41-Year-Old Bernard Lagat Wins Crazy Men’s 5000 at 2016 US Olympic Trials

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by LetsRun.com
July 9, 2016

EUGENE, Ore. — Years down the road, when people look back at the results of the men’s 5000 meters final at the 2016 US Olympic Track and Field Trials, they will see something they often saw up top – the name Bernard Lagat. The Kenyan-born Lagat won his 8th US 5,000 title in the last 11 years thanks to an incredible last lap of 52.82 (25.3 unofficial last 200) that took him from sixth to first (13:35.50).

But this was far from a predictable race. A more apt word to describe it would be crazy. After all, it needs to remembered that Lagat is 41 years old and is battling both his fellow competitors and Father Time. Near halfway, two guys without the Olympic qualifying standard, Woody Kincaid and Brian Shrader, had gapped the field by more than five seconds. At the bell, Galen Rupp led by 2.17 seconds but would end up only ninth (13:41.09).

And at the finish, for the first time ever, three African-born runners were going to the Olympics for Team USA in the same event as Somalian-born Hassan Mead had the second-best last lap (53.18) to earn runner-up honors in 13:35.92 and Kenyan-born Paul Chelimo, who had the lead with 100 to go, held on to third by the tiniest of margins, barely holding off a fast-closing Eric Jenkins 13:35.92 to 13:35.98.

2015 Worlds team member Ben True was fifth (13:36.40) and world indoor 3000 silver medallist Ryan Hill was sixth (13:38.36).

The Race (Video of final lap here)

Lagat-wins-2016The temperature at race time was 70 degrees, with a mix of clouds and sun to go along with a slight breeze. The pleasant conditions in no way foretold the turbulent and unpredictable nature of the strategic decisions to come.

Despite the nice conditions (the wind had died as the race started) the early pace was VERY slow. Woody Kincaid and Paul Chelimo brought the pack through 400 in 72.9.

As they crossed in front of the homestretch the second time there were even a few scattered boos from the crowd.

A 74.7 second lap was even slower and at 1000 (3:05.34) Brian Shrader broke away with a big surge, running his next 400 in 59.83. Only Kincaid went with him and the two (the only two in the race without the Olympic standard) had a 50-meter lead at 1200. Since neither had a realistic chance to make the standard after the slow first 1000, the main pack seemed content to let them go and contend amongst themselves for the three spots on Team USA.

Shrader and Kincaid hit 1600 in 4:35.9 and were working together, trading the lead, as the pack (led by Chelimo and 10K team member Shadrack Kipchirchir) remained 50 meters behind. 63.89, 65.03, and 65.01 laps by Shrader and Kincaid kept the pressure on as the duo maintained a healthy margin. At 2800, Chelimo threw in a surge to catch back up, even as the main pack took a more gradual approach to regain contact. After settling in for half a lap behind Shrader and Kincaid, Chelimo briefly took the lead just after 3200 meters (8:58). His move to the lead enticed Galen Rupp to bring the main pack back into contention. After a 62.86 lap heading into 3400, Rupp then took the lead with 1500 to go and ran 61.64, gapping the field the process. Would the winner of the last 8 USA 10,000 titles and the 2012 Trials 5K champ run away with it from the front?

Bernard Lagat, who almost followed Rupp’s move, elected to let Rupp pull away and settled into the pack, as Rupp followed up the 61-second lap with a 62.89 which gave him a 3.39-second lead. Perhaps knowing that Rupp might pass on a spot on the team and stick with the 10K/marathon double, the pack had allowed him to extend his lead to 20+ meters with 800 to go.  

Running 63.89 to head into the bell, Rupp still had a 2.17-second lead but there were signs of trouble. Running all alone, the pack was massing behind him, preparing to hunt him down. And with 300 to go, the defending Trials champion was passed as if he were standing still.  

Chelimo, second at the bell, exploded to the lead with 200 to go and heading into the Bowerman Curve, he appeared to be headed to victory. But had Chelimo gone too early?

He had, as Lagat stormed by him with 75 meters to go, closing his final 200 in 25.2 and his final 400 in a scintillating 52.82 to win in 13:35.50, claiming his 8th USA outdoor 5K crown and second US Olympic Trials 5K title (2008). It was also Lagat’s third title in four years and fifth in seven years.

