The field is insanely deep and Richard Fannin has gone above and beyond his responsibilities to put together a top notch field (again). While the people competing in the marathon championship are peaked and ready to go, not everyone is on the same fitness page in the 15k . Some are getting ready for the World Cross Country Championships in a few weeks, while many are coming off fall marathons and using this as the start of the 2015 racing season. This range in fitness levels makes the race a little more unpredictable, as being off your game just 1-2% can drastically affect your finishing place, especially in a field as deep as this one.
Originally, I was only going to predict the top 5. But since the field is so deep, I could have looked like a complete idiot as there are 10-15 guys who could finish in the top 5. So, I'll extend my predictions to the top 10, in hopes I come out looking a little smarter.
Last year, Ben True smoked Chis Derrick in the last mile by dropping a sub 4:15 split to take the 12 second victory. Everyone figured it would be a two-man race and with Shalane Flanagan having a heck of a head start, the equalizer bonus was out of the question. So the men's race took their time before they started rolling.
This year, the head start is much smaller and while there is a pretty impressive women's field, there's no Flanagan. I imagine the men will be a little more antsy at the start in hopes to earn the $5000 equalizer bonus and to burn out Ben True's kick in the process.
1. Ryan Vail: It's always more fun when you pick an upset. The last couple of years, he's been focusing on the marathon and is one of the top threats to make the Olympic marathon team next year. But this spring, it seems like he's shifting his focus to shorter races. Maybe he wants to work on his closing speed at the Marathon Trials? Who knows really? Being such a strength-based runner, I look for him to make his move up the Hart Bridge while chasing down as many ladies as possible. Gate River Finishes: 3rd (2013), 5th (2011), 6th (2010)
2. Ben True: He seems to be finding a home away from home on the roads over the last couple of years. And if he won this weekend, it would be his third Gate River victory in a row. If this was a 5k, he could pull a Jason Rexing and run in his heaviest pair of trainers and get the victory. But this race is three times the distance and has a very competitive field. It's easy to shake-off one person but he's going to have a small army gunning for him this time (pun intended, due to the WCAP). Gate River Finishes: 1st (2013, 2014), 2nd (2011)
3. Girma Mecheso: He appears to be pretty fit, based off his 62:16 half-marathon performance in Houston, which earned him a 3rd place finish. He also has sub 28 10k wheels, which will serve him well. He started jumping into a lot of road races the second half of last year, which earned him the US 20k Championship on Labor Day, taking out Christo Landry and Luke Puskedra in the process. I look for him to continue his hot streak here. First Gate River.
4. Christo Landry: This guy has been a machine on the roads over all distances. He had a very busy 2014, racking up US titles in the 10 mile, 25k and 10k race distances. Since his website said he took a few weeks off at the end of the year, he may not be as sharp as some of the other guys. But I imagine he's probably training pretty hard by now and wants to defend his USARC title. Gate River Finishes: 2nd (2012), 4th (2014), 5th (2013)
5. Luke Puskedra: He doesn't race as much on the roads as some of the other guys but when he does, he rarely runs a poor race. He has a great combination of speed and endurance and like most of the guys guys in my predicted top 10, he has excellent range from the 5k to the half-marathon. For the first time in three years, he didn't run the Houston half. So, I don't know if that means he's rusty but if shows up remotely in shape, he could make a run at the top three. First Gate River
6. Shadrack Kipchirchir: Putting him here is a gamble because not only is this his first post-collegiate road race, but he hasn't raced in over nine months. So some of you reading this may have become pregnant after his last race and are already changing your baby's diapers by now. But supposedly he's training pretty hard for this one and his WCAP teammates and training partners should be hungry for the team title. Last year, he was second at the NCAA 10,000m, and owns a PR of 27:36 in that event.
7. Sean Quigley: Ran an impressive 2:13 at the Fuokoka Marathon to close out 2014 after winning a National Championships at the Bix 7. He had the latest fall marathon of the bunch, so he may have a little more rust than most. But he has run really well in the past here. So look for him to net another top 10 finish here and also, have the first beard across the finish line. Gate River Finishers: 4th (2013), 8th (2014)
8. Donn Cabral: Known for his steeplechase prowess (8:19 PR) and also has one of the faster 5000m PR's in the field (13:22). He hasn't dabbed on the roads very often but he recently had an excellent tune-up race at the World's Best 10k, where he finished a few seconds behind Ben True. He's also my dark horse pick to have the fastest last mile split. Gate River Finishers: 10th (2013)
9. Aron Rono: Another WCAP athlete and it really bugs me his name only has one "A" in it. He has the fastest 10,000m PR in the field with a 27:31 (2011) and ran 62:25 at Houston a couple of months ago.
10. Tyler Pennel: The 2014 US Marathon Champion, who also was runner-up at the US 10k Championships a few months prior. His new found marathon strength should match-up well with his natural speed. He had a little bit of an achilles issue at the start of the year, but seems to be training well right now. Gate River Finishes: 9th (2013), 11th (2014)