It’s finally here: the last day of the Olympic Trials. After seeing 41-year old Bernard Lagat defy all odds and win the 5K last night (solidifying a spot in his fifth Olympics), and 18-year old Noah Lyles break the high school national record in the 200, the final races of the Trials are sure to bring just as much drama’s as last night’s. Were my predictions correct for the 5K? To be blunt, they were all wrong. Ryan Hill and Garrett Heath didn’t look great during the race, and Rupp was headed to Rio after 4600 meters—and then the 10K caught up to him (or maybe Salazar told him to hold off…I guess that would make me feel better). Anyway, today is a new day, and I have a fresh batch of predictions that may (or may not) be right!
The Mile/1500 is my favorite race in track, and it doesn’t get much better than 1500 Olympic Trials Final held at the sport’s most famous location. Before I write anything about who I personally think will punch their ticket to Rio later tonight, I feel like I need to put down a sort-of-preface. This is the finals. It’s only one race—and anything can happen. All thirteen men in this race are massively talented, and all have the ability to win. Some have better resumes than others, but the simple fact is that when it comes down to one race—especially one of this prestigious nature—crazy things can happen. Every runner has an equal shot at making the Olympics. FiveThirtyEight (or any track fan) will tell you that Matt Centrowitz has a better chance at qualifying than Craig Engels does—and that reasoning is justifiable. But in reality, each runner is toeing that line with 1500 meters in front of them to run. Each runner wants a spot just as much as the other. In this race, you either make the Olympics, or you don’t. It’s a 50/50 shot. It’s irrelevant if you’re a former Olympian, or if you’ve only been an NCAA All-American—everyone is essentially in the same boat. This all might seem over-simplified, but I believe it’s true. All this race comes down to is who runs the fastest at 8:20pm EST tonight.
After saying all of that, I believe Matt Centrowitz will win the Trials. I know that’s like saying “I believe the Warriors will win the championship next season” (which I personally don’t), and that it’s a safe bet—but Centrowitz is the definition of reliability. Even coming off a shortened outdoor season where he only raced at two meets because of injury, he still seems like the fastest man in America. Coming in second, I have Nike OTC member Ben Blankenship. After watching Blankenship fail to make the US 1500 team by less than a second last summer after getting tragically out-kicked by Robby Andrews, Blankenship is absolutely determined not to let history repeat itself. In the first round, he closed in a 52. He’s fit, he’s ready, and he’s driven to earn a well-deserved spot on the Olympic team. And, lastly, my third and final prediction. A prediction that may seem like Long Island bias (it’s where I’m from), but really just makes sense to me. I truly Hoka One One’s Kyle Merber will earn the third and final spot on the team. Hear me out: he’s not slow. He’s only one of five men in this field who have the Olympic standard (he ran 3:34 last outdoor season). He recently ran a workout where he ran a 2:50 1200m in a workout (his PR)—and that was over two weeks ago. He’s an underdog and a dark horse in every sense of the words. Robby Andrews is the consensus pick to nab the third spot, and there’s a very good chance he does. But there’s something about Merber’s fitness and talent that truly has me believing he can pull it off. Of course, this race isn’t just Centro, Blankenship, Andrews, and Merber. There’s also 2012 silver medalist Leo Manzano, 2012 Olympian Andrew Wheating, Jordan McNamara, Izaic Yorks, Daniel Winn, Colby Alexander, and more. But like I wrote earlier—anything can happen in one race.