Breaking down the steeple

Who will be the top finishers in the 3,000-meter steeplechase finals Saturday at Hayward Field?

Predicting the outcome at the Olympic trials would seem foolhardy, but there are viable candidates.

Steve Slattery has the fastest time going in at 8 minutes, 15.69 seconds.

Josh McAdams won the event in the NCAA championships in 2006 and ended 2007 ranked No. 1 in the U.S., winning the outdoor national title and the Pan Am Games.

Anthony Famiglietti, a 2004 Olympian, has the fastest time this year at 8:24.34.

"It'll be those three trying to make a push for the Olympic team," says former Crater High runner Max King. "Then you'll have about five other guys, including myself, right behind them looking to be right there. If one of them slips up on the last three laps, it could be one of us that steps in."

In a breakdown released by USA Track and Field, the aforementioned are regarded as favorites, and three others — King, Aaron Aguayo and Thomas Brooks — are heralded as strong challengers.

Aguayo won four NCAA titles while at Arizona State.

Brooks, an Oregon Track Club teammate of King's, was third at last year's U.S. championships.

Last year in cross country, King placed seventh at the national championships and 55th at the worlds.

Steeplechase semifinals are Thursday, and Frank Gagliano, an Oregon Track Club Coach, expects a slow pace.

For the finals on Saturday, the pace should pick up considerably.

Normally, in national meets, runners are trying to win, not record a specific time. The pace often is slow and the outcome decided by final kicks.

But anyone with designs on making the Olympic team and competing in Beijing must have a time of 8:24.6 to their credit. Entering the trials, only five do.

"A lot of guys are aiming for the same goal," says King. "The time will come."

The race will likely come down to the last three laps.

"That's kind of the point where you feel fatigue and it wears on you," says King. "That's where the big move is made to separate from the pack. The faster guys break off and the slower guys start to slow down a little.

"You have to be on your game and be ready for anybody to make a big move. You have to be able to cover it. You have to stay relaxed and run fast."

King has competed against virtually all the runners in the trials.

"No one is, overall, head and shoulders above anyone else," he says. "I've pretty much beaten all of them at some point. It comes down to confidence in this one race. You know you've been there before and you know you can be there again."

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