Former NAU teammates Abdihamid Nur, Luis Grijalva storm to men’s 5,000m final at World Championships

Guatemala’s Luis Grijalva talks to reporters in the mixed zone after qualifying for Sunday’s 5,000-meter final. (David Veenstra/Cronkite News)

EUGENE, Ore. – Former Northern Arizona teammates, roommates and best friends, the United States’ Abdihamid Nur and Guatemala’s Luis Grijalva will turn competitors Sunday in the men’s 5,000-meter final after top-five heat finishes in Thursday’s qualifiers at the World Athletics Championships at Hayward Field.

Nur placed fifth in the opening heat with a time of 13:24.48, while Grijalva ran a season-best 13:14.o4 for third place in the second heat to become the first athlete from Guatemala to earn a spot in the World Championships finals in track. New Zealand’s George Beamish, a former NAU teammate of Grijalva and Nur, finished 12th in the first heat but placed 23rd overall and did not advance to the final.

“Anytime you can be a top-15 finalist in the world is pretty special,” Grijalva said. “And yeah, only 15 people in the world get to do it every year. So that’s why I celebrate it.

“It was really a big deal because for me representing Guatemala, which doesn’t have too much representation in athletics and sports all around, was a big privilege. I get to put 14 million people (on my back). To make the final is big for Guatemala, but also for Central America as a whole.”

Nur announced Thursday he’s going pro and signing with Nike. He will continue to live and train in Flagstaff with coach Mike Smith, who also coaches Grijalva. But first, Nur will look to finish business this weekend.

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“It’s so awesome,” said Nur, who went to North High School in Phoenix. “You know, all three of us have been on the same team together. So to be here at the World Champs, it’s insane. So I’m happy. Happy to be here with those guys.”

Nur, Beamish, and Grijalva were NAU teammates in 2019. Beamish and Grijalva helped NAU win the men’s NCAA Division I Cross Country National Championships in 2017 and 2018. Grijalva and Nur starred on the NAU team that won the cross-country national title in 2020.

“We’re best friends and to go to the final with my brother is pretty amazing,” Grijalva said.

While Grijalva and Nur train together and share identical conditions in Flagstaff, the roommates have different accommodations in Eugene. The Americans are staying in a hotel, while the other competitors sleep on twin-sized mattresses inside the University of Oregon dorms.

But despite the twin-sized mattress, Grijalva didn’t sleep on the competition Thursday and led for part of the race. Grijalva surged to first and had sole possession of the lead by almost three seconds at times from 2,000 meters to 3,200 meters.

“I took charge because I’d be afraid because I knew what I’m capable of, and my ability now, and 13:14 for a guy like me shouldn’t take anything,” said Grijalva, whose personal best is 13:10.09, which placed him 12th at the Tokyo Olympics last year. “I think I’m in sub-13 (minutes) shape. I just didn’t get to show off this season, but 13:14 for top elite athletes like that should be pretty smooth and easy, honestly.”

After slipping to sixth with 700 meters to go, Grijalva then accelerated in the final 300 meters to make the final.

“The whole goal of the year was to make the final since Oct. 1,” Grijalva said. “All I had in my mind is like, ‘Alright, how am I going to make the final.’”

Sunday’s final starts at 6:05 p.m. MST. Grijalva and Nur enter ranked 23rd and 31st in the world, respectively.

“The biggest thing for me was to make that final,” Nur said. “Now that I did, you know, focus on what we got to do there and just compete. I’m happy to be here, man. It’s my first one. So I’m gonna just enjoy the moment and race the race.”

Grijalva said his goal for the final is to perform better than his 12th-place finish at the Olympics last year.

“Last year I didn’t know what I was doing,” Grijalva said. “It was my first world stage event ever, you know? So, for me, it’s just being confident in my ability and anything can happen in the final you know, so don’t give anything to anybody.”

David Veenstra(he/him/his)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

David Veenstra expects to graduate in August 2022 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Veenstra has covered ASU track and field for Inferno Intel.