Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

At Olympic Track and Field Trials, a distance running goodbye, breakthrough mark first day

EUGENE, Oregon — The first day of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials began with Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz saying goodbye and ended with a statement victory from another distance runner, Grant Fisher, who hopes to win his first medal in Paris.

Fisher moved with about 1,000 meters to go in the men’s 10,000m final at Hayward Field. Nobody stuck with him.

He finished in 27 minutes, 49.47 seconds, followed by Woody Kincaid (27:50.74) and Nico Young (27:52.40). In the lone final of the first night of the meet, they became the first Americans to qualify for the Paris Games on the track.

It is often said that first place and third place are interchangeable at an Olympic Trials. That it’s all about making the team.

TRACK AND FIELD TRIALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Fisher, Kincaid and Young were all but guaranteed of that with 1,000 meters left.

They were the only runners in the 24-man field who previously ran the Olympic qualifying standard time (27:00), a time that nobody was going to hit in Eugene on Friday night. Only two-time Olympic 5000m medalist Paul Chelimo had a realistic chance to get into the Olympics on world ranking, but he had faded to 10th place with three laps left.

Yet Fisher, second at the Tokyo Olympic Trials in the 5000m and 10,000m, tried to put away the field anyway. He succeeded.

“We targeted this race not as a qualifier, but I wanted to win, and I wanted to do it dominantly,” he said. “I wanted to beat everybody. I wanted to show myself that I’m still the best guy in the country, and I’m ready to compete internationally.”

Fisher’s move came about 11 hours after Centrowitz posted a three-paragraph statement on social media.

“How do you say goodbye to a sport you’ve competed at and obsessed over for half your life?” he wrote.

His bid for a fourth Olympic team at age 34 was felled by a hamstring strain. In 2016, Centrowitz became the first American to win an Olympic 1500m title in 108 years, smack in the middle of an American distance-running surge. He also won two world championships medals at 1500m.

Fisher mentioned Centrowitz in a group interview after Thursday night’s race. He was asked if he’d value an Olympic medal more than his American records at 3000m, 5000m and 10,000m.

“American records, they’re really, really cool and really special,” he said. “However, when I was growing up, the narrative around the U.S. was you can’t compete with the rest of the world. Distance runners — the East Africans, the Europeans — Americans just aren’t as good.”

Fisher noticed pro runners disproving that as he rose through high school in Grand Blanc, Michigan, and matriculated at Stanford.

“Chelimo has medals. Centro has some medals. Galen (Rupp) has some medals,” Fisher said. “But, other than that, there really hasn’t been a bulk of Americans that are able to do that. Plenty of American record holders through the years that haven’t medaled. So it would mean a lot more (to win an Olympic medal). Just a little more rare (than an American record). It would show to myself, and hopefully other people, that the U.S. can produce really good talent on the distance side. We have the depth. I think it’s getting better each year.”

Fisher was fifth in the Tokyo Olympic 10,000m, 2.51 seconds out of a medal. In 2022, he was fourth at the world championships in Eugene, just 17 hundredths behind bronze medalist Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda.

Fisher missed qualifying for the 2023 World team while dealing with a stress reaction in his femur. He then left the Bowerman Track Club in Oregon, his home since completing his Stanford career in 2019.

He finished a master’s degree in computer science and moved to Park City, Utah. He has since trained largely on his own under the guidance of his high school coach, Mike Scannel.

“A risky decision to leave Bowerman just because it’s the only thing I’d known,” he said. “I was really successful under that system. But I knew in my heart it was the right time. I knew I was ready for a change.

“This definitely is validation.”

Next, Fisher will try to join the aforementioned recent Olympic men’s distance medalists. No American man won an Olympic medal in a race 1500 meters or longer in 1988, 1992, 1996 or 2000. Since 2012, at least one American man has made the Olympic podium at every distance.

“You just need to have one good day and have something special happen,” Fisher said. “I’ve been close to the medals before, and I’ve never gotten them. So hopefully this is my time.”

Ryan Crouser is an Olympic and world champion, world record holder ... and coach.