ZAP Team Shines at Olympic Trials

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials concluded last night, and it wrapped up a historic week for the ZAP team. Amanda Vestri, Andrew Colley and Ryan Ford all finished in the top 10 in the 10,000m while Eric van der Els qualified for the final of 5,000m.

Andrew and Ryan kicked things off on the opening night of the Trials in the men’s 10,000m. Under sunny, 83 degree skies, the race started at a shockingly fast pace. Connor Mantz, the Olympic Marathon Trials winner, shot to the front, immediately fracturing the field. A lead group of 6, including Andrew Colley, went with Mantz as he towed the group through the opening kilometer in 2:40, on pace to run 26:40. He kept his foot on the gas through the opening mile, but began to slow.

As the leaders slowed, Ryan Ford and a chase pack of 4 athletes slowly began to reel the top group back in. They reached the halfway mark in 13:54, and by that point the chase pack had caught the leaders and formed a group of 10. The pace yo-yoed slightly over the next 4,000m with several athletes taking time at the lead, some to slow it down, some to speed it up. But never was it enough to shake any of the 10. Until Andrew hit the front with 3.5 laps to go.

Andrew’s strong move to the front created an immediate fracture in the group and within a lap the group went from 10 to 5. American record holder, Grant Fisher, took over the pace just before 2 laps to go and continued to ratchet up the pace, separating from the field. Andrew slid back to 5th with 2 laps to go and Ryan was in 9th. Andrew slowed on the penultimate lap before closing faster on the final circuit, and would ultimately finish in 8th, 3 seconds ahead of Ryan in 9th. Andrew’s time of 28:05 was a new personal best, clearing indicative of being ready to run much faster, and for Ryan it was the 3rd fastest time of his career.

Andrew acknowledged after the race that his big move 3.5 laps out may have cost him a spot in the top 5-6-7, but it was a bold move to snag a top 3 finish that he had no regrets about. Andrew was originally entered in the 5,000m as well, but after the 10k final he had significant pain in his plantar fascia and made the difficult decision that it wasn’t worth the risk to push through another race in spikes.

Eric Makes 5,000m Final

After the men’s 10k on Friday night Eric van der Els was next up the following Thursday in the men’s 5,000m prelim. Eric was in the 2nd of 2 heats. To qualify for the final an athlete has to finish in the top 6 in their heat, or be among the next 4 fastest times from both heats. That makes being in the 2nd heat an advantage because the athletes in the 2nd heat know how fast they have to run to get the time qualifying spots. And, as expected Eric’s section started at a quicker pace than the first, all but guaranteeing all of the time qualifiers would come out of the 2nd section.

Despite a slightly quicker pace than the first heat, the entire field was together when the kicking for the finish began 2 laps from the finish. Eric was in 13th place when the pace began to wind up, knowing that 10 athletes from this heat would likely go through to the final (top 6 plus all 4 time qualifiers.) With 2 laps the field ran a 60 second lap and Eric remained 1 second behind the lead. With 300m to go the sprinting began and the field stretched out. Eric was still in 12th and looked to be in a precarious position with 200m to go.

As they entered the turn with 200m to go Eric moved into 11th place with the field stretched out in front of him, seemingly running away. But with 100m to go Eric found another gear and sprinted into 10th place, closing on much of the main pack as he hit the finish line with his ticket to the final punched. In what could easily be described as the best race of his life, Eric ran 13:26, the 2nd fastest time of his career, thanks to a final lap of 55 seconds, a final 800m of 1:56, a final 1200m of 3:00, and final mile of 4:05.

With the final 3 days later, Eric focused on recovery, getting in some ice baths and easy running before Sunday afternoon. The final on Sunday was sunny and warm with temperatures again topping 80 degrees. The final saw a very uneven pace, starting slowly before accelerating 3.5 laps into the race. Eric remained patient, sitting back in 13th place, but still ran laps of 62-63-64 within the first half of the race.

The pace then slowed back for 2 laps, and Eric was able to maintain contact with the pack. But the reprieve didn’t last long as Grant Fisher, just like he did in the 10k, hit the front and immediately broke the race wide open. Eric would fight for every inch over the final 4 laps of the race, but the challenge of the prelim combined with a ruthless final left him a bit tired in the final laps. However, he would finish well enough to take 14th place after qualifying in the 16th position and entering the meet as the 24th seed.

What he accomplished over the last 6 weeks of the season, taking his PR from 13:36 down to 13:21, and qualifying for the final at the Olympic Trials, is career altering. He’ll have 1 more opportunity on the track this summer on July 20th in Los Angeles, where he’ll race a 5,000m. The window for qualifying for the 2025 US Championships is open and being able to have a qualifying mark before next spring would represent a huge advantage heading into 2025.

Amanda Takes 5th in 10,000m

When the gun went off in the women’s 10,000m final, Amanda Vestri immediately declared her intentions: I’m here to make the Olympic team. She shot to the front of the race, and then when 2:24 marathoner Susanna Sullivan took the lead, Amanda tucked into 3rd place. Several women, including Amanda, needed the pace to go reasonably quick to ensure their world ranking would be good enough to make the Olympic team if they were to finish in the top 3. (More on that at the bottom of our preview article here.) And Sullivan was setting a pace that would ultimately meet those goals.

However, the pace was modest enough that with 2 miles to go 13 women were still in the lead pack. That’s when the pace began to pick up, with the lead group going from 79-80 second laps to 74-75 second laps. The increase in pace trimmed the field down to 9 with Amanda sitting in the group. However, despite the increase in pace, the real move was yet to come. With 4 laps to go Parker Valby hit the front and started running 70 second laps. That was enough to separate the top 3 from the field, but Amanda continued to battle in the chase pack behind the leaders.

Despite not feeling at her best, Amanda moved from 7th place up to 5th place over the final 3 laps, clocking 32:11 in the hot conditions. That time, run off a much slower pace for the majority of the race and in the 80 degree heat, shows just how far she has come in a year. A year ago, that would have been only 3 seconds off her personal best. Based on the world ranking system, despite finishing 5th instead of 4th, Amanda is likely in the position of first alternate. In the event one of the top 3 athletes were to scratch the 10k in favor of another event or due to injury, she would be named to the Olympic team. The final team should be announced on July 7th.

You can catch the full results from the US Olympic Trials here.