83) and 200m (19.73) and a bronze medal in Budapest. Hughes, Coleman, and Kerley might be more of a threat to the Lyles victory parade in the 100m, but they can’t be entirely counted out at the longer distance.

With four of the fastest 10 men in history currently competing and two more having beaten them recently, the 200m is shaping up to be one of the can’t-miss events in Paris. And although it’s more fun to talk medals than records, it’s worth mentioning that the caliber of competition means that it’ll take a truly special (and perhaps historic) performance to land on top of that particular podium.

Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet will be a force in the 5000m in 2024.
(Photo by: Marise Nassour for Diamond League AG)

More Doha Diamond League Highlights

As many athletes cool down from World Relays and gear up for their respective national championships, the rest of the Doha meet was a fairly quiet affair as far as Diamond League events go, but there were a few notable performances worth mentioning:

– With Faith Kipyegon conspicuously absent from the racing circuit this spring, fellow Kenyan medalist and World XC champ Beatrice Chebet was the woman to watch in the 5000m, posting a 14:26.98 world-leading victory that included a ridiculous 27.9 final 200m (after nearly running into the back of eventual runner-up Ejgayehu Taye).

– Another woman to watch is Brit Daryll Neita, who’s been putting together a heckuva spring with two DL wins over strong international competition. This time, she got a 10.98 victory in the 100m over Americans Tamari Davis and Celera Barnes. With the Jamaican medal machine getting into gear, cracking the podium in either sprint event will be an uphill battle, but Neita is making a strong case for herself to at least be in the conversation.

Alison Dos Santos let the world know that the 400m hurdles would not be a two-man battle between rivals Karsten Warholm and Rai Benjamin. The 2022 World champion opened up his hurdles season with a commanding 46.86 victory to notch a new world lead.

– The javelin 1-2 from Tokyo had a good head-to-head battle, with four-time global medalist Jakub Valdejch persevering over Olympic champ Neeraj Chopra by a mere 2 centimeters, 88.38m to 88.36m.

The Sound of Racing 🔊

Ten time zones to the west, a who’s who of American distance running – and friends! – headed to Occidental College in Los Angeles for the Sound Running Track Fest, looking for qualifying marks and good competition. Sound Running has made a name for itself in the elite racing game by offering a winning combination of West Coast weather, small(ish) middle-distance-focused meets, and PPV streaming at a reasonable price. One small note for next time? Tell the facilities manager to keep the lights on so we can see the races!

It was a little dark at Oxy this past weekend!

Bane Voice: The performances that emerged from the darkness didn’t disappoint. And it was a particularly exciting affair if you’re a fan of Mexican track and field – Jesus Tonatiu Lopez (1:44.71) and Eduardo Herrera (3:36.31) picked up wins in the 800m and 1500m, respectively. World Indoor 1500m medalists Nikki Hiltz and Emily MacKay dropped down in distance to battle it out over 800m, with Hiltz picking up the “fast” section win in 2:00.46. But it was actually Canadian Jazz Shukla who got the fastest mark of the day out of section 2 with a 1:59.94 victory, the first sub-two of her career.

The 10,000m races didn’t yield any Olympic qualifying marks (more on that below), but we did see Olympic Marathon Trials fourth-placer Jess McClain pick up a 31:35.28 win in her first race back in a Brooks uniform and BYU alum Casey Clinger (back racing in his high school singlet for now) picking up the first sub-28 of his career with a 27:57.90 victory off his own.

Sifan Hassan won the women’s 5000m with ease. (Photo by Mac Fleet)

The 5000ms were won by international talent getting back in the groove of things. Sifan Hassan did a lot of lonely solo work to clock a 14:58.83 in her first race after finishing fourth at the 2024 Tokyo Marathon and Luis Grijalva showed he’s back fully healthy after an injury abbreviated his indoor season. Grijalva was clearly there to work, as he picked up wins in both section 2 of the 1500m (in 3:38.20) and the 5000m (in 13:16.53), the latter of which truly looked like 4800 meters of jogging for the 12:52 man. After finishing fourth in the 5000m at the last two global championships, Grijalva looks to be racing himself into medal contention at any opportunity.

But perhaps the race of the evening was the men’s steeplechase, where Kenneth Rooks showed himself to be the clear class of the field when rabbit Dan Michalski stepped off the track after 2000m of pacing. Rooks – who looked up to that point like he’d been trotting along leisurely – ripped off the proverbial tear-away warm up pants and took off like a bullet. He put eight seconds on the field over the last two laps and got a new PB in the process, just missing the Olympic standard by 0.08 with a 8:15.08 victory.