Hassan Mead, following on Lagat’s heels over the final 200, also closed very well (53.18) to place second in 13.35.70. Chelimo may not have timed his kick well enough for the win, but it was enough to hold on for third and a spot in Rio, as he crossed the line in 13:35.92, just barely holding off a spirited late charge from Eric Jenkins (who had the third fastest last lap but left things just a heartbeat too late). Jenkins was but .06 behind Chelimo in fourth.  

Ben True was fifth in 13:36.40, while Ryan Hill was sixth in 13:38.60.  True closed well (53.95) but may regret later not making things more honest early on, given the good conditions.  

Kipchirchir (7th, 13:39.79) and Kincaid (8th, 13:39.96) finished next while Rupp could only manage 60.92 on his final lap and was ninth in 13:41.09. Lopez Lomong rounded out the top ten, over ten seconds back in 13:51.19.

1

Bernard Lagat

Nike

13:35.50

36.24

Pl: 8

1:51.77

1:15.53

Pl: 8

3:06.14

1:14.38

Pl: 9

4:10.51

1:04.37

Pl: 12

5:14.70

1:04.19

Pl: 9

6:19.89

1:05.20

Pl: 8

7:24.34

1:04.46

Pl: 8

8:29.07

1:04.73

Pl: 8

9:32.17

1:03.11

Pl: 6

10:34.63

1:02.46

Pl: 6

11:39.98

1:05.35

Pl: 7

12:42.68

1:02.71

Pl: 6

13:35.50

52.82

Pl: 1

16
2

Hassan Mead

Nike OTC / NIKE OTCE

13:35.70

35.91

Pl: 4

1:51.33

1:15.43

Pl: 5

3:05.63

1:14.30

Pl: 3

4:09.85

1:04.22

Pl: 5

5:14.39

1:04.55

Pl: 6

6:19.72

1:05.33

Pl: 6

7:23.98

1:04.27

Pl: 6

8:28.72

1:04.74

Pl: 5

9:31.96

1:03.25

Pl: 5

10:34.47

1:02.52

Pl: 4

11:39.86

1:05.39

Pl: 5

12:42.53

1:02.67

Pl: 4

13:35.70

53.18

Pl: 2

12
3

Paul Chelimo

U.S. Army

13:35.92

35.71

Pl: 2

1:51.05

1:15.34

Pl: 2

3:05.44

1:14.40

Pl: 2

4:09.65

1:04.21

Pl: 4

5:13.72

1:04.07

Pl: 3

6:19.40

1:05.68

Pl: 3

7:23.55

1:04.16

Pl: 4

8:26.00

1:02.45

Pl: 3

9:31.33

1:05.34

Pl: 2

10:34.29

1:02.96

Pl: 2

11:39.76

1:05.48

Pl: 4

12:42.34

1:02.58

Pl: 2

13:35.92

53.59

Pl: 3

14
4

Eric Jenkins

Nike Oregon Project

13:35.98

36.04

Pl: 5

1:51.52

1:15.48

Pl: 6

3:06.00

1:14.48

Pl: 7

4:10.87

1:04.87

Pl: 14

5:15.11

1:04.24

Pl: 12

6:20.32

1:05.22

Pl: 11

7:24.95

1:04.63

Pl: 11

8:29.47

1:04.53

Pl: 11

9:32.87

1:03.40

Pl: 11

10:34.71

1:01.85

Pl: 7

11:40.11

1:05.41

Pl: 8

12:42.58

1:02.47

Pl: 5

13:35.98

53.41

Pl: 4

4
5

Ben True

Saucony

13:36.40

36.32

Pl: 10

1:51.96

1:15.65

Pl: 11

3:06.26

1:14.30

Pl: 10

4:10.18

1:03.92

Pl: 8

5:14.89

1:04.71

Pl: 10

6:20.12

1:05.23

Pl: 10

7:24.48

1:04.37

Pl: 9

8:29.20

1:04.73

Pl: 9

9:32.59

1:03.40

Pl: 10

10:34.51

1:01.92

Pl: 5

11:39.70

1:05.20

Pl: 3

12:42.45

1:02.75

Pl: 3

13:36.40

53.95

Pl: 5

9
6

Ryan Hill

Nike Bowerman TC

13:38.36

36.58

Pl: 13

