Rivalry Renewed

By: Kyle Markley

For years, sports have been filled with historic rivalries like Celtics vs. Lakers, Rocky vs. Creed, Yankees vs. the Red Sox’s. But for fans of running, this Olympics will showcase three former collegiate rivals in the men’s 5000m: Justyn Knight of Syracuse, Stanford’s Grant Fisher, and Morgan McDonald of Wisconsin. Together, these three combined for seven national championships throughout their time in college. Over the course of those years, they battled for more than just National Championships, but bragging rights as well.

Justyn Knight vs Grant Fisher

The first of the two rivalries began in 2016 between Justyn Knight and Grant Fisher during cross country. However, the real battle didn’t come until the 2017 NCAA Track and Field National Championship. Coming into that race Knight was the favorite to win, but the race played out in Fisher’s favor coming down to the last 200m where he beat out Knight to win his first national title. That race was the impetus for the hype for the following cross-country season where these matched up again at the Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invitational where they went 1-2 with Knight edging out Fisher for the win. This led to one of the most anticipated Nationals to date in Louisville, Kentucky. At the national championships, Knight had the better performance of the day winning his first individual National Championship and beating Fisher who finished 5th

The following spring, the two again battled on the indoor track where Knight won his second individual National Championship in the 5000m. With the title scale leaning in Knight's favor, Fisher had one final chance to even the score at the outdoor National Championships in the 5000m. Under the lights and rain of Hayward Field, the Knight/Fisher party ended up being spoiled as Fisher's teammate Sean McGorty took the title with Knight finishing runner-up and Fisher a close third. 

(Track and Field News)

Morgan McDonald vs Grant Fisher

With Knight graduating in 2018, it looked like the rivalry was over and it was Fisher’s time to reign. But, that’s when the redshirt senior from Wisconsin came into picture. What ensued was one of the craziest finishes between the two on a snow-covered course in Madison, Wisconsin. With a National Title on the line these two made it a race to remember. The race finished with McDonald outkicking Fisher for the win in front of the Wisconsin crowd, marking the start of McDonald’s reign in the NCAA. Over the course of the following indoor and outdoor track seasons he won three more National Championships, including their last 5000m as colligate athletes at the National Championships in Austin, Texas, where the two battled through the heat and humidity to finish one, two in the final.

(Photo: Madison.com)

After college all three signed professional contracts with major shoe brands. Knight was the first to turn professional after he signed with Reebok and train under his former Syracuse coach Chris Fox his Syracuse coach in the newly formed Reebok Boston Track Club. Fisher was the next to sign with Nike, where he took his talents up to Portland to join the Bowerman Track Club under the tutelage of Jerry Schumacher. Finally, McDonald signed a contract with Under Armour, but after a couple of coaching changes the past several years, McDonald recently signed with On Running and joined Dathan Ritzenhein’s OAC Team. 


These three will potentially square off in the Olympic semifinals of the 5000m and hopefully the finals in Tokyo. The semifinals are set to occur on Tuesday August 3rd at 7:00am EST , and the final on Friday, August 6th, at 8:00am EST.

Which of the three are you cheering for? Drop your pick in the Comments!