Both steeplechase teams for Team USA are shaping up to be fascinating battles next month. Rooks, the defending U.S. champ, might be the safest Trials bet after his performance in LA, but Anthony Rotich is the only athlete with the standard currently, thanks to his 8:13.74 in Monaco last summer. Outside of those two, with American record holder Evan Jager still rediscovering his footing (he only ran 8:33.19 in his return to the event and doesn’t yet have a Trials qualifier) and Hillary Bor focusing on the roads – so far – in 2024, the seven men who’ve all run between 8:16 and 8:20 over the last two seasons all have to be eyeing that theoretical third spot. 

On the women’s side, Emma Coburn’s ankle injury opens up a slot previously assumed to be off-limits for the last decade, and with Krissy Gear winning the 1500m at TrackFest in 4:03.65 (a five-plus second PB) she has to be the favorite to defend her national title. But she’s not unbeatable by any means – Courtneys Wayment and Frerichs both have faster PBs and NCAA champ Olivia Markezich is right on the heels of the pros. 2021 Olympian Val Constien clocked a 9:27.22 win here in her first steeplechase since tearing her ACL last spring, showing she should be back in the mix as well, and Team Boss may end up represented in this event even without Coburn if Gabbi Jennings can keep knocking six-second chunks off her PB. When it comes to the steeplechase, TrackFest was just a preview of even more fun drama to come.

Mac Fleet’s Way Too Early 1500m Predictions (Part 2!) 🔮

Elle St. Pierre took the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials 1500m final wire-to-wire.
(Photo by Kevin Morris/@KevMoFoto)

We’re about a month and a half out from the 1500m finals at the U.S. Olympic Trials, and track fans across the 50 states are undoubtedly counting down the days on their calendar using a giant red marker. Both finals are gonna be a good one – a true treat of a title card that’s setting some of the biggest names in American distance running on a collision course toward Eugene.

Here’s part 2 of my still-way-too-early picks to make the team for Paris. You can find last week’s picks from the men’s field here.

Elle St. Pierre’s quick return to the top of U.S. and global relevance since giving birth just over a year ago has been nothing short of astonishing. Everyone knew she was fit going into the Glasgow World Indoor Championships, but I don’t think any of us were prepared to see her take home gold against such a deep field, especially in a fast race (she won in 8:20.87). St. Pierre is back and better than ever. To give herself the best shot at being top three – and winning, which she undoubtedly is angling to do – Elle wants this race fast, and she’s proven herself unafraid of making that happen. 

2021 was proof: In that race St. Pierre set a Trials record by leading nearly every step of the race, winning in 3:58.03. The only thing preventing her from controlling this 1500m race wire-to-wire would be a taxing 5000m final, which will be contested three days before the 1500m prelim. The odds of that 5000m final being fast? Very, very slim. Most of the big names that would usually be contending for Olympic spots in the longer distances aren’t quite firing on all cylinders at the moment – which has me thinking the 5000m will be a relative cakewalk for St. Pierre, setting her up to take home two gold medals in Eugene. 

If World Indoor gold wasn’t enough, let’s also remember that St. Pierre ran a 4:16.41 mile to set the American record at Millrose indoors and has made every senior U.S. team she’s tried out for: 2019, 2021, 2022 (indoors), 2022 (outdoors), and 2024 (indoors again). It would be very, very shocking to see her miss out on her second Olympic berth if she shows up to Eugene healthy.

Who is the one person who I think has a shot at taking down a 5k-1500m doubling Elle? Nikki Hiltz. The defending U.S. 1500m champ has done nothing but get better since last June, taking home gold (again!) at this year’s U.S. Indoors, and winning their first global medal: Silver at the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow. 

They’ve opened up this outdoor season with a strong pair of 800m wins and I can guarantee everyone in the final will be building their race strategies based off of Nikki’s closing speed. Nikki certainly won’t be helping push the pace and will be hoping for a slow first 600m, as their best shot at winning and even making the team will be in that more tactical 4:01-4:06 sweet spot. 

We will never forget the New Balance sweep of the 1500m at the 2021 Olympic Trials.
(Photo by Kevin Morris/@KevMoFoto)

Cory McGee has gotten it done year after year after year in the 1500m and if you think I’m tired of saying the word “year,” think again. In fact, I think this year will be no different. 

