Hobbs Kessler Goes 3:34 at 18!?; Cold Day in Attleboro & More Madness

Hobbs Kessler stole the show this weekend in Portland with a 3:34.36 in the 1,500m at 18 years old; a Canadian conundrum and more in this week's newsletter

This is the CITIUS MAG Newsletter, a weekly round-up of the biggest stories in the running and track & field community with analysis and commentary by me, Chris Chavez. If you’ve been forwarded this email or stumbled upon a link online, you can sign up and subscribe here:

A lot happened in the track and field world over the past couple of days so we’ll dive right into it…

Hobbs Kessler Qualifies for the Olympic Trials’ would have been enough of a headline for a good story but he surpassed all expectations by running 3:34.36 at the Portland Track Festival while finishing fifth in a race that was won by Craig Engels in 3:33.64. For Kessler, the time is faster than Jim Ryun’s U-20 record of 3:36.1 and faster than the NCAA record of 3:34.68. All accomplished while he’s an 18-year-old high school senior at Ann Arbor Skyline in Michigan. Kessler is in the middle of a full high school season so thoughts and prayers to the kids who have to compete against him there this weekend.

Enjoyed watching this behind-the-scenes vlog put together by the Very Nice Track Club from the weekend. Personally, my favorite parts were: Coach Ron Warhurst helping Kessler tie his spikes’ shoelaces, Willis’ instant analysis from the race where he says, ‘Hobbs could’ve run faster because he had to do a big surge after 200 and we were already really fast for the first 200 so he didn’t need to do that…” and when the team does a group hill session after the race. Very nice.

Other highlights from Portland

Mason Ferlic might be one of the top contenders for one of three spots at the upcoming Olympic Trials in the steeplechase. The former NCAA champion out of Michigan won the steeplechase in 8:18.80 and handed Sean McGorty his first loss in the event. McGorty ran 8:22.75 in his second attempt at the event. Still no sign of Evan Jager competing but if you listened to the podcast episode with McGorty, he says there’s no reason to press the panic button if you’re a Jager fan.

– On the women’s side, Courtney Frerichs notched a season’s best of 9:21.13. The most interesting part of this race happened behind her as Valerie Constien and Mel Lawrence got under the Olympic standard with 9:25.53 and 9:27.34 for second and third place. That puts them at No. 3 and No. 4 on the U.S. list for 2021. Colleen Quigley, who has been No. 3 for the U.S. on these national teams since 2015, does not plan on racing until the Trials so it will be interesting to see what shape she’s been able to work herself into since last racing in February. Allie Ostrander, who was the United States’ fourth steeplechaser at Worlds in 2019, was sixth in Portland in a 9:38.72 for her first steeple race since Doha.

– Japan’s Suguru Osako, who has been training in Portland under coach Pete Julian, won the men’s 10,000m in 27:56.44 and then got back on the track for another 10,000m and took second in 29:04.28. Jacob Thompson notched the OTQ in second place in 27:57.32. Galen Rupp, who was running his first track race since 2018, finished fourth in 28:00.37. Rupp is preparing for the Olympic marathon but told Runner’s World’s Sarah Lorge Butler that he will run the Olympic track trials if he gets from the descending order list.

– Kenya’s Caroline Kipkirui won the women’s 10,000m in 31:44.06. Molly Seidel finished her first track race since 2018 with a 32:02.19 and helped pull some friends under the U.S. Olympic Trials standard of 32:25.00. Makenna Myler, who went viral last year for running a 5:25 mile while nine months pregnant, ran 32:03.62. Lauren Hurley ran 32:17.22 for fifth.

Donavan Brazier got a scare in the men’s 800 from Mexico’s Tonatiu Lopez but still came away with a 1:45.09 to 1:45.14 win. This was Brazier’s first outdoor 800m race of the season.