1:52.19

1:15.61

Pl: 13

3:06.73

1:14.55

Pl: 15

4:10.72

1:03.99

Pl: 13

5:15.01

1:04.30

Pl: 11

6:20.59

1:05.58

Pl: 13

7:25.42

1:04.84

Pl: 13

8:29.71

1:04.29

Pl: 13

9:32.35

1:02.64

Pl: 7

10:34.35

1:02.01

Pl: 3

11:39.69

1:05.34

Pl: 2

12:42.87

1:03.19

Pl: 7

13:38.36

55.49

Pl: 6

8
7

Shadrack Kipchirchir

U.S. Army

13:39.79

36.31

Pl: 9

1:51.79

1:15.48

Pl: 9

3:06.07

1:14.29

Pl: 8

4:09.50

1:03.43

Pl: 3

5:14.01

1:04.52

Pl: 4

6:19.49

1:05.48

Pl: 4

7:23.35

1:03.87

Pl: 3

8:28.87

1:05.52

Pl: 6

9:32.40

1:03.53

Pl: 8

10:34.77

1:02.38

Pl: 8

11:40.31

1:05.55

Pl: 10

12:43.08

1:02.77

Pl: 8

13:39.79

56.72

Pl: 7

3
8

William Kincaid

Portland

13:39.96

35.65

Pl: 1

1:51.00

1:15.35

Pl: 1

3:05.68

1:14.68

Pl: 4

4:05.37

59.70

Pl: 2

5:09.12

1:03.76

Pl: 2

6:14.30

1:05.18

Pl: 2

7:19.31

1:05.01

Pl: 2

8:25.89

1:06.59

Pl: 2

9:31.47

1:05.58

Pl: 3

10:34.87

1:03.41

Pl: 9

11:40.23

1:05.36

Pl: 9

12:43.56

1:03.34

Pl: 10

13:39.96

56.40

Pl: 8

1
9

Galen Rupp

Nike Oregon Project

13:41.09

36.75

Pl: 15

1:52.32

1:15.57

Pl: 14

3:06.66

1:14.35

Pl: 14

4:09.95

1:03.29

Pl: 6

5:14.20

1:04.26

Pl: 5

6:19.84

1:05.64

Pl: 7

7:24.20

1:04.36

Pl: 7

8:28.93

1:04.74

Pl: 7

9:31.79

1:02.86

Pl: 4

10:33.42

1:01.64

Pl: 1

11:36.30

1:02.89

Pl: 1

12:40.17

1:03.87

Pl: 1

13:41.09

1:00.92

Pl: 9

11
10

Lopez Lomong

Nike Bowerman TC

13:51.19

36.49

Pl: 12

1:52.12

1:15.63

Pl: 12

3:06.40

1:14.29

Pl: 12

4:10.31

1:03.91

Pl: 9

5:14.49

1:04.19

Pl: 7

6:19.65

1:05.16

Pl: 5

7:23.80

1:04.15

Pl: 5

8:28.62

1:04.83

Pl: 4

9:32.55

1:03.94

Pl: 9

10:34.96

1:02.42

Pl: 10

11:39.92

1:04.96

Pl: 6

12:43.31

1:03.40

Pl: 9

13:51.19

1:07.88

Pl: 10

13
11

Diego Estrada

ASICS

13:52.08

36.86

Pl: 16

1:52.50

1:15.64

Pl: 16

3:06.51

1:14.02

Pl: 13

4:11.09

1:04.59

Pl: 15

5:15.45

1:04.36

Pl: 15

6:20.81

1:05.36

Pl: 15

7:25.79

1:04.99

Pl: 15

8:29.99

1:04.20

Pl: 14

9:34.42

1:04.44

Pl: 14

10:38.93

1:04.51

Pl: 14

11:44.42

1:05.49

Pl: 14

12:49.05

1:04.64

Pl: 13

13:52.08

1:03.03

Pl: 11

2
12

Jeff See

ASICS FURMAN ELITE

13:53.26

36.09

Pl: 7

1:51.55

1:15.47

Pl: 7

3:05.85

1:14.30

Pl: 6

4:10.02

1:04.18

Pl: 7

5:14.55

1:04.53

Pl: 8

6:20.09

1:05.54

Pl: 9

7:24.71

1:04.63

Pl: 10

8:29.34

1:04.64

Pl: 10

9:33.07

1:03.74

Pl: 12

10:35.38

1:02.32

Pl: 11

11:40.85

1:05.47

Pl: 12

12:45.89

1:05.05

Pl: 12

13:53.26

1:07.37

Pl: 12

6
13

Garrett Heath

Brooks / BROOKS Beasts TC

13:55.58

35.86

Pl: 3

1:51.26

1:15.40

Pl: 4

3:05.82

1:14.56

Pl: 5

4:10.34

1:04.53

Pl: 10

5:15.14

1:04.80

Pl: 13

6:20.37

1:05.24

Pl: 12

7:25.15

1:04.79