As difficult as it is to not have Emily Mackay – that’s World Indoor Bronze Medalist Emily Mackay, to you, and also to me –  in the top three, I just think the years of experience at this type of event that Cory brings to the table will elevate her to one of those magical top-three spots. The pressure of Trials can be crippling, and yet, at the last three U.S. Championship finals Cory has made the team, running between 4:00 and 4:05. The key takeaway there is that she doesn’t have to have a perfect race like some others to be a contender. Also let’s not forget, Cory made her first team in 2013! No one in this field has been doing it longer. With 2021 Olympian Heather MacLean coming back from injury and sub-four runner Josette Norris possibly prioritizing the 5000m, being able to consistently run 4:00 should be enough to land you on the podium this year.

An interesting note while projecting the men’s and women’s 1500m teams: on the men’s side, four of the nine men the U.S. has sent to the past three global championships have been collegiate athletes. Only three collegiate women in total have made the finals over the same time range, with Addy Wiley’s fifth place showing last year making her the highest-placing collegian out of that group. 

That’s gotta be part of the reason why – at least at this point – the contenders on the women’s side feel more crystalized: they don’t seemingly emerge from the ether as they do for the men. That and a lot of the top 1500m runners for the women aren’t currently prioritizing the event, such as Athing Mu, Elise Cranny, or Karissa Schweizer.

I’m excited to see how these final few weeks play out, and watch as each of these athletes round into form so we get a clearer picture of who will be fighting for those top three spots in Eugene. Who knows, maybe somebody like Sinclaire Johnson, who’s made World teams in the past but who’s also only posted one recent result – a 4:13 showing at Payton Jordan – can find their sea legs after time off for injury. In which case I’ll have some serious thinking to do before writing my “Not Terribly Early 1500m Predictions” essay in a couple of weeks.

Hey World Athletics… A Lenny for Your Thoughts? 💭

Leonard Korir on his way to his third place finish at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and a whole lot of uncertainty. (Photo by Kevin Morris/@KevMoFoto)

Fans flock to track & field for the thrill of witnessing a human body perform unthinkable feats – leaping over the equivalent of Big Bird, maintaining sub-5 miles for just over two hours, heaving a spear nearly the length of a football field – or to experience competition in its purest form… right?

Wrong! We love it because we cannot get enough of fine print, shifting qualification standards, and arcane selection criteria. It’s the same reason why NFL Head Coach, the 2006 spin-off of the popular Madden video game series where instead of controlling on-field action, players balanced budgets and traded draft picks, was such a big hit! The universal pull all sports fans feel toward bureaucratic tedium and away from the sport itself! Beautiful.

We kid, we kid. For the past week or so, fans of American men’s distance running haven’t been able to properly get excited about the Olympic marathon. Instead, we’ve been looking at our divining rods and attempting to read the tea leaves in order to figure out what happened to Lenny Korrir’s spot on the starting line, which was as recently as May 7th considered safe.

Here’s what we know:

  • Korir finished third at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, behind Conner Mantz and Clayton Young.

  • Young and Mantz both had previously run the Olympic standard, 2:08:10, and had thus “unlocked” two spots for United States marathon men in Paris. They took the two spots with their Trials finish.

  • It was assumed that Korir would be fine and get in via either his own World Athletics ranking, or that of a third American man. WA had stated previously that it intended to fill the goal field size of 80 with roughly half from runners who’d hit the standard and the remainder from rankings.

  • After the last weekend of qualifying for the marathon, American C.J. Albertson sat at #73 on the rankings, meaning (confusingly, but less confusingly than what’s about to happen) that Lenny, in fact, would get his countryman’s top-80 spot.

  • Last week, World Athletics announced that 11 men would be added to the Olympic marathon field via universality spots, which are a “spirit of the Games” sort of arrangement wherein countries that wouldn’t otherwise send many – or any – athletes to the Olympics are given the opportunity to do so in a handful of events, regardless of ranking or time qualification. In this particular Olympic cycle, eligible events are the 100m, 800m, and marathon.

  • As it currently stands, based on the Road to Paris website, that infusion of additional marathoners, we are looking at a field of 70 eligible men who qualified via entry standard, 11 universality athletes, and zero off the rankings.

  • So Korir is on the outside looking in, it seems.

But here’s how things get even more complicated, and why there may still be an extremely faint glimmer of hope for Lenny’s 2024 Olympic dreams:

  • The rules say that the universality places must be each of the country’s “best ranked” athletes. Of the 11, four are not their country’s best-ranked athletes.

  • The qualification window for other events runs through June 30th, 2024 so there’s still a chance for a country without any currently-qualified athletes or relays to hit a mark. 