Gabriela Stafford downed a stacked field where five women ran under the previous meet record of 1:59.30. Stafford won in 1:58.70 for her first career sub-two performance. We noted when Elle Purrier became one of three American women to break sub-2 in the 800, sub-4 in the 1,500 and sub-15 in the 5,000. Stafford became the first Canadian woman to accomplish that feat. Sabrina Southerland, who I remember as a high school star in New York City and went on to thrive at Georgetown and Oregon before joining the Oregon Track Club, dropped her personal best from 2:00.72 to 1:58.82 in second place. That makes her the second-fastest American woman of 2021 behind Athing Mu’s world-leading time of 1:57.73. 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials champion Kate Grace 1:59.04 for her best performance since September 2016. As it was in 2016, the women’s 800m final at the Trials is going to be WILD. Is it crazy to think that Ajee Wilson and Raevyn Rogers, who both won medals at the 2019 world championships, may not be locks? I don’t think so.

– Bowerman Track Club added another win as Elise Cranny pocketed the women’s 1,500m Olympic standard with a win in a personal best of 4:02.62 (4:05.83 was her previous PB) over Dani Jones’ 4:04.26. Jones was just .06 off that Olympic standard that she’s missing. Cranny now has the Olympic standard in the 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m so she has some decision-making to do for the Trials.

– The men’s 5,000m races were a bit puzzling as Lopez Lomong opened up his 2021 season by winning the B heat in 13:26.11. It was his first 5K since running his personal best of 12:58.78 last July. This should quell any concerns about his fitness heading into the Trials, where he should be a contender to try and defend his national title from 2019 in the 5,000m or the 10,000m. His Bowerman teammates Grant Fisher and Woody Kincaid went 1-2 in the fast section in 13:19.52 and 13:24.64, respectively.

Jessica Hull, who was already named to the Australian Olympic team, won the women’s 5,000m in 14:57.00. That’s her second-best time behind her 14:43.80 national record at last year's Monaco Diamond League. Behind her, Canada’s Andrea Seccafien (14:57.07) and Julie-Anne Staehli (14:57.50) dipped under 15 minutes. 

Full results from the meet can be found here.


A Cold, Windy Night In Attleboro

I was behind the mic alongside Mary Cain and Carrie Tollefson for the Platinum PT Qualifier in Attleboro, Mass. on Saturday evening. The hope was to bring back a traditional twilight meet in New England with the chance of notching some Olympic Trials and Olympic qualifiers but Mother Nature had some other plans. It was raining hard all morning but calmed down before the meet started. Temperatures were in the mid-40s for most of the evening. We were still able to see some good races. (Full results of the meet can be found here.)

Julia Rizk took the win in the women’s 800m over Elle Purrier in 2:02.98, which came as a little bit of a surprise but for Purrier it served as a final tuneup for the Olympic Trials 1,500m. She came back later in the evening to pace the women’s 1,500m.

– I was looking at the women’s 1,500m race to be a stage for a possible statement win for a dark horse contender for the trials since it featured Heather MacLean, Josette Norris and Helen Schlachtenhaufen, who have all had strong seasons. It was Norris who prevailed and won in 4:06.30, which is just off her 4:06.17 personal best from April.  but she’ll be focused on the 5,000m at the Trials since she’s run 14:51 in that event. 

Eric Holt continued his winning ways by taking the men’s 1,500m in 3:40.05. Many have become familiar with Holt through his three wins on the Trials of Miles Qualifier series, inspiring post-race interviews and his appearance on the CITIUS MAG Podcast. I believe the guy just needs to get into a 3:35/3:36-ish race and get dragged under that Olympic Trials qualifying mark of 3:37.50. He’ll take one more stab at it this week at the Stumptown Twilight meet on Thursday in Portland.

– In the women’s 5,000m, we got a familiar sight of Emily Sisson blowing away the competition and winning in 14:59.12. That’s her third sub-15 of the year. After the race, she told Tollefson that she will be contesting the 10,000m at the Olympic Trials. The pandemic gave her an extra year to try and find her speed back after testing the marathon waters but missing the team with a DNF at the marathon trials.

– Former Michigan star and 2018 NCAA 10,000m champion Ben Flanagan found an extra gear in the final 200 meters of the men’s 5,000m to pull away from Ben True and win in a personal best of 13:20.67. True finished in 13:26.88. 19-year-old Graham Blanks, who was competing unattached and will be attending Harvard, ran 13:27.39. Remember the name.

