As was mentioned in the 3000m preview already, Lawi Lalang, although has not been running up to the standard that most of us hold him to, he still is Lawi and still has a 13:08 5000m PR and therefore as the returning champion deserves to be the number one on this list. What makes Lawi Lalang so scary is his speed, which can come into play, especially in the 5K and especially in a slow race. He owns a 3:55.09 Mile PR. A third place finish at the national championships outdoors behind Levins and Chelimo was definitely not what we thought Lalang was capable of, but keep in mind having to run a 1500m before and maybe that he was tired from a long season of incredible running every race. Either way you spin it, Lalang has the fastest PR, by a decent margin, of everyone in the country and should be considered the favorites in the 5000m this indoor season (as long as he runs the 5000m).
Whenever the name Lalang comes up nowadays the other name that seems to be going along with it is Kithuka. What many people do not realize is that before Kithuka transferred, he and Lalang have actually raced each other before. As Wayland Baptist, Kithuka ran the Invited 5000m at Mt. Sac where he ran his solid PR of 13:28.61, but placed 9th--10 seconds behind Lalang who was 2nd. Now it appears that Kithuka is obviously as fit as he’s ever been and is definitely capable of beating Lawi (we saw him do it in cross). If Kithuka carries his momentum from cross country to indoor, he and Lalang are going to have some exciting battles.
Coming off of an Olympic year in which Ahmed was able to represent Canada in the 10,000m, Ahmed pushed back his training in order to not get hurt and to keep the possibility of a redshirt going in to the 2012 cross country season. Luckily for Wisconsin and for himself, Ahmed was able to stay healthy and get fit for the end of the season where Ahmed finished 8th overall in Louisville and helped Wisconsin to a 2nd place team finish. Mo redshirted indoor last year, but his outdoor season was equally as impressive as his 2011 cross country season (finished 5th in cross). Ahmed broke the Big 10 record for 10,000m with a PR of 27:34.64. He has a myriad of experience running 5000m including: 11th in 2011 at indoor nationals, 14th in 2011 at outdoor nationals, and 7th in 2012 outdoor nationals. Ahmed has run 13:44 or better four different times and is consistently running well at championship races which puts him high on this list for 5000m.
Although Rotich was running last year at all of the same meets that everyone else was, no one really knew who he was, and was definitely never in the picture as a contender for a national title or even in anyone’s top 10 or any list you can think of about the best distance runners in the country. It’s amazing what one year’s difference can make. Rotich did have a pretty good outdoor season in 2012 finishing 6th in the 3000m Steeplechase and has a nice PR of 8:41.14. That was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Rotich’s ability and that was evident during the 2012 cross country season. Rotich finished no worse than 4th in every race he ran in cross and that 4th place finish was at nationals. He won Pre-Nats, won Conference USA, and was 2nd at Mountain Regionals (behind Kithuka). As long as he stays healthy Rotich has a chance to surprise a lot of people indoors as he continues to improve and progress.
Another repeat name from the 3k that also belongs on this list is Estrada. Behind Lalang, Estrada is the number 2 returner from the 5000m at last year’s indoor championships, where he ran 13:38.12 in the final behind some pretty good company (Lalang, Derrick, Sambu and Levins). Diego also has a legitimate 5000m PR in 13:26.94. Estrada is always considered a threat whenever he races especially in the 5k where he has a 4th place 2011 indoor finish and 5th place finish indoors in 2012.
A 10th place finish in 2012 indoors for 5000m and the number four returner in all the land puts Mecheso in the top 10. Girma came off of a redshirt cross season in 2011 to a solid 10th place indoor nats finish for 5000m, but led to a decent (maybe sub-par) outdoor season. A DNF in Des Moines at outdoor nats for 10,000m was too bad because he definitely was a contender for a top finish in that race. That was most likely due to his solid finish for 5000m in the same championships placing 8th in 13:57. Mecheso redeemed himself in cross country this past season, running very well all season and finishing 5th at nationals (he was 2nd at Chili Pepper, 2nd at Big 12’s, and 2nd at Midwest Regionals). With all of that in mind he also has a good 5000m PR of 13:34.83 and should improve upon that this upcoming indoor season.
Mecheso’s teammate, who actually finished one spot ahead of him in last year’s indoor 5000m, is Shadrack Kipchirchir. Being a top returner in this event last year gives him a sure spot in the top 10, but behind Mecheso because of his great cross season. Kipchirchir had a good cross country season in 2012 finishing 18th overall at nationals and finishing behind Mecheso in nearly every other race they ran together. Kiprchirchir has good PRs in the distance events of 7:59.79, 13:46.00 and 29:32.99. Look for Shadrack to either move up or off of the list throughout the season depending on his performances and health.
The 2012 Indoor season was Parker Stinson’s coming out party where we saw him tear up the scene and emerged as an elite distance runner with some very good times he ran for 3k and 5k. First, was at the Husky Classic where Stinson ran 13:39.22 and then at the MPSF Championships he went 7:55.60 for 3k. Outdoors was also good for Parker with a nice 10th place finish at nationals in the 5000m running 13:58.28. Stinson was ready for a breakout cross country season as well in 2012, and in general one could say he did, minus nationals. He placed 9th at Pre-Nats, 4th at Pac-12’s (behind Lalang, Sambu, and Dunbar), and 7th at the West Regional). Unfortunately the national meet was probably not exactly what he was shooting for (240th). If Stinson can get over the troubles he had at the end of the season in cross, he is definitely a contender for the 5k indoors.
10. Jared Ward- BYU
If you were to only look at what Ward ran indoors and outdoors, he might not deserve inclusion on this list. On the other hand, in terms of momentum and running well recently Ward could be one of the up and coming distance runners in the country. Ward has good, but not great PR’s indoors and outdoors with an 8:01.99, 13:52.05 and 28:59, in the 3k, 5k, and 10k, respectively. What really helped him emerge on to the scene was his very good 5th place finish in Des Moines last June for 10,000m. Ward kept this momentum through the 2012 cross country season where he proved to be one of the top American-born distance runners. He finished 8th at Pre-Nats, 1st at the West Coast Conference meet, 3rd in a very good Mountain Regional and 14th at nationals. Going into the indoor season Ward is definitely a darkhorse (but each list should have at least one) and could be seen, just as Kipchirchir, either moving up or off the list throughout the season.
Others not mentioned but of note are: Ryan Hill (NC State), Soufiane Bouchikhi (Eastern Kentucky), David Rooney (McNeese State) Tom Farrell (Oklahoma State)