Kelati qualifies for Paris in 10,000 meters; Valby, Schweizer finish 2nd and 3rd (2024)

Kelati qualifies for Paris in 10,000 meters; Valby, Schweizer finish 2nd and 3rd (1)

Shortly after her third-place finish in the women’s 10,000-meter final Saturday evening at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials, Karissa Schweizer was asked what potentially qualifying in two events for the Olympics meant to her after a series of setbacks with injuries over the past two years.

Schweizer began to answer the question before tears began to fall out of her eyes. She had to step away from the lights and cameras searching for her reaction to another potential double qualification after qualifying in the 5,000 meters Monday.

After collecting herself, she tried to put into words what the pair of races meant.

“It’s been a long weekend and I’m really excited,” Schweizer said, fighting back tears. “Even though it doesn’t look like it. It’s a sigh of relief, too. You put a lot of pressure on yourself, and you work really hard to get to these moments. When you finally do it, I don’t even have words for it.”

Kelati qualifies for Paris in 10,000 meters; Valby, Schweizer finish 2nd and 3rd (2)

Schweizer qualified for both the women’s 5,000 and 10,000 during the Tokyo Olympics three years ago and put herself in position to nearly do it again after a surgery on her Achilles immediately after Tokyo and a calf injury that forced her to withdraw from the 2022 World Championships the following year.

In April, Schweizer had a stress reaction to her injury that put serious doubts on if she’d even be able to compete at the U.S. trials at Hayward Field this week.

The 28-year-old Bowerman Track Club athlete finished third in the women’s 5,000 final Monday, and repeated the feat Saturday in the 10,000 final in 31 minutes, 41.557 seconds. Florida standout and five-time NCAA champion this past season Parker Valby finished second, just barely clipping Schweizer at the finish line by four one-thousandths of a second, while 27-year-old Weini Kelati won in 31:41.07.

Kelati was the only runner with the Olympic standard heading into the race, so a top-three finish ensures Kelati is headed to the Paris Olympics later this summer. Valby and Schweizer had to either hit the standard of 30:40.0 in the race – which they didn’t – or hope to do enough to move up the World Athletics rankings system.

Valby, who finished fourth in the 5,000 final earlier this week and said she almost decided to drop out of the 10,000 entirely, said her coaches didn’t tell her a time to shoot for, hoping she wouldn’t think too much about it.

“I didn’t come this far just to come this far,” Valby said. “I didn’t want to leave on a fourth-place note.”

Valby said she decided to race Saturday morning after waffling whether she wanted to compete again after a disappointing finish in the 5,000, where she led for almost the entire race before the top-three group passed her over the final quarter of the race.

Schweizer, meanwhile, knew around the slowest time she could race if she wanted to advance to Paris in the 10,000.

“I knew the lowest time was probably going to be 31:50,” Schweizer said. “When I came around, I knew we had to have a fast last lap … It went a lot slower than I was expecting but I knew I couldn’t stress myself out. I did look at the time towards the end and knew I had to squeeze it down for the last lap just to ensure I could go up in the ranking system. The ranking system has been a bit of a whirlwind, for sure.”

Though it’s unclear whether Valby or Schweizer did enough to qualify for Paris, both seemed to think they would get in.

Neither have run the Olympic standard and would need to crack the world rankings pool to qualify, which they suspect they have done by finishing second and third in the race at the trials.

Kelati, meanwhile, made her return to Hayward Field after earning her U.S. citizenship in the days leading up to the 2021 Olympic trials and dropping out of the final after 7,000 meters. It comes 10 years after she raced in the 3,000 at the 2014 World Junior Championships at Hayward at the age of 17, and subsequently sought asylum in the United States rather than returning to her home country of Eritrea.

“It’s crazy,” Kelati said. “I get pretty emotional when I come here because of the memories back when I left my family. But this year I just wanted to come out here, focus on my race, and just perform well at the race. It’s been affecting every race I do. This year I’ve worked mentally to get prepared with that.”

Alec Dietz covers University of Oregon football, volleyball, women’s basketball and baseball for The Register-Guard. You may reach him atadietz@registerguard.comand you can follow him on X@AlecDietz.

Kelati qualifies for Paris in 10,000 meters; Valby, Schweizer finish 2nd and 3rd (2024)
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