While announcing, I figured that this was a solid five-second personal best for Flanagan that set him up for the Canadian Olympic Trials nicely but it was actually bigger than I thought upon further examination. 

For Flanagan, this puts him at No. 7 on the all-time Canadian list but more importantly, he’s the third-fastest for them outdoors since 2019. Only Moh Ahmed and Justyn Knight have run faster outdoors. (Matt Hughes ran 13:13.38 indoors at Boston University in Feb. 2020 but my guess is that he’ll likely focus on the steeplechase for Tokyo so let’s put him outside this equation for a bit.)

With less than a month to go until their Olympic Trials in Montreal from June 25-27, Athletics Canada sent an email saying the winner of the Trials won’t earn an automatic berth to Tokyo, which essentially leaves it up to a selection committee to weigh performances and world rankings in making their three picks per event. 

Flanagan will have to decide whether he wants to head back to Canada to quarantine for two weeks to compete in the 5,000m at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 26. The 10,000m is not much of an option for him since he’s lacking the Olympic standard of 27:28.00 and only ran 27:49.09 at The Track Meet on May 14. 

We’ve seen lots of Canadian athletes competing in these U.S. meets to try and get fast times and then head home to prepare for the trials because the quarantine restrictions throw a wrench into training.

I still haven’t seen who is running at the Canadian trials but I’d think Ahmed with his world championship bronze medal from 2019 and his 12:47.20 national record in 2020 (+ the Olympic standard) would be a lock for a spot by the committee. Knight has represented Canada in the 5,000m at the last two world championships and has a 13:09.76 personal best from 2019 so I’d think his chances are good. That maybe leaves one spot open and guys like Flanagan, Charles Philibert-Thiboutot (118th in the World Rankings), Luc Bruchet (75th in the World Rankings) and Kieran Lumb (13:24.25 season’s best and 22nd in the World Rankings) up for consideration.

But the way the Canadian trials now work, any one of those guys could go somewhere and chase a fast time in hopes that the selection committee would weigh it more than maybe a Trials victory. An athlete sacrificing two weeks of training to try and win the Trials should be worth something but man...what a conundrum and I’m sure Flanagan isn’t the only one who finds himself in this predicament since it applies to all events! 


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More Results from Around the World

The Doha Diamond League happened on Friday afternoon and here are my top six performances from it:

– Timothy Cheruiyot opened his 2021 campaign with an absolute banger in the men’s 1,500m in 3:30.48. Has not lost a race at this distance since May 3, 2019. This race isn’t even one of the top 10 fastest of his career so I’d still consider him the gold medal favorite in Rio.

– I learned a little bit more about Kenya’s Norah Jeruto, who ran 9:00.67 for a new world-leading time in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase. Mekides Abebe ran an Ethiopian national record of 9:02.52 in 2nd. Emma Coburn ran 9:08.22 for fifth place in her first steeplechase race since the 2019 world championships.

– Missed the reports last week but it was just mentioned on the Doha Diamond League broadcast that world record holder David Rudisha will not be defending his Olympic title in Tokyo. Not much of a surprise. He hasn’t raced since July 2017. He’s 32 years old and has been treating a nagging hamstring injury lately. His agent told the Associated Press that retirement could be in the cards since, "He is only motivated for the Olympics, so that's why it's hard to say he can really be motivated for the world championships.” As Kenya looks for its new gold medal hope, 23-year-old Wycliffe Kinyamal entered the conversation and ran a world-leading time of 1:43.91 to win the men’s 800m. He won a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games but has yet to represent Kenya at a world championship or Olympics.

– 10.84 (+1.1 m/s wind) for the win for two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the women’s 100m.  It marked her fastest time since winning the 2019 world championships. A great sign for her ahead of Tokyo.

Tom Walsh, who is unsponsored right now, won the men’s shot put with a 21.63m throw. He wore a top that read: “SPACE FOR RENT” on it since he was dropped by Nike at the end of 2020. To my understanding, Nike pulled some money out of the throws at the end of last year. For those looking to sponsor Walsh, his credentials are pretty solid with a resume that boasts: '16 Olympic bronze medalist; ’17 world champion; ’19 world bronze medalist, 2x world indoor champion; 11x national champion for New Zealand. 