  • The rules say that each country must submit “proof of the technical level and international participation of the nominated athlete,” but one has never competed in a marathon and five have personal bests slower than 2:12.

We’re in a holding pattern right now as we await word from USATF and World Athletics on whether Korir can run in Paris. Stay tuned for updates. We’ll be closely monitoring the situation to see if WA opens up some additional spots or holds firm at 81 accepted athletes, trotting out a Drew Carey impersonator to deadpan to the camera that the points are made up and the rankings don’t matter.

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

– Arkansas may be 400m U. At the SEC Championships (which, hell, we’ll go ahead and call “400m Conference”), Nickisha Pryce (49.32), Kaylyn Brown (49.47) and Amber Anning went 1-2-3 and put themselves at No. 3-4-5 in the NCAA record books. Imagine running 49.79 (Sorry Aaliyah Butler!) and not medaling at your conference championships! (More results from the SEC Championships)

– British Twitter was going crazy for 17-year-old Phoebe Gill after she broke the European U18 record, going 1:57.86 at the Belfast Irish Milers meet on Saturday. That puts her at No. 8 on the all-time list. The previous U18 record was 1:59.65 set by East Germany’s Marion Geissler-Hübner in 1979. (Race Video)

Mutaz Barshim came away with the win in the What Gravity Challenge in front of a home crowd with a 2.31m clearance on his first attempt. South Korea's Sanghyeok Woo was second (clearing 2.31m on his third attempt). USA’s JuVaughn Harrison rounded out the podium with his 2.28m on his third try.  The atmosphere looked awesome, even if it feels like maybe the event name should have a question mark in it. 

Marie-Josee Ta Lou-Smith opened up her individual season with a 10.91 (1.1 m/s wind) victory at the Jamaica Athletics Invitational, where she was given a hero’s welcome in her first race on the island. Zharnel Hughes rocked the stadium with a 19.96s to beat out Fred Kerley and Christian Coleman in the 200m. Tobi Amusan avoided any DQ and clocked a world-leading 12.40 in the 100m hurdles. (More results from the meet)

Betsy Saina and Diego Estrada broke the U.S. 25K records in 1:22:32 and 1:13:10, respectively, while claiming national titles at the River Bank Run in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For those not fluent in “25K” who’d like a bit of context, Saina’s 13.1 mile split was 1:09:10, while Estrada’s was 1:01:45. (Results)

– Meet organizers announced Faith Kipyegon will open her season with a 5000m at the Pre Classic, and with Gudaf Tsegay attempting to break the 10,000m world record at the meet, their showdown over 1500m will have to wait. Although the possibility of the first-ever sub-14 and sub-29 performances taking place in the same competition would be a reasonable consolation prize.

What And How To Watch This Weekend 📺

Sha’Carri Richardson at last year’s LA Grand Prix.
(Photo by Kevin Morris/@KevMoFoto)

– The Night of the 10,000m PB’s in London is back and will serve as the British Olympic Trials for the 10,000m. Americans Fiona O’Keefe and Keira D’Amato will also run and chase the 30:40 Olympic standard. (Streaming will be available on the European Athletics YouTube)

– The LA Grand Prix returns for its second year. The start list is promising and includes an epic 200m featuring Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, Gabby Thomas and Jenna Prandini. Athing Mu will drop down for her first 400m since May 2022 and will face 400m world champion Marileidy Paulino and 800m world champion Mary Moraa. Still a few days before the meet but let’s hope these entries hold true. (Entries and results here | Watch it on TV on Saturday from 3-5 p.m. ET on NBC or stream it on Peacock with a subscription)

Bonus: There will be distance races, including formidable 5000m fields, on Friday night. You can watch that on USATF.TV with a subscription.

– The Götzis Hypo Meeting is decathlete, heptathlete, and umlaut-lover heaven. Action will be underway on Saturday and Sunday. (Entries)

– Adidas will have many of its stars including Noah Lyles, Erriyon Knighton, Anna Hall, Grant Holloway and others in action at the Atlanta City Games. (Streaming on the Adidas YouTube channel and Noah Lyles’ YouTube channel)

– The Diamond League makes its fourth stop of the year on Sunday in Marrakech, which will feature world champion Shericka Jackson running her first 200m race of the season. You’ll be able to watch it live on Peacock with a subscription. (Schedule and entries)

Thanks to Brooks Running for supporting this week’s newsletter. We’ve enjoyed spending lots of time with the Beasts over the past few months to bring you more videos over the coming weeks and leading into championship season!

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