Men’s 5,000: Galen Rupp Looks to End Bernard Lagat’s Reign Once and For All

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By LetsRun.com
June 25, 2014

Men’s 5,000 Final: Friday, 9:25 p.m. Pacific (12:25 am ET (technically Saturday morning))

As we noted in our 10,000 preview, there’s a chance that Galen Rupp will skip the 5,000 at the 2014 USATF Championships in Sacramento depending on the situation with his pregnant wife, Keara. For now, we’re assuming that Rupp will run at USAs, in which case he’ll get a chance to improve his 1-19 record against Bernard Lagat in races they both finish. Even if Rupp should drop, the defending champ Lagat will have his work cut out fending off challenges from Hassan Mead, Ryan Hill, Lopez Lomong and Andrew Bumbalough, all of whom have run under 13:15 this year. Here’s what you need to know ahead of Friday’s final.

Name Affiliation DOB PB SB Comment
Hassan Mead Nike / Oregon TC Elite 8.28.1989 13:02.80 13:02.80 9th last year; breakthrough 13:02 performance at Payton Jordan
Galen Rupp Nike 5.8.1986 12:58.90 13:01.26 Set ARs at 2 mile + 5k indoors, 10k outdoors; 3rd in Oslo DL; 2012 U.S. champ
Lopez Lomong Nike / Bowerman Track Club 1.1.1985 13:07.00 13:07.95 U.S. indoor 1500 champ just missed 5k PR at Payton Jordan; 13:25 for 12th in Oslo
Andrew Bumbalough Nike / Bowerman Track Club 3.14.1987 13:12.01 13:13.67 13:13 for 9th in Oslo DL on June 11
Ryan Hill Nike / Bowerman Track Club 1.31.1990 13:14.22 13:14.31 Surprise 3rd-placer last year won’t sneak up on anyone in ’14 after 7:34 indoors + 13:14 at Stanford
Trevor Dunbar Oregon 4.29.1991 13:26.90 13:26.90 Coming off nice 5k/10k double at NCAAs (3rd/5th, top American in each)
George-Byron Alex ZAP Fitness Reebok   13:29.55 13:30.00 13:30 at Payton Jordan and 3:44 at Oxy
Bernard Lagat Nike 12.12.1974 12:53.60 13:31.23 6-time champ was 2nd at World Indoor 3k but inconsistent outdoors: 13:31 at Pre but then 7:38 3k in Ostrava on June 17
Joe Stilin ZAP Fitness Reebok 12.5.1989 13:33.13 13:36.21 Former Ivy champ ran 13:36 at Portland Track Festival on June 15
Erik Olson Stanford 3.15.1992 13:36.91 13:36.91 13:36 at Payton Jordan but didn’t make NCAAs
Sean Keveren     13:39.26 13:39.26 Ran 9-second PR at Portland Track Festival to qualify
Riley Masters Brooks 4.5.1990 13:39.47 13:39.47 More of a miler; his 13:39 PR was his first 5k in 4 years
Daniel Quigley Oregon TC Elite 1.14.1989 13:41.37 13:41.37 Set PR at Portland Track Festival
Tyler Pennel Reebok / ZAP Fitness Reebok 12.21.1987 13:41.56 13:41.56 Set PR at Portland Track Festival
Jonathan Peterson Team USA Minnesota 1.6.1989 13:41.93 13:42.65 SB last time out at Portland Track Festival
Joe Bosshard Colorado 10.30.1989 13:34.44 13:43.21 Back running well again after 2 years of injuries
Lex Williams   3.21.1987 13:45.11 13:45.11  
Parker Stinson Oregon 3.3.1992 13:31.70 13:45.62  
Eric Finan Team USA Minnesota 6.9.1987 13:44.91 13:47.83  
Brendan Gregg Hansons-Brooks Distance Project 5.15.1989 13:46.49 13:48.47  
Scott Dahlberg Boulder Running Company/adidas 9.9.1984 13:56.94 13:56.94  

Entries subject to change. Check the status of entries here.

Even at 39, Lagat is still a force to be reckoned with, as his World Indoor silver attests

Even at 39, Lagat is still a force to be reckoned with, as his World Indoor silver attests

When Galen Rupp upset Bernard Lagat to win the 2012 Olympic Trials, it was viewed as a changing of the guard. The 26-year-old Rupp was in his prime; the 37-year-old Lagat, despite winning the World Indoor 3,000 title earlier that year, was finally starting to decline. But since then, the two have raced nine times and, unless you count last year’s 5,000 in Monaco when Lagat DNF’ed, Rupp has yet to win again. A race that was supposed to have definitively crowned Rupp as king of American distance running instead served as a brief interruption in Lagat’s domination of his rival.

