Lalang Delivered As The Favorite Winning Easily As The Rest Of The Field Duked It Out For Second
June 6, 2013
Eugene, OR – What is there to say about this race?
Arizona’s Lawi Lalang came into the 2013 NCAA Track and Field Championships 10,000 as the heavy favorite – remember he set NCAA indoor championship records in winning the 3000 and 5000, has a 13:08 5k PR, and also 3:54 mile speed and came in lightly raced – and delivered as promised.
If anything, Lalang’s victory came easier than expected as we thought Oklahoma State’s Girma Mecheso might make him work for it a little more as Mecheso came in with a 27:52 PR, but this race ended up being a cake-walk for Lalang who won in 29:29, 11 + seconds ahead of second place.
Surprisingly it wasn’t the 27:52 man Mecheso who took runner-up honors, but UNC Greensboro’s Paul Katam who’s PRs are only 29:10 and 13:57. Katam held off a fast closing chase pack on the last lap as he just beat out Texas’ Craig Lutz in 3rd, Florida State’s Michael Fout in 4th and Princeton’s Michael Franklin in 5th. Mecheso ended up seventh.
After the race, when someone commented to Lalang that the race seemed like it was a pretty easy run for him, Lalang agreed and said, “Yeah, I wanted to take it as easy as possible because I knew I’ll have the 5k on Saturday which will be a hard one, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible.”
Our interview with Lalang is embedded on the right.
The race began much like the women’s 10,000 did the previous night – very slowly – which wasn’t a surprise given the warm 80 degree temperature (lap by lap splits for all runners here). The field went through the first mile in a pedestrian 4:58, at which point Lalang actually took over the pacing on the 5th lap. But things continued to be slow for a while as they ran the second mile in 4:52 (9:50 3200) and were 69.6, 72.00, and 72.2 for the next three laps after that.
It was at this point on the 12th lap that Lalang decided the jog fest was over as he injected a 66.93 400 which started to string things out a little more. Mecheso, BYU’s Jared Ward and Arkansas’ Solomon Haile accelerated to go with him, but this mini-break didn’t last long as Lalang slowed to 72 for the next lap.
In hindsight, the NCAA favorite was just toying with the field and getting warmed up with a little fartlek as he then accelerated to another quick lap (67.29), before slowing back down again and running right back down at around five-minute mile pace for the next few laps, effectively allowing the rest of the pack to catch up again.
The pack stayed together until the 18th lap when Lalang finally decided he was actually ready to race and ran about a 4:23 1600 for laps 19-22. The men who tried to go with him were Katam, Mecheso and Ward, and two of the three that dared to try to go with the great Lalang would pay for it dearly as Mecheso and Ward ended up just seventh and eighth.
With four laps remaining, Ward was the only one within three seconds of Lalang. A lap later, this thing was officially over as Lalang was up by more than six seconds. His lead would only grow until the finish.
Behind him though, the battle raged on for second. Ward stayed with Lalang the longest but once cracked by Lalang, he cratered hard.
Unlike Ward and Mecheso, Katam kept things together after trying to run with Lalang. He kept a gap between him and a four man chase pack that would finish third through sixth until the last lap.
At the bell, the top eight (first team All-American) were decided as Katam hit the 9600m mark in 28:36.82 in second with Lutz third in 28:40.29, all the way back to Ward in 8th at 28:43.25 (Ward had more than six seconds on the man in 9th place, FSU’s Breandan O’Neill).
Behind Lutz, FSU’s Michael Fout, Princeton’s Michael Franklin, Oregon’s Parker Stinson and Mecheso were the other four battling it out for the points.
In the final 400 meters, it was Lutz, Fout and Franklin who had the legs as they all closed in 61 point. They ran ran down Katam in the first 300 before Katam responded and reacclerated and found a kick in the homestretch to take a much deserved second in 29:41.27. Lutz followed in 29:41.97 and then it was Fout, Franklin, Stinson, and Mecheso.
Ward was the only one who ended up in danger of losing his first-team All-American title as he was fading bad and only closed in 68, but he still managed to finished almost two seconds ahead of 9th place.
Quick Thought (QT) #1: There is a difference between being a heavy favorite and being a heavy favorite that delivers so Lalang deserves props for coming through. Anyone remember last year when he struggled mightily outdoors to just a third in the 5k and eleventh in the 1500?
He deserves even more props for making it look so easy.
Lalang is rightly very confident right now as he said in his post-race interview (above), “On Saturday, whatever these guys are ready for, I’m ready for it.”
Asked which guys in the 5k he was worried about, there are two others with sub 13:20 seasonal bests, Lalang said, “Actually, I’m not worried of anything right now, that’s the first thing. I’m not worried about anyone. I just want to race with them. They have fresh legs, but I think in over 24 hours, I’m going to be just as fresh as them. It’s just like going for a tempo run.”