– At the American Track League meet in Jacksonville on Sunday evening, the biggest performance was 17-year-old Erriyon Knightonrunning 20.11 (+1.6 m/s wind) for a new U20 and U18 world record. That beats Usain Bolt’s previous mark of 20.13. Noah Lyles’ U.S. high school record is 20.09 when he took fourth at the Olympic Trials 200m final.

Damian Warner improved upon his own Canadian national record to win the Hypo Meeting in Götzis, Austria for the sixth time in his career. His 8,995 points is so close to having him join the 9,000+ point club that consists of Kevin Mayer (9,126), his former training partner Ashton Eaton (9.045) and Roman Sebrle (9,026). He is now No. 4 on the all-time list. Hungary’s Xenia Krizsan set a world lead of 6,651 points to win the heptathlon.

Edward Cheserek returned to Kenya and won a 10,000m race in 28:10.41 at altitude in Nairobi.. He’s looking to be chosen by Athletics Kenya for their Olympic team. A reminder that before the pandemic struck, I reported that he was planning to represent Kenya at the world indoor championships. 

– At the NCAA level, we’ve got the outdoor championships taking place next week but Texas A&M’s Athing Mu took it upon herself to break the collegiate record in the 400 meters at the West Prelim in 49.68. Sheesh!


More News From Around the World

– There will be fans! TrackTown USA announced fans will be allowed into Hayward Field for the U.S. Olympic Trials later this month. No number has been shared yet but the University of Oregon announced they will have a capacity of 4,400 fans per day at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships from June 9-12. The newly-renovated Hayward Field seats 12,700 people. For both championship events, there will be a section for fully vaccinated fans & unvaccinated spectators. 

TrackTown USA offered refunds to all customers who previously ordered tickets but those refunds have not yet gone out, so those fans will have the option to keep their tickets but the seating location may change due to social distancing guidelines. As of Monday, 1.85 million people have been full-vaccinated and 2.24 million have received at least one dose. Conditions improved enough that organizers and the Oregon Health Authority worked to make this announcement.

Amy Cragg announced her retirement and will join the coaching staff of Puma’s new training group in North Carolina. She finished her career with a 2:21:42 personal best in the marathon, which is No. 6 on the all-time U.S. list. She was a two-time Olympian. She won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in those hot conditions in Los Angeles, where she and Shalane Flanagan displayed excellent teamwork to pull away from the field. Cragg’s biggest accomplishment came in the heat again when she won a bronze medal in the marathon at the 2017 world championships in London.

– The Atlanta Track Club announced that Aliphine Tuliamuk will run her first race since becoming a mother and since winning the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials when she returns to Atlanta for the Peachtree Road Race 10K on July 4. Jake Riley and Abdi Abdirahman will also compete as part of their training for the marathon in Sapporo in August.

– USA Track and Field told Runner’s World that the women’s 10,000m will be run in two sections due to the high number of qualifiers. It’s interesting they would make this decision before they know exactly how many people choose to run the event.

– As previously mentioned in one of the past newsletters, Asics created a campaign around Johnny Gregorek’s 4:06 Blue Jean Mile world record & encouraged people to run a jean mile and donate to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Asics is donating $40,625 to NAMI-NYC. As of writing this on June 1st, it looks like the campaign raised another $25.6K for mental health. 


CITIUS MAG PODCAST ANNOUNCEMENT

Trials Talk with Chris and Kyle! We have partnered with Tracksmith to bring you a DAILY podcast during the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore.

Kyle Merber and I will be in Eugene bringing you a show each day of the trials that will analyze and unpack the biggest performances and shocks of each day. We’ll have some guests on the show as well! Stay tuned for more on this exciting partnership and what other cool things we’ll be producing during our stay in Tracktown.

The good news is that you don’t need to subscribe to a new show in order to listen because the episodes will be available on The CITIUS MAG Podcast feed. You can subscribe here on Apple Podcasts. We are also on Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify!


This one ran really long. That’s it from me in the latest edition of the CITIUS MAG Newsletter. As always, thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this, learned something new or have any questions or commentary on anything featured in this issue, feel free to hit my inbox by replying or writing to chris@citiusmag.com

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