Pl: 12

8:29.59

1:04.44

Pl: 12

9:33.11

1:03.52

Pl: 13

10:35.41

1:02.31

Pl: 12

11:40.50

1:05.10

Pl: 11

12:44.95

1:04.46

Pl: 11

13:55.58

1:10.63

Pl: 13

5
14

Brian Shrader

Saucony

13:58.48

36.08

Pl: 6

1:51.18

1:15.10

Pl: 3

3:05.34

1:14.17

Pl: 1

4:05.17

59.83

Pl: 1

5:09.05

1:03.89

Pl: 1

6:14.07

1:05.03

Pl: 1

7:19.08

1:05.01

Pl: 1

8:25.73

1:06.65

Pl: 1

9:31.12

1:05.39

Pl: 1

10:36.78

1:05.67

Pl: 13

11:43.86

1:07.08

Pl: 13

12:51.13

1:07.28

Pl: 14

13:58.48

1:07.35

Pl: 14

7
15

Sean McGorty

Stanford

14:03.99

36.34

Pl: 11

1:51.94

1:15.60

Pl: 10

3:06.34

1:14.40

Pl: 11

4:10.46

1:04.12

Pl: 11

5:15.23

1:04.78

Pl: 14

6:20.73

1:05.50

Pl: 14

7:25.67

1:04.94

Pl: 14

8:30.30

1:04.63

Pl: 15

9:35.75

1:05.46

Pl: 15

10:42.17

1:06.42

Pl: 15

11:49.92

1:07.75

Pl: 15

12:57.81

1:07.90

Pl: 15

14:03.99

1:06.18

Pl: 15

15
16

Riley Masters

Brooks / BROOKS Beasts TC

14:18.49

36.64

Pl: 14

1:52.40

1:15.77

Pl: 15

3:06.89

1:14.49

Pl: 16

4:12.49

1:05.61

Pl: 16

5:16.69

1:04.20

Pl: 16

6:20.99

1:04.30

Pl: 16

7:26.10

1:05.11

Pl: 16

8:30.97

1:04.87

Pl: 16

9:36.40

1:05.44

Pl: 16

10:43.73

1:07.34

Pl: 16

11:53.04

1:09.32

Pl: 16

13:04.53

1:11.49

Pl: 16

14:18.49

1:13.96

Pl: 16

10

QT: This was not Bernard Lagat’s finest hour — but it was close

Lagat’s greatest accomplishment will always remain his 1500/5000 double gold at the 2007 World Championships. And in terms of pure performance, this race may not even crack the top 10 in Lagat’s career. But we can’t recall seeing Lagat happier after a race — ever. After crossing the finish line and receiving his American flag, he was jumping up and down in front of Hayward Field’s West Grandstand, the pure joy of a child pouring out of his 41-year-old eyes as he repeatedly counted to five on his fingers — five Olympic teams (4 for the US, 1 for Kenya).

One thing that unifies the all-time greats is an ability to deliver even when the odds are stacked against them. Lagat has run as a favorite for most of his lengthy career, but anyone who watched last week’s 10,000 final probably wasn’t picking Lagat to make the team, let alone win the whole thing. A truly magnificent performance from an American legend.

QT: Lagat relied on his old tactics to make the team — relax and wait until the final 200 to move

After Lagat dropped out of the 10,000 earlier in the Trials, his coach James Li told him that he made a mistake by moving too hard too early in the race. So today, Li told Lagat to stay relaxed until 200 to go, even if that meant being pretty far back in the race. It worked out perfectly, and Lagat didn’t just make the team — he won his 10th U.S. title at age 41.