QT#2: This race truly was a race for second. Lalang won easily, but 2nd through 5th were separated by 1.07 seconds and there were seven guys still in contention for 2nd with one lap to go. It just came down to who had the most left for a kick. In the end, Mecheso and Ward paid dearly for trying to go with Lalang as they had no pop in their legs for a fast last lap and consequently were 7th and 8th.
QT#3: We caught up with the runner-up Katam after the race (video embedded above) who over achieved in a big way given his PRs and past accomplishments. He said his goal coming in was to be top eight as last year he was ninth and was “really pissed off” to miss All-American by one spot and one second.
Katam did an excellent job of responding after being swallowed up momentarily by the chasers on the last lap.
If you were watching the race live, you likely thought Katam was dying at the end as he ran 71.8 for his second to last lap and then got caught by the pack on the last lap, but he said he actually didn’t realize third place was that close and it was pretty easy for him to find another gear at the end to hold them off.
QT#4: The top three all return next year as Lalang and Katam are juniors and Lutz a sophomore.
QT #5: With the slow early pace, and the large margin of victory at the end, there wasn’t a whole lot to pay attention to up front for most of this race. As a result, unfortunately a ton of attention both for those in attendance and those watching live on a computer went to following Harvard’s Maksim Korolev, who struggled mightily and finished last in 33:55.86.
Korolev had an awful day as he was lapped three times. After running the opening ten laps at just under 5:00 pace (12:26.96 for 9 laps), Korolev then never broke 80 for the final 15 laps and even had a 90-second lap thrown in there.
It was hard not to be focused on him as he was visibly struggling throughout. The guy in the press box next to us talked about him to us for virtually the entire final 20 minutes.
QT#6: Interviews with 4th placer Fout, 6th placer Stinson, and 8th placer Ward are in the table below.
Ward was actually the top returner from last year as he was 5th in 2012. He probably could have been more in the mix in the last lap if he hadn’t gone with Lalang when he made his initial break from the pack. Ward didn’t seem to have any regrets though as he figured why not go for it. He’s probably got a slightly different mindset than your average college junior as he’s 24 and did his interview with us while holding his son.
|Place||Athlete||Affiliation||Time||Wind||Heat (Pl)||Result (split)|
|1||Lawi Lalang||ARIZ||29:29.65||+2.9||1 (1)||Heat data|
|2||Paul Katam||UNCG||29:41.27||+2.9||1 (2)||Heat data|
|3||Craig Lutz||TEX||29:41.97||+2.9||1 (3)||Heat data|
|4||Michael Fout||FSU||29:42.23||+2.9||1 (4)||Heat data|
|5||Michael Franklin||PRIN||29:42.34||+2.9||1 (5)||Heat data|
|6||Parker Stinson||UO||29:46.45||+2.9||1 (6)||Heat data|
|7||Girma Mecheso||OKST||29:47.87||+2.9||1 (7)||Heat data|
|8||Jared Ward||BYU||29:51.59||+2.9||1 (8)||Heat data|
|9||Breandan O’Neill||FSU||29:53.25||+2.9||1 (9)||Heat data|
|10||Kevin McDonnell||SJOS||29:55.58||+2.9||1 (10)||Heat data|
|11||Nate Jewkes||SUU||29:56.21||+2.9||1 (11)||Heat data|
|12||Kevin Williams||OU||30:02.22||+2.9||1 (12)||Heat data|
|13||Andrew Springer||GTWN||30:07.07||+2.9||1 (13)||Heat data|
|14||Tylor Thatcher||BYU||30:07.12||+2.9||1 (14)||Heat data|
|15||Hunter Mickow||ILL||30:09.21||+2.9||1 (15)||Heat data|
|16||Thomas Porter||UVA||30:14.96||+2.9||1 (16)||Heat data|
|17||Solomon Haile||ARK||30:21.21||+2.9||1 (17)||Heat data|
|18||Zachary Mayhew||IU||30:32.55||+2.9||1 (18)||Heat data|
|19||Mike Murphy||COLU||30:33.43||+2.9||1 (19)||Heat data|
|20||Matthew Melancon||UO||30:42.16||+2.9||1 (20)||Heat data|
|21||Thijs Nijhuis||EKY||30:42.41||+2.9||1 (21)||Heat data|
|22||Chris Bendtsen||PRIN||31:06.83||+2.9||1 (22)||Heat data|
|23||Ryan Dohner||TEX||31:08.10||+2.9||1 (23)||Heat data|
|24||Maksim Korolev||HARV||33:55.86||+2.9||1 (24)||Heat data|
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