KEVIN LIAO: The Payton Jordan meet at Stanford is always filled with a bevy of hot distance running action, and no race in this year’s edition of the meet is more loaded than the men’s 5000 meters. I’ll just throw some names out there — Centro, Lomong, Jager, Derrick, Hill, True, Estrada, Bumbalough, Heath, and many more.
Jon, where do we even start?
JON GUGALA: Should we just DQ all the Schumacher and Brooks athletes right now? That would cut down on time.
LIAO: Please keep Max Siegel et al. away from Palo Alto.
The real question is whether Lopez can count the laps correctly this time. I heard Schumacher hired Count Dracula from Sesame Street as a strategic advisor.
GUGALA: OK, so Ben True almost (almost) beat Dejen Gebremeskel at the BAA 5K. So he’s fit.
LIAO: He’ the only one of the bunch who’s proven fitness this spring. I just can’t make him the favorite though. Lomong has made so many World/Olympic teams for me to think he’s not going to win this one.
An aside on True — with just how loaded the U.S. is in the 5k and to some extent 10k, is True gonna be one of those guys who’s a perennial fourth placer at the trials? I just don’t see him beating the likes of Lagat, Rupp, Lomong, or Derrick to make a team.
GUGALA: I don’t see Lagat at the trials.
LIAO: Seriously? The dude just won a silver medal indoors and still whoops Rupp every time they race. Why wouldn’t he go two more years?
The same goes for Meb. Both guys have shown age hasn’t affected their performance much, if at all. Plus there’s that dangling carrot of a big shoe contract bonus for making an Olympic team.
GUGALA: Look, I’m arguing straight biological laws. Yes, they’re present now, and that’s amazing. What are the odds for two more years, to be as good? Lagat’s already been bested by Rupp, World Indoors not withstanding. The harvest is coming.
LIAO: Fair enough. I’m not one to argue against science, but good ol’ Bernie has bested Rupp every time before and after that 2012 Trials 5k.
GUGALA: Schumacher’s boys are to be reckoned with in this race.
Lopez Lomong is just one of those bastards that doesn’t die. Like Meb or Lagat. And like those two guys, you count them out and then they win Boston. So don’t count Lomong out? You should probably count him out in this field, which is exactly why you shouldn’t count him out.
Bumby’s got a chip on his shoulder because of USA Indoors. That’s very good.
Derrick and Jager are both healthy, and you can’t think they’re both not thinking sub-13 this year. This summer. That’s happening. And what happens after that? We got a good old-fashioned rivalry lit with the NOP again. And you know how much Salazar likes a confrontation.
LIAO: You’re spot on about Jager and Derrick. It’s sub-13 or bust this year. Probably have to throw Ryan Hill in there as well given what he did indoors. With his finishing speed and how tactical 5k championship races are (other reason why I think Lagat makes the team for Rio), gotta think he’ll be a World/Olympic team member for many years to come.
While we’re on the subject of Team Schumacher, WHERE IS GERMAN??
GUGALA: The hospital? He’s delicate, man.
LIAO: Too soon?
What the hell is going on with Hassan Mead? Him and Blankenship are both out of The U, but he’s not had the best post-collegiate transition, i.e. improvement. Although he did step on Rupp’s spike at USA’s last year. That was pretty funny.
LIAO: Last year was his first year as a pro and he ran 13:11. Not bad if you ask me. Sure, he got dropped early in that weird U.S. champs 5k in Des Moines but certainly not time to panic.
GUGALA: Fair. I’ve just got a thing for Minnesota boys. Midwesterners. Trustworthy. It’s why I like Derrick.
LIAO: Given the bleak state of U.S. men’s marathoning, do you think Derrick would be wise to give the marathon a shot prior to 2016?
Given the risks of unsuccessful marathon attempts (see: Tim Nelson and Bobby Curtis who’ve never seen the same), I’d say he’s better off sticking to the track where he’s a near lock to make the next few 10k teams.
GUGALA: Man, I don’t know on this one. Personally, I love the sport of the marathon. It’s great. So do I want Derrick into the marathon earlier? Yes. Should a lot more guys be going straight into the marathon from the college age, a la Wanjiru? Absolutely. But Derrick already called out my co-writer Ray on his “(barely) implicit assumption is that I’m an idiot who doesn’t know what’s best for me.” Let him stay on the track if his desire’s there. Fine. But don’t wait too long. (Derrick did concede later, however, that “odds are I am an idiot.”)
LIAO: Gotta love the sassiness.
Before we wrap up, gotta address how Centro plays into this race. His 5k PR is 13:47.73 from the 2010 Stanford Invite. Other than Jerry’s boys messing with him (and Centro for real throat-slashing someone), I have a hard time seeing him hang in there with these pure long distance guys.
GUGALA: Centro is super green when it comes to the 5000m. And sure, you don’t know how he’s going to hang with Jerry’s kids and their Badger mile volume. But I’ve just got to think back to David Torrence tangling with Lomong in the 5000m in 2012. Torrence, debuting, was so fresh he lost count of the laps (as did Lomong). Result? 13:16. And so the way I look at it, it’s like basic math: “Torrence is really good, but Centro is better, so if Torrence ran 13:16, then Centro should run . . .” Should be a good race.
LIAO: Okay, let’s hear your top three and winning time. I’m going 1. Lomong FTW in 13:12, 2. Hill, 3. True.
GUGALA: You’re high. 1. Centro, kicking in the last 400 in 55 FTW, 13:05, 2. Derrick, 3. Jager, 4. True, perpetual bridesmaid.
LIAO: The guy from Santa Cruz is saying I’m high?
GUGALA: The guy from Nashville with the cowboy boots is saying he’s gonna kick your ass in this prediction contest.
LIAO: We shall see…
Follow Jon Gugala’s thoughts on the world of running on Twitter @JonGugala. Follow Kevin Liao on Twitter @RunLiao, where he will be blasting out his frequently misinformed thoughts live from Payton Jordan on Sunday.