Eugene, OR - No American man has medaled in the 10,000 meters at the
Olympic Games since Billy Mills, a complete unknown at the time, pulled
off a huge upset to win gold at the 1964 Games in Tokyo. To help you do
the math, that is 48 years ago.
But hope springs eternal. Former University of Oregon national champion
Galen Rupp, who is the current American 10,000 record holder, would like
to change that history of futility by bringing home a medal in the event. Working with long-time coach Alberto Salazar, Rupp has improved every
year, and is gradually closing the gap on the top African-born runners who
have ruled the event for several decades.
Friday night, running in a steady rain for much of the race, Rupp took
another step toward his goal of bringing home an Olympic medal in the
10,000, winning in a new Trials record of 27:25.33. Coming down the
homestretch, with victory in his grasp, Rupp smiled and waved to the
crowd. His relaxed expression showed that winning the grueling 25-lap race
over the top American runners didn't tax him that much.
Rupp and Nike Oregon teammate Dathan Ritzenhein came into the race with a
plan to work together over the first half of the race and set a pace fast
enough to allow Ritzenhein to run under the Olympic A Standard of 27:45. Ritzenhein had not met the standard and so needed to both finish in the
top three and run a time faster than the standard in order to secure his
trip to London.
After the first six laps, Rupp took over the lead and set the pace,
running pretty close to 67 seconds per lap. Every two or three laps,
Ritzenhein would take over the lead and keep the pace steady. Eventually,
Rupp and Ritzenhein, joined by Oregon Track Club Portland runner Matt
Tegenkamp, had opened up a lead on the field.
While the top three runners looked secure in their spots over the last few
laps, the question remained who would win. With 1200 meters to go, Rupp
answered that question by running a 62 second lap, followed by a 63 and
then another 63 on his last lap, allowing him the luxury of a big smile
and a wave over the last 50 meters. Tegenkamp and Ritzenhein followed in
second and third, respectively, and both got the needed time.
"I was really happy with the way the race went," Rupp said later. "I had a
goal of winning the race and it worked out."
I wasn't worried about the rain at all. I'm from Oregon and I love
running in this weather. It's good for my allergies so I was excited about
Rupp is also running the 5,000 meters here at the Trials, beginning with a
preliminary round on Monday evening. He said that now his focus would be
on "rest and recovery" to prepare for that race.
But, it is clear that Rupp's best chance to make history for American
distance runners at the Olympics is in the 10,000 meters. His American
record of 26:48 ranks him high enough on the world list to warrant medal
consideration, and being able to train with Mo Farah of Great Britain, who
will go into the Games as the favorite in the 10,000, has to help. Not to
mention having Alberto Salazar as his coach. Whether he medals or not, Rupp already has a special status among American
distance runners. He has taken on the African runners and had some
competitive success, even at a relatively young age of 26. In the last
world championship 10,000, Rupp was with the top group until almost the
last lap of the race.
In the enthusiastic Hayward Field crowd on Friday evening were brothers
Leonel and Noe Jines of Mt. Angel. Leonel, 19, just finished his freshman
year in college and hopes to walk on for cross country and track next year
at Western Oregon. Noe, 13, is going into the 8th grade at Mt. Angel
Inspired by Leonel's example, Noe hopes to one day run for a division one
college and has become a student of the sport. Before the race, he
predicted, "I think Galen Rupp will take it. It will be a tactical race
but it won't be that close at the end."
Afterwards, he said that watching Rupp's tactics and skill was "really
encouraging. I like it that Rupp goes out and runs his own race."
His brother seconded the thought, adding "He tells us that it's not just
the Africans that can run distance races fast."
Both Jines brothers believe that Rupp can win a medal at London."Maybe not gold," said Noe. "But he can win a medal."
48 years is a long time, but Rupp is starting to convince track fans
everywhere that he can be the one to end the long drought.