Lagat was asked how he has remained competitive at such an advanced age, and he said that training with younger guys like Sam Chelanga, Stanley Kebenei, Lawi Lalang and Stephen Sambu has kept him young.

“I train with young guys. And I don’t believe like I’m old because if you believe that you are old, I am going to run like an old man.”

Lagat said this was the note he wanted to leave on in TrackTown USA: “Last year at Prefontaine Classic I was sick and so I did not finish the race and I was really ashamed of it. The other day in the 10K I did not finish the race and I felt the same thing I did at the Prefontaine Classic. But I said I am not going to end running in Eugene that way. This is a track town and I can’t really leave that image on everybody. So this is the image I wanted to leave and I was super excited when I won the race tonight.”

QT: In the press conference, Lagat said that he knew he could make the team if healthy — now his daughter gets to watch the gymnastics in Rio

When Lagat failed to make Team USA last year, it was the first time he had missed running at Worlds/the Olympics since 2005 (when he was forced to sit out to transfer citizenship from Kenya to the U.S.).

Some wrote him off entering 2016 at age 41, but Lagat said that he was sick before his worst races (10th at USAs last year, DNF at Pre this year) and always believed he had what it took to return to the Olympics.

“A few people thought that Bernard is done. I knew that if I am healthy, I am going to be able to do it again…Basically not to end my race at the University of Oregon, at TrackTown, the way I did at the Prefontaine Classic when I was sick again.”

A year ago, Lagat broke down in tears in the mixed zone after missing out on the team, saying he wanted to make it to Beijing for his kids. This year, he was in much higher spirits and said that his daughter wanted him to qualify for the Olympics so that she could see the gymnastics in person. Mission accomplished

“I made my daughter’s day today, so I am happy,” Lagat said.

QT: James Li told Lagat to think about his 10k as a good workout

Li tried to present Lagat’s DNF in the 10k as a good 7k race and that it was perfect training that would prepare him for the 5k final. Li also said he couldn’t remember a race where Lagat was that far back with 400 to go and still won (he was 6th, 2.51 seconds behind leader Rupp).

QT: Hassan Mead says he was “devastated” after the 10k but credited his turnaround to his support team

In the post-race press conference, Mead praised his support team for helping him refocus on the 5k after his disappointing DNF in the 10k.

“After that 10k, I was devastated,” Mead said. “I wasn’t even thinking about the 5k.”

But he said his coach, agent and the people around him were getting him ready for the 5k as soon as he stepped off the track, getting him fluids and wet towels to cool him down. By the next day, Mead had wiped the 10k from his mind and viewed himself as the favorite for the 5k reminding himself that he has the fastest time in the U.S. this year (13:04).

QT: Paul Chelimo was wide-awake when it mattered today

Chelimo didn’t want to let an Olympic spot slip away, so that’s why he worked to close the gap to Shrader and Kincaid. He went early in the last lap, and though “the bear grabbed on my back” during the final 50 meters, he had enough to hold off Jenkins.

Chelimo also talked about how he mixed up a painkiller with a sleeping aid on the day of the prelims, which led to him feeling dizzy during his warmup on Monday. He didn’t make the same mistake today.

QT: Eric Jenkins: “I just started a little too late”

Jenkins was obviously disappointed to finish fourth by such a narrow margin (.06) and said that tactically, he should have been further up toward the end of the race to be better positioned to respond to moves.

QT: Ben True: “I didn’t have the closing speed I needed…It’s another four years before I get another shot. That’s a long time”

Ben True ran the final lap in 53.95, but it wasn’t good enough today and True knew it. “I didn’t have the closing speed I needed. I put myself in good position with 400 to go. I went. Hassan and Lagat caught back up and passed me. I tried to keep going and I didn’t have anything. I was terrible,” he said.

True said he had been nursing an injury this spring but made no excuses. True is the US leader at 1500m this year and said, “I thought I was in good shape and I thought I was ready to rock,” he said.

As for the injury, he said it was related to his sacrum and impacted the whole left side of his body, his Achilles, abductor and hamstring.

