|Galen Rupp at the U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field, the University of Oregon
Eugene, OR - Going into Thursday night's final in the men's 5000 at the
Olympic Track and Field Trials, Galen Rupp was 0 for 12 in head to head
matchups against the great Bernard Lagat.
0 for 12.
Even though Rupp broke Lagat's US indoor 2 mile record last February, he
has never been able to withstand Lagat's ferocious kick over the last 100
meters of races, whether that is in the 1500, 3000 or 5000.
Race number 13 turned out to be the charm for Rupp, as he kicked past
Lagat with just 30 meters left and won in 13:22.67. Breaking Steve
Prefontaine's venerable Trials record, set here at Hayward Field in 1972,
was icing on the cake for Rupp, who last Friday night won the 10,000
meters in impressive fashion.
The pack of runners in the 5000 was still tightly bunched with 800 meters
to go, when Rupp charged to the front. Lagat, and OTC Portland runners
Lopez Lomong and Andrew Bumbabalough were close behind.
With a lap to go, it was anyone's race, and it looked like it might, once
again, be decided by one of Lagat's patented late race charges.
But tonight Rupp showed that he now has a gear that we have never seen
from him before.
Lagat made his move with 200 to go and passed Rupp coming into the final
straight. With 80 meters to go, Rupp was a stride behind.
Lagat drifted to the outside of lane one in his stretch run, leaving a
small opening along the rail. Rupp started to gain on Lagat with 50 meters
left and took advantage of the daylight on the inside, passing Lagat and
hitting the line .15 seconds ahead of the 37-year-old Lagat. Lopez Lomong,
a 2008 Olympian in the 1500 meters, claimed the third and final spot on
the Olympic team.
This was clearly a race that, in the past, would have gone to Lagat.
Rupp's final lap - clocked at 52.54 with a 25.9 last 200 - was something
he couldn't muster until now.
While saying the win was the main thing, Rupp admitted that winning with a
strong kick was something that he and long-time coach Alberto Salazar have
targeted in training over the last few years.
"A win is a win whether you win it from the front or kicking down the
homestretch. It's fun either way.
"But I'm really happy with my finishing speed. We've been working on that
(finish) for a really long time. It's gratifying for me to see the
training coming to fruition. In London I'm going to have to beat people in
the lap and the last 100 (meters) specifically. Alberto has told me, 'If
you can't do it here, you may as well forget about London because you
won't be able to do it there.
"He's pretty blunt with me, that's what I love about him. He's not afraid
to give it to me straight."
Lagat said that nothing in the race surprised him. He was prepared for
Rupp and Lomong to be there at the end.
"I was prepared any moment for (Rupp) to come and pass me" Lagat said. "So
when I saw him coming close by with two laps to go, I knew I had to go .
. . he had a little kick with 200 meters to go and I thought I have to
keep pushing. I passed him, then he came back and got me.
"It was an unbelievable victory (for Rupp)", the always-gracious Lagat
added. "Everything from here is going to be good. Galen belongs at the
top. As a team, we have a really good chance."
Rupp saluted the Hayward crowd for its passion for distance races and its
support for him and for the UO tradition of distance running that
continues to be as strong as ever.
"I'm on cloud nine right now and I couldn't be happier with how the meet
has gone for me here. This (5000 meter race) was going to be the hard one.
You've got a couple of great guys here - they've run well consistently
throughout the years, so trying to get in there. I knew it was going to be
a good finish and I'm just glad I was able to hang on."
This was something more than "hanging on" though. This was a "new" Galen
Rupp, now armed with the finishing speed that makes him a legitimate medal
contender in both of the distance races at the London games.