Two years on, it appears that Rupp’s time has finally come. He broke American records at 2 miles and 5,000 meters indoors, and ran 26:44.36 at the Pre Classic last month to break his own American record at 10,000 meters. More than that, Rupp ran his best Diamond League race ever, finishing third in Oslo in 13:03.35 on June 11 to beat the likes of Thomas Longosiwa, Edwin Soi, Isiah Koech and Dejen Gebremeskel, all of whom have Olympic/World Championship medals at 5,000. Rupp has been among the world’s very best at 10,000 for some time; his performance in Oslo suggests that he has joined the world’s elite at 5,000 too.

So will he beat Lagat in Friday’s 5,000 final? We’re leaning toward yes, but even at 39, you can’t count out the old master Lagat. Certainly, Rupp’s outdoor season has been more impressive, but that was also the case heading into U.S. Indoors and Lagat went on to beat Rupp there and at World Indoors. Here’s how they compared during the indoor season:

Rupp Lagat
Race 1 13:01.26 5,000 (1st, AR) 7:49.83 3,000 (1st)
Race 2 8:07.41 2 mile (1st, AR) 7:38.51 3,000 (4th)
Race 3 DNF mile 4:54.74 2,000 (1st, AR)
Race 4 (USAs) 7:48.19 3,000 (2nd) 7:46.01 3,000 (1st)
Race 5 (Worlds) 7:55.84 3,000 (4th) 7:55.22 3,000 (2nd)

Lagat’s first two races were nothing special, but he came through when it counted to beat Rupp. Plus, his 7:38 3,000 came in a race where he got beat by three studs in Caleb Ndiku, Yenew Alamirew and Augustine Choge.

Lagat ran poorly in his outdoor opener at Pre, but his last two races are similar to his first two from indoors: a 7:41.94 3,000 (3rd) in Hengelo on June 8 and a 7:38.30 3,000 (4th) in Ostrava on June 17. A total of five men beat Lagat in those races, and three of them — Choge, Ndiku and Nick Willis are guys that Rupp would have trouble beating over 3,000 right now. Rupp has earned his position as the favorite in this race, but there is recent evidence to suggest that running 7:38 and finishing fourth in a 3,000 shortly before USAs isn’t a recipe for disaster for Lagat. Count him out at your own risk.

The next tier

Rupp and Lagat have grabbed two of the three 5,000 spots on Team USA in each of the past three years. The final spot has alternated each year, and all three men to fill it are in the field in Sacramento: Andrew Bumbalough (2011), Lopez Lomong (2012) and Ryan Hill (2013). Those three — all of whom train with coach Jerry Schumacher‘s Bowerman Track Club in Portland — have run well again in 2014. Each has run within two seconds of his PR this season, though the last couple outings have been rough for Lomong (13:25 for 12th in the Oslo DL meet on June 11) and Hill (13:57 for last at the Pre Classic on May 31). Whereas Lomong and Hill both ran their fast times Payton Jordan on May 4, Bumbalough was dealing with an injury earlier in the season and took longer to come along. However, his 13:13 in Oslo suggests that he’s getting fit at the right time, and that performance makes him the best pick to succeed from this group (Lomong is also double-entered and will have had a 1,500 prelim the night before if he chooses to run both races).

Could a 13:02 guy get fifth?

Bumbalough’s closest competition for third might not be one of his training partners but instead the Oregon Track Club’s Hassan Mead, who ran 13:02.80 at Payton Jordan to become the 10th-fastest American of all time (it also ranks him #4 in the world this year). As we wrote in our Week That Was after Payton Jordan, the Somalian-born Mead is no fluke as he ran 13:28 as a true freshman at the University of Minnesota and has improved steadily over the past couple years. Like most of the Americans in the Pre 5,000, Mead had an off day, but he still managed to finish behind Chris Derrick as the second American in that race, handily beating Ben True, Lagat and Hill.

Mead was ninth in the 5,000 at USAs last year and eighth in 2012; he’ll be shooting for a lot higher than that in 2014. But, strange as it is to imagine, one of the 10 fastest Americans of all time could only end up fifth or sixth in this race. That’s not meant as a slight toward Mead but rather an admission that the men’s 5,000 has never been deeper in this country. Of the top 12 men on the all-time U.S. list, only two of them — Bob Kennedy and Sydney Maree – are no longer active pros. With so much talent in the distances right now, a U.S. title has never been harder to win. Guys like Chris Solinsky (#2) and Dathan Ritzenhein (#3) have never won USAs and Mead — whose 13:02 would have made him far and away the top guy in the U.S. 10 years ago — isn’t even being considered for the win in Sacramento. Kenya is still #1 in the world when it comes to the 5,000, but it’s a close battle between Ethiopia and the U.S. for #2.

LRC Prediction

1. Rupp 2. Lagat 3. Bumbalough

Discuss this race in our forum: 2014 USA m5k: Will Galen Rupp End Bernard Lagat’s Reign Once and For Fall?