Now he’ll turn his attention to supporting his wife, US triathlete Sarah, in Rio. He knows the USA 5000m team will do well. “I’ve always said making the team this year would be harder than making the Olympic final… I’m sure those guys will do well (in Rio). I’m really bummed.”

True knows Olympic shots don’t come along very often. “Unfortunately, it’s another four years before I get another shot,” he said.

QT: Ryan Hill: “I didn’t have the wheels. … I just ran out of gas at the end.”

After his great indoor season where he won World Indoor 3,000m silver, Hill came in as one of the top contenders for the win and certainly to make the team. However, Hill had a bout of bursitis in his knee early in the spring which cost him some fitness and left him outside the top three today as he was about two and a half seconds away from making the team. Hill admitted that coming in he knew it was going to be “a toss up” whether he would make it or not and while he was disappointed, he didn’t seem crushed by the result.

Hill said, “It’s disappointing. I mean, this won’t ruin my life … but for sure it’s really disappointing. All you have to do is look over and see Ben True and we kind of exchange a look like, ‘Yup, we know what each other is going through.’ And it won’t ruin our lives because we know how hard it is.”

Talking about the way the race played out and his tactics Hill said, “I probably made just one mistake there. When Rupp and Chelimo started to get away from people I thought that was my chance to break away and just hold third the whole time. Maybe if they kept pressing I could have had the fitness to hang on, but once [the field] caught back up to me I didn’t have the wheels … I just ran out of gas at the end.”

Hill thought maybe if it had been a 13:50 race his speed could have been more of an advantage, “but they were just running a little bit harder than my body was able to kick off of tonight.”

QT: Galen Rupp: “That’s the way it goes sometimes. Sometimes you die.”

Galen Rupp’s quest to complete the epic marathon-10,000-5,000 triple has ended one race short. While people have come to see Rupp as almost invincible on the track against US competition, the truth is that Rupp has never been as good at the 5,000 as the 10,000. Last year when he wasn’t doing marathon training, he was only .07 from missing the team. Here, with marathon training and a 10,000 in his legs, Rupp was a distant 9th place, over 5 seconds from making the team.

Rupp was disappointed in coming short of completing the triple and ending the Trials on a negative note. “I’m still happy with the way things went this week. Obviously it sucks kind of finishing on a down note a little bit because earlier it went so well. But I think this gave us some real good information on what we need to do moving forward … we knew my speed wasn’t great here and this just further proved that,” he said.

Talking about his tactics and the big move he made with one mile to go, Rupp said that the surge was for himself and to help Jenkins’ chances to make the team. Rupp explained, “The hope was to kind of get away and Eric could sit back and really not have to do any work and pick guys off … we came pretty close, he was right there. … I definitely had Eric in mind and for me, I thought it’d be better to not leave it to a real wild sprint and really try to draw it out. I went for it, it didn’t work out today, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Sometimes you die.”

Still, Rupp wasn’t second-guessing his choice to try to do it in the 5K as well. Rupp said, “I have no regrets, I wanted to see how it went here. … My strength is great right now. I think that’s a good positive. There’s absolutely a ton of time to get the speed stuff. It doesn’t take long to sharpen up.”

We were curious what Rupp feels his best medal hope in Rio is, the marathon or the 10,000, and he said, “I like my chances in both.”

QT: Rupp isn’t the only man to come up short in the quest for an Olympic spot in 3 different distance events.

From USATF:

– Galen Rupp was only the 5th American man to attempt the Olympic Trials 5000m/10,000m/marathon triple: Weldon Johnson (2000), Teddy Mitchell (2000), Josh Rohatinsky (2008), Ryan Vail (2008), Galen Rupp (2016).

None of the others, including LetsRun.com co-founder Weldon Johnson, even made one team.

QT: Shrader talked about what a thrill it was to lead the Olympic Trials

Shrader said that he wasn’t intending to lead but after the first 1000 went at 15:25 pace, he had had enough. He said having the roar of the Hayward faithful behind him was quite a thrill.

When we asked him why he didn’t lead earlier and maybe go for the standard, he was realistic. He said there is no way he can run the standard from the front and then have enough to outkick the guys who already have the standard. He said 13:25 pace is a relatively easy pace for some of the 13:0X guys and thus he just focused on racing.

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